Welcome back to Overreaction Monday, the weekly blog that asks the question: “Will Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth ever stop talking about the Super Bowl on the NBC broadcast?
(Answer: Not sure what they’re discussing at breakfast. “Yes, I think I’ll have the oatmeal. Hey, that reminds me of the Falcons’ defense in the fourth quarter? Did you see that game? So, what happened was …” But it was discussed extensively during the pregame show, and then in the first quarter, not surprisingly, and then the second, and the third and the fourth quarters. Fortunately, the game did not go into overtime or the two might have established a record that would never be broken, like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.)
OK, onto the Monday narratives . . .
What happened: They beat Green Bay 34-23, their third win over the Packers in a span of about 11 months.
Next game: At Detroit against former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions.
Overreaction narrative: “OK. We shouldn’t fire Steve Sarkisian, but that defensive collapse in the fourth quarter reminded me of …”
Reality check: Let’s start with the offense. Sarkisian called a far more aggressive game than he did in the season opener at Chicago and he got Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones involved early. That immediately put the Packers’ defense back on their heels and opened things up for other players — Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman, etc. Players also executed better. The offensive line had a strong game. The Falcons had touchdown drives of 86 and 87 yards in the first half. Maybe being at home helped. Maybe having an unimpressive opener got everybody focused during the week. But the momentary panic over the offensive should subside now.
About the defense: It’s understandable why some folks might have been melting down when the Falcons’ lead went from 34-10 to 34-23 in the fourth quarter. The defense appeared to get a little softer and lose some of its aggressiveness. But remember two things: 1) That’s Aaron Rodgers. He’s the best quarterback in the NFL — yes, better than Tom Brady — and the Packers are the favorite of many to go to the Super Bowl; 2) The Falcons lost a number of players during the game to injuries, including Vic Beasley (hamstring) and Courtney Upshaw (ankle). That impacts their defensive front. The best sign for the defense was the play of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who missed nearly half the season and the playoffs last season with a pectoral injury. He had an interception that set up a touchdown just before halftime and a 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown following a Beasley strip-sack in the third quarter. But, yes — the defense did let up in the fourth quarter, and injuries could be an issue moving forward.
What happened: Defeated Samford 42-14.
Next game: Home against Mississippi State in SEC opener.
Overreaction narrative: “We destroyed Samford. Florida and Tennessee stink. The SEC East is ours!”
Reality check: First of all, they didn’t cover the 35 points against Samford. So Georgia is dead to me. As for the SEC East — yes, they should win the division this season. I was at the Florida-Tennessee game and both teams were mediocre. They combined for six turnovers. But do I need to remind you of history — of what the Bulldogs have done in Jacksonville, of what has happened to them in Knoxville. All we really know about Georgia right now is they can beat up lesser teams at home (Appalachian State, Samford) but they have the mental and physical toughness to win a difficult road game (Notre Dame). The Dogs’ defense should be solid all season. Nick Chubb (131 yards, 8.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns) looked far better Saturday than he has in some time. But it was Samford. Not even Vanderbilt. Samford. Georgia now plays eight straight conference games and could be good enough to win them all, depending on their quarterback and offensive line play. But beating Mississippi State and then Vandy and Tennessee on the road will give us a better idea about this bunch than we know now.
What happened: Lost at Penn State 56-0.
Next game: At UNC Charlotte in a non-conference game.
Overreaction narrative: “Shawn Elliott is a lousy head coach.”
Reality check: Not necessarily. We just don’t know yet that he was a great hire. The Panthers are 0-2 and they have scored only 10 points. But as ugly as the loss at Penn State was, that was expected. The game was scheduled for money, that’s all. From a football perspective, losing the season opener 17-10 at home to a FCS team, Tennessee State, was a bigger concern. It’s never a good idea to draw conclusions about a new head coach in the first season. Sometimes not even the second season. But Georgia State needs to show something to get people’s attention, because the afterglow of moving into the reconfigured former Turner Field lasts only so long. Elliott seems like a different personality than his predecessor, Trent Miles. But it may take him a while to turn Georgia State into a tough, physical football team. As a former defensive end and then an offensive line coach, it’s not hard to figure out what he likes. Also, recruiting large, physical beings remains job one. Prepare for another step back.
(Georgia Tech’s scheduled game at Central Florida Thursday night was canceled because of Hurricane Irma. The Yellow Jackets return to action at home against Pittsburgh Saturday in their ACC opener.)
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