GAME DAY CENTRAL: Falcons vs. Chargers

QB corner: Matt Ryan discusses the Chargers

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan fondly remembers his last trip to San Diego.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

As a rookie, he led the Falcons to a 22-16 victory over the Chargers on Nov. 30, 2008, at Qualcomm Stadium.

He tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas to put the Falcons up 22-13 with 14:56 left to play in the fourth quarter. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of 130.2.

Here’s a brief Q&A involving Ryan and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Q: What concerns you about San Diego’s defense?

A: Their front seven is very good. They’ve got two defensive ends in their 3-4 scheme. Jarret Johnson and Shaun Phillips are really good players. They have some talented guys on the back end like [Eric] Weedle. I think he led the league in interceptions last year. They have two corners that can play in [Antoine] Cason and [Quentin] Jammer. They are a talented bunch.

Q: How is Takeo Spikes playing in the middle of their defense?

A: He’s a veteran guy. He’s physical and is very good at coming down and snuffing out the run. He’s really smart, and it looks like he gets all of those guys on the same page on film. He’s one of those salty veteran guys that is just very good at what he does.

Q: What will be the key to run the ball on that stingy defense?

A: I think, first and foremost, identifying what they do up front correctly. They give you a lot of different looks. They bring a lot of different guys in their fire-zone packages. Identifying what they are doing and getting into the right plays will be important.

The X factor: Falcons safety William Moore

Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore intercepts a Peyton Manning pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme on Denver's opening drive during first quarter action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012.  CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore intercepts a Peyton Manning pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme on Denver's opening drive during first quarter action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

One of the trademarks of San Diego coach Norv Turner’s offenses — dating to his days in Dallas with Jay Novacek in the early 1990s — is that the tight end is heavily involved.

Last week in a 38-10 rout of Tennessee, tight end Dante Rosario caught three touchdowns passes for the Chargers, who carry four tight ends on their roster. In addition to Rosario, they have Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael and rookie Ladarius Green.

While wide receiver Malcolm Floyd is quarterback Philip Rivers’ top target, the tight end remains key, and that makes Falcons safety William Moore the X-factor for this game.

“In that offense, they use their tight ends a lot,” Moore said. “Then at the same time, they’ve got gifted tight ends. They are fast, and they are strong. They run great routes. Gates, I never played him before, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about his game.”

Rosario has mainly been a backup with Carolina (2007-10), Miami (2011) and Denver (2011). Before last week, he had five career touchdown catches.

“He’s running great routes,” Moore said. “He doing a great job. He’s matured from his days with Carolina. He’s looking like a great tight end.”

Gates, when healthy, is a great tight end. He returned to practice from a rib injury and could be available Sunday.

“He’s a go-to guy,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said of Gates. “When you see defenses go against him, they put two guys on him like he’s a gunner on the punt-coverage team because that’s how good he is. That’s what he demands. If you give him one-on-one coverage, or if you think you cannot account for him, he’s going to kill you.”

The hot seat: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones

Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie has told receiver Julio Jones that he must think that when

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Julio Jones signs autographs for fans following morning practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.     Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Julio Jones signs autographs for fans following morning practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

the football is in the air that it’s like $1 million, and he has to come down with it.

Jones, the second-year sensation, had a chance to help put the Falcons up by two touchdowns early against the Broncos on Monday night, but he let the $1 million hit the turf.

“I still have to step up and make those plays when they present themselves because everybody is counting on me,” said Jones, who’s on the hot seat to stop his dropped passes. “I just have to step up in that situation and make that play.”

Jones has 10 catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He has three drops, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

After catching six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in the season opener, Jones saw double coverage from Denver.

“They stayed with a [two-man] shell,” Jones said. “It’s kind of hard to have a big game against [two-man] shell and everything. Roddy [White] stepped up and did a great job for us, and Tony [Gonzalez] did as well.”

While Denver locked up Jones, White and Gonzalez combined for 15 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

Jones doesn’t know what to expect from the Chargers.

“When we play people, we have to go out there and adjust,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t have three receivers, including Tony, that they have to match up against. We have to go out there and continue to keep playing.”

Connections: Nolan, Norv Turner are coaching BFFs

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (right) talks with head coach Mike Smith during a recent practice. He has not had much success against Peyton Manning in past.  JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (right) talks with head coach Mike Smith during a recent practice. He has not had much success against Peyton Manning in past. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Chargers coach Norv Turner have been coaching BFFs.

They worked together in 2006, with Turner serving as Nolan’s offensive coordinator when he was San Francisco’s head coach.

Nolan served as Turner’s defensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins from 1997-99 when Turner was the head coach.

“Mike’s been in the league a long time, as well as coach Turner, so they’ve probably had a number of battles where they’ve been against each other and they’ve been on the same side and sat in staff rooms,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “There’s going to be some familiarity in terms of what Mike knows and what coach Turner knows.”

