By Matthew Asher
With Tampa Bay’s 22-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17, one of the main questions was if Mike Smith did the right thing by keeping his starters in the entire game. While it’s open to debate, two unfortunate incidents happened to the Falcons’ defense throughout the game certainly make it harder to believe Smitty’s game plan was correct.
Those in favor of Smitty’s decision to play his starters throughout the whole game would cite the lackluster performance the Falcons exhibited in the first half of the game. With Atlanta down 13-3 at halftime, it was clear both the offense and defense weren’t in top form. The point of keeping the same players in the game is so the team can pick up on the little nuances each team member exhibits. With the Falcons clearly not in sync with each other, keeping them in gave them the extra time to do so.
Those who oppose Smitty’s decision have two examples. The main reason a team rests their starters is to avoid unnecessary injuries. It happened to Atlanta twice during the game.
First was cornerback Dunta Robinson’s injury in the first quarter. Robinson now knows that attempting to bring down Tampa running back Doug Martin by using your shoulder and not tackling is a bad idea. Robinson fell to the ground after the hit on Martin but he was able to walk off the field under his own power. Because of a possible concussion during the hit, he would not return to the game.
The second Falcon injured was defensive end John Abraham in the second half. Abraham was going after Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman when it appears as though he rolled his left ankle during the sack attempt. Unlike Robinson, Abraham needed assistance getting off the field and was even carted off into the locker room. He too did not return to the game.
The good news for the Falcons is that while both Robinson and Abraham were unable to return to the game, there is a very good chance they will be ready for Atlanta’s first playoff game. “I can tell you this, on both of the players that left the game yesterday, I fully anticipate that they will be ready to go on Sunday, January 13th at 1 o’clock,” Smith said on Monday.
According to Smitty, Robinson is “in the concussion protocol” but the good new is “he is moving through it at a very good pace.”
The even better news for the Falcons is not only should Abraham and Robinson be ready to play in two weeks, but safety William Moore, who has missed the last four games of the season due to a hamstring injury, is getting closer to returned as well.
“We hope to get William on the field in terms of our preparation for the game,” Smitty said. “He’ll be on the field working with our Athletic Performance group the first day and we’ll see how he’s going…He’s progressed quite a bit over the last two weeks and we anticipate seeing him out there with us.”
For now, the Falcons have to play the waiting game to find out which of the three possible opponents Atlanta will face in two weeks. Waiting may not be ideal, but hearing your injured players will be ready certainly helps the waiting.
“Anytime I get information that our players, whether it’s on the practice field, preseason game, first game of the year, you’re relieved” Smitty said. “You never want to see any of your guys get injured. Very glad to get good news on those guys.”
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.