Archive for September, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Matt Ryan notches biggest win of young career

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes in the first quarter against the Saints. Associated Press

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes in the first quarter against the Saints. Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — The victory over the Saints has to be the biggest of Matt Ryan’s young career.

In 2008, he had the big win at home over the Chicago Bears, when the team pulled it out  in the final 12 seconds. There was also the big win at Green Bay his rookie season.

Last season, the Falcons beat the New York Jets on the road. They went on to reach the AFC championship game.

In an AJC exclusive, Ryan talked about some of the key plays and how he was going to sleep well, dreaming about that 19-play drive:

MATT RYAN, quarterback

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THE TEAM: “I definitely speaks to the character of the guys on our football team. We continue to fight and play hard. But that’s kind of been our M.O. for the last couple of years. We continue to battle regardless of what is going on out there. When you do that, it gives yourself a chance.”

ON GONZALEZ AND RODDY: “Just reading it …

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The Aftermath: What the players were saying . . .

THE THRILL OF VICTORY: The Atlanta Falcons bench reacts after winning their NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in overtime, 27-24. Associated Press

THE THRILL OF VICTORY: The Atlanta Falcons bench reacts after winning their NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in overtime, 27-24. Associated Press

MATT BRYANT, kicker

ON THE KICK: “I just kept saying, stay down and kick through. Down and through. Down and through. I hit it pretty good and it went through.”

JONATHAN BABINEAUX, defensive tackle

ON HARTLEY’S MISSED KICK: “We just wanted to get some pressure on that guy. We knew that he could be off at times. We just wanted to get pressure on him. Coach iced him for a little bit and took him out of his rhythm. He looked up and a shanked it.”

JASON SNELLING, running back

THE AGONY OF DEFEAT: Saints place kicker Garrett Hartley (5) reacts after missing a field goal during overtime against Atlanta. Associated Press

THE AGONY OF DEFEAT: Saints place kicker Garrett Hartley (5) reacts after missing a field goal during overtime against Atlanta. Associated Press

ON HARTLEY’S MISS: “I was watching and I was happy that he missed it.”

ON THE DRIVE: “We got a lot of push and were able to make plays in the running game.”

ON THE PERSEVERANCE: “It says a lot. It shows …

Continue reading The Aftermath: What the players were saying . . . »

Weatherspoon was cramping up late in the game

Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes (20) intercepts a Drew Brees pass in front of New Orleans Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson (19). Associated Press

Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes (20) intercepts a Drew Brees pass in front of New Orleans Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson (19). Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS –  Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a severe case of cramping and was taken to the locker room on a golf cart during the overtime session on Sunday, but some fluids and a 27-24 victory over New Orleans did a lot for his recovery.

“I was just locking up,” said Weatherspoon, the team’s 2009 first-round draft pick. “I feel much better know.”

Weatherspoon, making his third NFL start, was drafted in part because of his coverage skills and his ability to play in spaces against teams like the Saints. He had seven tackles and a quarterback hit against New Orleans. He wasn’t a liability in coverage and had a couple of other big hits in his first game in the Superdome.

“It was amazing,” Weatherspoon said. “We needed everybody. We just kept fighting and fighting. We knew this game was going to be …

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Inactives: Harry Douglas started for Michael Jenkins

Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins after practice on Saturday. He was explaining to the media why the defense appears to be ahead of the offense. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins was declared inactive for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

NEW ORLEANS — Falcons wide receiver Michael Jenkins was declared inactive for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

Jenkins returned to practice this week, but worked mostly with the reserves. He has not played in a game since suffering a shoulder injury on Aug. 6 in a scrimmage. Harry Douglas will start for Jenkins.

Safety Erik Coleman, running back Gatrell Johnson, linebacker Spencer Adkins, tackle Garrett Reynolds, guard Mike Johnson and defensive tackle Trey Lewis.

Safety William Moore will start for Coleman.

John Parker Wilson was declared the third quarterback.

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Injury report: Michael Turner is probable; Shockey doesn’t practice

Atlanta running back Michael Turner leaves the game during 2nd quarter action against Arizona. Turner returned to the sidelines in the second half, but did not return to the field to play. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta running back Michael Turner leaves the game during 2nd quarter action against Arizona. Turner returned to the sidelines in the second half, but did not return to the field to play. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Running back Michael Turner (groin) fully participated in practice on Friday and was listed on the injury report as probable.

Wide receiver Michael Jenkins (shoulder) was limited again and safety Erik Coleman (knee) did not participate. Both were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Saints.

For the the Saints, tight end Jeremy Shockey (quad) did not practice on Friday. He was not on the injury report all week and is listed as probable for the game on Sunday.

Running back Chris Ivory (knee) and tackle Zach Strief (knee) both fully participated in practice on Friday and are both probable.