Other connections include:

  • Chargers running backs coach Ollie Wilson served two stints with the Falcons, from 1991-96 and from 2002-07.
  • Chargers linebacker Demorrio Williams played for the Falcons from 2004-07.
  • Falcons running back Michael Turner was drafted by the Chargers and played for them from 2004-07.
  • Chargers running back Ronnie Brown (Auburn) is from Cartersville.
  • Chargers tight end Randy McMichael (Georgia) is from Fort Valley.
  • Chargers backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson) is from Alpharetta.
  • Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes (Auburn) is from Sandersville.
  • Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel played with Chargers safety Atari Bigby at Central Florida for three seasons.

Stat corner: Chargers have the league’s top run defense

San Diego’s run defense is stout.

Oakland Raiders' Marcel Reece (45) runs as San Diego Chargers defensive back Atari Bigby (26) dives for him and linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Oakland Raiders' Marcel Reece (45) runs as San Diego Chargers defensive back Atari Bigby (26) dives for him and linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin sets the tone by demanding double-team blocks. In the Chargers’ 3-4 scheme, Franklin then frees up inside linebackers Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler to run to the ball carriers.

They held Oakland’s Darren McFadden to 32 yards on 15 carries and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 17 yards on eight carries.

The Falcons have struggled to run this season and don’t appear to have a good matchup against San Diego’s defense, which has allowed only 41 rushing yards per game, best in the NFL. The Falcons have rushed for 75.5 yards per game, 26th in the league.

“We’re going to keep handing it off,” right tackle Tyson Clabo said. “We are going to keep running the ball. I think that we have the personnel to have a good running game.”

The Falcons spent a great deal of time working on their passing attack this offseason. Some contend they forget about their vaunted rushing attack, which has had a 1,300-yard rusher [Michael Turner] in three of the past four years.

“We didn’t have a lack of focus on it at all,” Clabo said. “I can’t put my finger on anything specific, but I think we can run the football, and we’re going to continue to try.”

THE LATEST NEWS

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Falcons running back Michael Turner charged with DUI

Cornerback Christopher Owens is in the concussion protocol

VIDEO: Matt Ryan discusses win over Denver

Secondary puts Peyton Manning back on his heels

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Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

105 comments Add your comment

Elvis is alive

September 21st, 2012
5:33 am

Elvis is alive

September 21st, 2012
5:41 am

This game will be decided by special teams play. Falcons 24-Chargers 30.Our team is banged up and our bench is suspect. We are weak at stopping the long return. I believe in the Falcons. Rise Up…..

falcfvr

September 21st, 2012
5:56 am

Elvis, you must not believe to much. What’s up with that score prediction. Come on man! Falcons are playing the way they are needing to play The D will step up and put Rivers where he belongs. Go birds. Falcons – 37 Where’s Diego – 17
Question. How’s SeeNThisBefore doing? LMAO

Jimmy

September 21st, 2012
6:06 am

I’ll take a 2-0 start anyday, but the facts are that the Falcons have 14 games remaining to find a running game, or they aren’t going to do anything in the playoffs. It doesn’t look good this week against a stout Chargers front seven, but then again that’s why they play the game.

#RiseUp

Jimmy

September 21st, 2012
6:08 am

Also, can someone explain to me the rule concerning TD receptions??? In the field of play, if you catch the ball and it becomes dislodged because you hit the ground, it’s considered a catch, correct?? As in the ground can’t cause a fumble??

Yet the same doesn’t hold true in the end zone??? Julio Jones caught that pass and only AFTER he hit the ground did the ball come loose. This “maintaining possession of the ball” is absolutely garbage. That was a TD. I’ve seen a number of players robbed of TD receptions because of that stupid rule. They need to change it during the offseason, IMHO.

Falcon James

September 21st, 2012
7:31 am

The Falcon will be ready for the challenge Sunday. I have a lot of confidence that Turner will try to make a statement and will make the most of his opportunities to run and catch the ball. The Charger will have they hands full with trying to cover our receivers. I have no concerns about Julio. He will make an example out of someone. If I had one concern, it would be our defensive backfield. Dunta is underperforming as usual and we are weak on opposite side. We will need a pass rush. This game will come down to turnovers, but the Falcon have the edge and will bring home a victory.

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
7:48 am

I love the way Ryan always has good things – sincerely stated – about opponents. That’s class.

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
7:49 am

BTW I wonder if anyone remembered my post before Monday’s game about William Moore being the key guy, along with Nicholas and Abraham? I’ll stay with that song. :) Our Missouri kids can play!

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
7:50 am

Look for a big game from Magic Mike! He’ll be more popular than ever down to the club!

Mikey

September 21st, 2012
8:25 am

I second you on that PB… Ryan is a class act. We have a lot of class on this team and I am so happy to have them as role models for our kids here in Atlanta and around the country as their class play permeates the nation. We can be proud of all of them.

