We’re used to witnessing the greatness exhibited Aaron Rodgers. But Monday Night Football was a combination of brilliance and a statement on the depressing state of the Atlanta Falcons.
The heart may have stopped, but thanks to the ineptitude of the NFC South, the brain is still active and the Falcons appetite for playoff flesh is ravenous. Unfortunately, their defense is operating at half capacity.
So much has gone wrong for Atlanta in the past two seasons that Ryan to Julio Jones were helpless to keep pace with the Packers marching up and down the field. In the last two weeks, Jones has netted 21 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns.
Roddy White caught a touchdown pass as well, after being absent last week to nurse a left ankle sprain, but his skillset and value have diminished to the point that like his alma mater’s football program, he may be on his way out the door along with head coach Mike Smith.
The next Atlanta Falcons head coach better come to the Falcons facility with resumes for air traffic controllers on hand. It’ll score points with the team owner Arthur Blank and Thomas Demetrioff because Rodgers was threading the pigskin into the mittens of his receivers on Monday Night Football like it was an open takeoff runway at Hartsfield-Jackson. The Falcons secondary was nothing more than a unit of airport “ramp agents” guiding those long distance flights softly into Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb’s hands.
The main culprit is their last-ranked pass defense, which allowed Rodgers to dissect their defense to the tune of 375 yards and two touchdowns.
Tim Lewis, the Falcons secondary coach could only watch on in horror as Aaron Rodgers to his receivers with the comfort of a kid skipping rocks across a frozen lake.
Lewis, who was a first round pick of the Packers during the 1983 Draft led the Packers in interceptions twice and holds the team record for longest interception return. However, don’t take this as an indictment of Lewis or the secondary as a whole.
Those brave defensive backs operating on an island actually feature one of the few highlights of the Falcons campaign.
The Falcons defense is tied for last in sacks and could only bring Rodgers to the turf behind the line of scrimmage one time.
Free agent defensive tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson and rookie defensive tackle Ra'sede Hageman have done little to plug the running backs pouring through their line. Jackson and Soliai were 3-4 specialists who have been asked to adjust. The result has been catastrophic.
Inside linebacker Paul Worrilow entered Monday's game as the anti-Luke Kuelchy.
The undrafted free agent second-year player ended his rookie season as the Falcons leading tackler, and is fourth in tackles league-wide this season, but the numbers fail the lie die detector test. He’s been a sieve in the middle of Mike Nolan’s nickel scheme.
According to Pro Football Focus' premium advanced stats, Worrilow has allowed 50 completions on 57 targets in coverage, giving him a putrid -9.5 coverage grade, which ranks 58th out of 60 inside linebackers.
Worrilow’s tackling efficiency of one missed tackle per 5.6 attempts is one of the league’s worst.
The front seven submitted a slapstick effort that included lowlights such as this attempt to tackle Eddie Lacy, that made the 230 pound bruiser look like Lesean McCoy in open space.
The Falcons have a ton of work to do during the offseason, but amazingly hidden beneath the muck is a second-year cover corner who is among the league’s best.
Desmond Trufant, the brother of veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant, who retired after a decade with the Seahawks is an emerging defensive cornerstone along the likes of Richard Sherman, Joe Haden, Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson. Actually, he’s an under the radar star on the field, but his hype hasn’t caught up to the reality yet. The Falcons 2014 first round pick has been an absolute nightmare for the unlucky soul that was his assignment.
After Week 14, Pro Football Focus rates him as the league’s fifth-best cornerback.
— Rise Up Reader (@RiseUpReader) December 9, 2014
On targets in Trufant's direction, Rodgers could only muster an 11 yard completion, a loss of one, an incompletion on a short throw, a fice yard completion and a pass deflection. However, Rodgers went with the same strategy that didn't work against Seattle in the season opener and instead of throwing in Trufant's direction, he picked on the Falcons outmatched corners.
To make matters worse, oft-injured safety William Moore injured his foot in the first half, which won’t help if he’s unable to get off the mat for the final three weeks.
Winning the sickly NFC South and making the playoffs may not be enough to save Mike Smith’s job. The Falcons have work to do and it may start with clipping a few wings.