Jeremy Shockey (quad injury) is probable for Sunday's game. (Associated Press)

Jeremy Shockey (quad injury) is probable for Sunday's game. (Associated Press)

Safety Usama Young (quad) was limited on Friday and is …

Continue reading Injury report: Michael Turner is probable; Shockey doesn’t practice »

DC Brian VanGorder plans to stay on the attack

Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is smothered by Atlanta Falcons defenders as he is gang tackled to the ground during 1st half action. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is smothered by Atlanta Falcons defenders as he is gang tackled to the ground during 1st half action. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Late in the 41-7 rout of Arizona, bewildered quarterback Derek Anderson was seen leaving the field and yanking his chin strap off in disgust.

It was a long day at the office for him as the Falcons basically blitzed him into submission. The Falcons only had two sacks, but they put almost 20 hits on Anderson.

“I know that me and (Kroy) Biermann together had 11 hits,” defensive end John Abraham said. “Hits are good, but with Drew Brees hits don’t matter. If you watch on tape we got a lot of hits on him last year, but he was still completing balls for five or six yards.  We have to get him down.”

The Falcons have blitzed Dennis Dixon and Anderson relentlessly and that led to turnovers, too.

Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was asked if the defense planned to continue the attacking brand of …

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Behind enemy lines: Vilma gives his take on the Falcons

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in action (Rusty Costanza/The Times-Picayune)

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in action (Rusty Costanza/The Times-Picayune)

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s weekend is off to a great start.

He had to be pleased with how The U” dismantled the Pitt Panthers on ESPN last night.

He did a Q & A for PlaymakerMoble.com and gave some insights to the game.

Vilma, who had the key tipped pass late in last season’s game at the Superdome, is expecting another close battle.

VILMA: I expect a tough game from the Falcons. Even though we started 13-0 last season and beat the Falcons twice during that stretch, they were close games. We won by three points, I believe, at their place, on a fourth-down stop actually, to seal that victory. Then it was a close game at our house, less than seven points, I think. These matchups, we don’t expect a blowout. We know it’s going to be a grind, and winning a division game is almost like winning two games because of tiebreakers, so we have to get after it.

He calls the Falcons offensive line …

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Falcons at Saints: 3 key matchups

ew season, bigger beard. Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has let his beard grow out, sporting some additional length on his chin. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

ew season, bigger beard. Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has let his beard grow out, sporting some additional length on his chin. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Three key matchups

VIDEO REPORT — Three keys

Saints DE Will Smith vs. Falcons LT Sam Baker: Baker has been called for four holding penalties, but the Falcons think his issue may be related to the new placement of the umpire. Baker will have to get his hands on Will Smith and keep him from collapsing the pocket as he did last season in New Orleans. Smith had two sacks in that game. He was a disruptive force. Baker and the Falcons were able to contain Smith in the second matchup last season.

Saints S Malcolm Jenkins vs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Jenkins is in his first season as a full-time starter and is trying to replace the injured Darren Sharper. Jenkins is a converted cornerback and has one fumble recovery. The 49ers were able to hit some deep passes over the top of the defense Monday night. Ryan has …

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Injury report: Michael Turner fully participated in practice

Atlanta running back Michael Turner leaves the game during 2nd quarter action against Arizona. Turner returned to the sidelines in the second half, but did not return to the field to play. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta running back Michael Turner leaves the game during 2nd quarter action against Arizona. Turner returned to the sidelines in the second half, but did not return to the field to play. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Running back Michael Turner (groin) fully participated in practice on Thursaday.

Wide receiver Michael Jenkins (shoulder) was limited again and safety Erik Coleman (knee) did not participate.

For the the Saints, running back Chris Ivory (knee) and tackle Zach Strief (knee) both fully participated after being limited on Wednesday.

Safety Usama Young (quad) was limited after not participating on Wedensday.

Running back Reggie Bush (fibula), cornerback Randall Gay (concussion) and linebacker Anthony Waters (hamstring) did not participate in practice.

Limited Participation (LP)=less than 100% of a player’s normal reps

Full Participation (FP) = 100% of a player’s normal reps

Did Not Participate in Practice (DNP)

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Who What?: Sean Payton expects to see lots of blitzing

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the Super Bowl. It's troubling for Falcons fans that their hated rivals actually own one of these. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the Super Bowl. It's troubling for Falcons fans that their hated rivals actually own one of these. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Got to check out the guys on Inside the NFL last night on Showtime  and Cris Collinsworth, Warren Sapp and Phil Simms were making their picks.

Sapp and Simms picked the Falcons to beat the Saints. Collinsworth picked the Saints to win.

Earlier, a few members of the media chatted with Saints coach Sean Payton on the conference call. We didn’t ask him to pick a winner.

NFC South foe New Orleans coach Sean Payton.

NFC South foe New Orleans coach Sean Payton.

But here’s what he had to say on a few subjects leading up to the 82nd regular-season meeting between the Saints and the Falcons.

ON THE SAINTS JAGGED SCHEDULE TO START TO SEASON: “I think part of that comes with winning. When we came here in ‘06 I think every game was at 12 noon and we had one Monday night game. That was the result of losing. When you do start having success I think you …

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