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A Friendly Reminder: The Atlanta Falcons Are Playing Preseason Football

Maybe a disproportionate level of expectations are thrust on teams picked to win the Super Bowl, and if so, that's cool and the gang, because we'll fess to having never lived that high on the prognostication hog. But an increasing amount of scrutiny from respectable outlets has been levied against Matt Ryan, Mike Mularkey and the Falcons following 42 pass attempts called in the first half of Atlanta's 34-19 loss at Pittsburgh.

Sure, Atlanta looked alarmingly hapless at times against a Steelers team assumed to be of equal prestige in 2011. Sure, the bulk of Ryan's 42 throws were errant, lacked timing with receivers and some even ended up scoring touchdowns for Pittsburgh, but, uh.... so what?

 

The Falcons are in the process of following through on a promise to beleaguered fans and critics in revamping their passing attack to include those elusive "explosive plays" and justify the costly draft of Julio Jones. The AJC also noted that Mularkey called for the no-huddle offense three times in the first half, something previously unseen this preseason.

That means passes on first down almost every time Ryan's been on the field. That means little interest in clock management and a bare bones use of starting running back Michael Turner. The return of would-be slot superstar Harry Douglas and the addition of Jones means Ryan has keyed on both to develop timing and trust, leaving the reliable Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez practically ignored. 

If Ryan throws 85 passes in the first half against Baltimore this week, so be it. Far too often we enter the preseason so starved for the game we love that we forget that sensible coaches often use exhibition games - in which outcomes have no lasting effect on the season - to fine tune and practice facets of particular schemes or certain plays, rather than PLAYTOWINTHEGAME. Besides, Peter King picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, and since September of 2010, he's never been wrong picking world champions.

But what's that? The secondary? Yeah, uh, we've got no salve for that. Resume your widespread panic.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.