Archive for September, 2009

5 things the Falcons need to fix over the bye week

Pro Bowl Roddy White has been working underneath a lot. Do the Falcons need to send him deep more often? (Brian Williams/AP)

Pro Bowler Roddy White has been working underneath a lot. Do the Falcons need to send him deep more often? (Brian Williams/AP)

IN THE AIR ON THE WAY TO HARTSFIELD-JACKSON — It seems like there is never a good time for the bye week.

But the fourth week of the season is too early.

The Falcons get to stew for two weeks before heading out to San Francisco to face the upstart 49ers.

Here are five things the Falcons need to fix over the bye week. (We’ll get the official list when Coach Mike Smith speaks later today. But for now, we can start with my list!)

1. Find the running game: Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner has rushed for 65, 105 and 56 yards. Miami

Pro Bowler Michael Turner has 65 carries for 220 yards (3.5 per carry). (Brian Williams/AP)

Pro Bowler Michael Turner has 65 carries for 220 yards (3.5 per carry). (Brian Williams/AP)

and Carolina targeted Turner, but New England did a good job of playing keep-away in the third quarter. When the Falcons did get the ball for a second time in the second half, they were down two scores and needed to pass. Don’t know if …

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Falcons set for early “Big Game” against Patriots

The tarp has been removed, but this is how it looked about earlier this morning. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC).

The tarp has been removed, but this is how it looked earlier this morning. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC).

THE HOUSE THAT STEVE GROGAN BUILT –  Got up early with colleague Mark Bradley, who’ll be blogging live during the game, and drove on down to Gillette Stadium from Boston.

The House that Steve Grogan –  and Falcons defensive line coach Ray “Sugar Bear” Hamilton for that matter — built, looks pretty impressive.

Thanks to the fine folks who let us in line on Route 1 after we missed the P1 turn in and had to go through P8. Everyone has been really nice.

The Patriot on the Gameday Magazine cover looks like he wants a Falcon for dinner. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC)

The Patriot on the Gameday Magazine cover looks like he wants a Falcon for dinner. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC)

The lady at the escalator even helped put my press pass through the button hole on my suit jacket. Didn’t wear a bow-tie today, but this is definitely a “bow-tie” game. (Some folks know I get fired up by breaking out a new bow-tie for the big games.) But Queen Led and Princess Led No. 2 didn’t like the bow-tie …

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Tom Brady presents problems for Falcons

Falcons offensive coordiantor Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan are ready to probe New England's defense. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterback Matt Ryan are ready to probe New England's defense. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

THE BRANCH – It was the “Coordinators Countdown to Kickoff Show” after the Falcons went through their final practice on Friday before leaving for New England.

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey (MM) and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (BVG) took a few questions while the paint was still drying on a week of preparation for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

MM ON CALLING PLAYS FOR RB JASON SNELLING VS. JERIOUS NORWOOD: “Every game has specifics to it. The whole plan is not that way. We just try to use our guys’ talents. That’s not just the quarterback, the back, but that’s everybody that’s on the field. Again, if guys can’t execute or don’t think they can and have that negative thought, they probably are going to fail. We are trying to make sure that we’ve got 11 guys out there who are confident in what they are doing. That’s …

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Matt Ryan returns to New England as a star

Matt Ryan, the former Boston College star, is set to talk to the New England media today. Tom Brady is not returning the favor to the ATL media. He's running faster than he did from ESPN's Suzy Kolber. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Matt Ryan, the former Boston College star, is set to talk to the New England media today. Tom Brady is not returning the favor to the ATL media. He's running faster than he did from ESPN's Suzy Kolber. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

TRYING TO GET TO THE BRANCH – Hoping I can make it out to practice today.

The plan is to leave extra early and drive really slow. Wednesdays are always big days for the media and the team.

They’ll start installing the game plan for New England. After giving up 308 yards passing to Jake Delhomme, the defense will likely be extra sharp about their coverage responsibilities. The Falcons certainly need to crank back up the pass rush after the defensive line didn’t record a sack last week. They registered four sacks in the opener against Miami with John Abraham and Kroy Biermann getting two each.

I don’t believe  the plan calls for letting Tom Brady sit comfortably in the pocket, while looking for Randy Moss, Wes Welker, et al.

There was some flag waving at the Georgia Dome last Sunday. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

There was some flag waving at …

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FALCONS: 5 things we learned from the Carolina win

Falcons Cheerleaders sported Throwback cheer outfits for the Carolina game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

SPIRIT FINGERS!!!: Falcons Cheerleaders sported Throwback outfits for the Carolina game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

SEATTLE OF THE SOUTH - We’re closing in on the record for consecutive days of rain. Five down, 35 to go. Who’s out there getting the Ark ready?

The Falcons post-game locker room was bizarre. I have to attend coach Mike Smith’s interview, but one longtime and legendary national reporter asked me why so many players leave so quickly after the game.

For the guys who were left, all of the talk was about how poorly they played.

No doubt, coach Mike Smith came into the room and likely lit into the team for some downright shiftlessness! The

Falcons cheerleaders were ready for the Throwback game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Falcons cheerleaders did some high-stepping for the Throwback game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

penalties by Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock and the offsides by tight end Tony Gonzalez could not have made him happy. There was Michael Turner’s fumble inside the red zone.  There was a weak arm tackle attempt by Chris Houston.

“I felt that we …

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Kim Zolciak says: Don’t be tardy for the Throwback Party

Kim Zolciak of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" says, don't be tardy for the Throwback party. ( ELISSA EUBANKS/AJC)

Kim Zolciak of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" says, don't be tardy for the Throwback party. ( ELISSA EUBANKS/AJC)

THE BRANCH –It was “Coordinator Friday” after the Falcons ripped through their final practice before the Carolina game. They will pay tribute to the original team and wear the 1966 uniforms.

The equipment staff was set to put all the stripes on the helmets later.

But we got to chat with Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and defensive coordiantor Brian VanGorder.

Michael Turner was held to 65 yards on 22 carries against Miami, but Mularkey said the Falcons were very close to

John Abraham, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner ready for Throwback game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

John Abraham, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner ready for Throwback game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

popping a few big runs.

“Where we had problems was sustaining the blocks,” Mularkey said on Friday. “We were very close to big runs, a lot of times. In their scheme, that two gap scheme, they shedded blocks. That was the discussion afterwards, ‘what do we have to get better at?’ We need to …

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Throwback Thursday: Falcons abuzz over uniforms

John Abraham, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are ready for Throwback game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

John Abraham, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are ready for the Throwback game. You can get your Retro jersey for $111.11. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

The Branch — There has been a different feel to this week’s preparation.

It started on Monday, when red helmets were placed in every player’s locker.

The team will pay homage to the inaugural 1966 team, with a black jersey, white pants and red helmet this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

How many interceptions will Jake Delhomme throw against the Falcons?

  • 3
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  • None, Panthers will run the ball 72 times

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“We’re going to look real clean,” defensive end John Abraham said. “This is my first time ever getting to wear a Throwback. So, I’m real excited about this.”

They will wear them again when Tampa Bay comes to the Georgia Dome on Nov. 29.

The team’s website has gone Throwback, showing all pictures in black and white.

This is a hot leisure suit (actually is a 1970s era style).

This is a hot leisure suit (actually is a 1970s era style).

It was …

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FALCONS: 5 things we learned from the Miami win

Michael Turner averaged 3.0 yards on 22 carries against a rugged Miami defensive front. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Michael Turner averaged 3.0 yards on 22 carries against a rugged Miami defensive front. (BOB ANDRES/AJC).

THE HOME OFFICE – Where was this four-sack and four-turnover defense hiding at all preseason?

Did inserting Brian Williams into the starting cornerback position make that much of a difference? It helped. Also, the

Arthur Bland and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (BOB ANDRES/AJC).

Falcons mixed in a healthy dose of zone defenses and received an incredible pass rush from the defensive line.

Here’s a quick look at some of the things we learned from the decisive and at times dominating 19-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Next up, the Carolina Panthers, who are looking for quarterbacks today. Maybe they’ll ring up Joey Harrington, who was cut by the Saints.

1. THE LINEBACKER UNIT WAS UPGRADED: Last season when you looked at the stat sheet after the game usually Lawyer Milloy and Erik Coleman were the leading …

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Coordinator Corner with Mularkey and VanGorder

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey chats with the local media. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC)     Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey chats with the local media. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC)

Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey chats with the local media. (D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER/AJC)

THE BRANCH — One of the new rules of the National Football League’s media policy, calls for each team to make their coordinators available to the media.

Well it was “Coordinator Friday” at the Branch. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder spoke with the media after Friday’s practice and gave some insights to the season opening game against Miami.  I asked them to give us an overview of their units and provide us with some keys to the game.

Enjoy. Thank Roger Goodell and the Pro Football Writers of America.

MULARKEY’S OVERVIEW OF THE OFFENSE:

“”Well, I ‘ll tell you what, we had a good week of work. We really did. I think these guys are anxious. As we all are to get this thing going. We’ve had a productive offseason. It’s obviously better when you know the system. It’s been productive. I think we are head of where were last year. Whether if they produces on …

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Falcons have 5 of the top 100 players in the NFL

Tony Gonzalez is the 10th best player in the league according to The Sporting News.

Tony Gonzalez is the 10th best player in the league according to The Sporting News.

THE BRANCH — Five Atlanta Falcons made the Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest players in the NFL Today, as selected by a panel of 106 Hall of famers, major award winners, executives, coaches and other football experts. (No, I wasn’t on the panel. Mere oversight I’m sure).

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is ranked 63rd.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is ranked 63rd.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez (10th), running back Michael Turner (42nd), quarterback Matt Ryan (63rd), wide receiver Roddy White (87th) and defensive end John Abraham 93rd).

The Steelers and the Vikings placed seven players on the list.

The Chargers, Colts and Eagles had six players.

The Falcons, Cardinals, Cowboys, Patriots and Ravens had five players.

Some of the 106 panelists had ties to the Falcons including former players Steve Bartkowski, Billly “White Shoes” Johnson, Claude Humphrey and Jeff Van Note.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning heads up the list followed by New …

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