San Diego will be tough but they haven’t faced a team of the Falcons’ caliber yet. Every NFL team has really great players and they are all professionals so there aren’t many easy ones out there. Our Falcons will have to focus and do their best the whole day. Matty and the receivers are going to be a load for any team and I expect to see the run evolve as the season progresses. Regardless of Norv Turner’s familiarity with Nolan’s defense… if they play like they did in quarters 1-3 last week, they will be a challenge for any offense in the NFL. Can’t wait for Sunday! GO FALCONS! YOU ARE RISING UP!

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
8:27 am

@Jimmy: You don’t get any points on the field of play if you catch the ball and the ground causes it to become dislodged. The rule in the endzone is different so as to remove any doubt. You have to maintain possession through the end of the play, including landing on the ground, cause six points are at stake. On the normal field of play, the reciever gets the benefit of the doubt, in the endzone, he has to earn it.

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
8:29 am

Is speeding on the road while intoxicated a class act? Cause that’s what the nation was exposed to this week.

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
8:35 am

Look! It’s Dog the Bounty Hunter!

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
8:36 am

Jimmy – if you have possession and you fall and the ball pops loose, that’s not a loss of possession. The play ends when the player is down. If you never have possession, and you hit the ground and the ball goes out, that’s still no possession.

Stupid

September 21st, 2012
8:37 am

Turner was not a class act on his DUI. He put people’s lives at risk while driving drunk, but even if he would have killed someone then there would be a lot of people coming to his defense and he most likely would have received very light punishment for his act. He needs to pay for his act and that will be up to the Court to decide. If he wants to stay sober and be a productive citizen then that will be up to him.

pritdapit

September 21st, 2012
8:39 am

That all you have seen? Really? O yeah, the aints are 0-2 and bottom dwellers again!! What could you say football wise?? hahaha Go Falcons!!!!

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
8:40 am

Stupid – yes! And just think, he might have become an arch-criminal like the Joker and then we’d need Batman to save us! Run for the hills!

He screwed up. Everyone is fine. Relax.

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
8:42 am

Yeah, but he was leaving a strip club! In Georgia, aren’t you allowed to speed at 95mph, while drunk, when leaving a strip club? At least that’s how the rest of the nation sees that “class”.

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
8:45 am

pridapit:

Don’t be so fatuous.

Football wise, I already explained why there is a different rule for maintaining possession of the ball in the endzone. What have you added? BTW, I also say that there’s still 14 games to be played.

JSS

September 21st, 2012
8:50 am

Ledbetter…
Tell Ollie Wilson “Hi,” he’s greatly missed!

Big Crimson 75

September 21st, 2012
8:53 am

Seen — it’s setting up beautifully again this year!!
Bama -LSU 3.
We’re gonna stomp the living sh!t outta you over-matched bayou thrash.
Poor Jordon Jefferson, we ruined his life. Once the star of that cess-pool state, now he can’t even get free Gumbo anywhere.
Perhaps the Hatter can coach em to mid-field this year.

As for the bigger boys, 0 & 2. Y’all wont cover 9 against the Chiefs.
We miss Lofton. I particularly enjoyed those highlights of his fat tail chasing/grasping for Cam last week. We saw how amazing Cam is against a real team last night.
Somebody had to pay Lofton, thank God for you idiots.

Dzor22

September 21st, 2012
8:58 am

Im not sure we can beat anybody. I’m here in Charlotte and after the Panties got plastered by the NYG B team…they’re calling in to the radio station and saying…”at least we get to recover against the sorry Falcons”! Huh..Interesting. I didnt think we were sorry at all. BEAT SAN DIEGO!!!

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
8:59 am

@Big Crismson: You didn’t screw up Jefferson’s life, he did that all by himself.

Big Crimson 75

September 21st, 2012
9:04 am

Poor Lofton, he took the wrong player on Carolina’s option EVERY-TIME!!!

P B Orr

September 21st, 2012
9:04 am

Dzor22 – anyone can have a bad game, but Newton’s attitude in the press conference was positively girly. I wanted to hand him a towel to blubber into. Not good. He needs to grow up a little and hang out with his teammates instead of hunkering down under his laundry.

Big Crimson 75

September 21st, 2012
9:12 am

Cam’s a big baby.
Proven again last night.
Terrible team-mate.
Drink more Cam-aid, for those who said Carolina was winning this division.
I’ll take Matt Ryan over Cam any day & so would any NFL Coach that wants to Win.

D man

September 21st, 2012
10:13 am

Seen, how many Falcon wins and Saint losses will it take for you to come on over from the dark side?

D man

September 21st, 2012
10:17 am

On second thought Seen, I don’t want you to convert because I like your daily comedy.

Pappy

September 21st, 2012
10:27 am

Good info, O. Appreciate it!

Dirty Bird since 71`

September 21st, 2012
10:46 am

0-2 Aints….. Nuff said..

SeenThisBFalcon

September 21st, 2012
10:49 am

Michael Turner is a human being..we all make mistakes and he will learn from it and move on…DUI not that big of a deal its a MISDEAMEANOR…..TURNER will have 16 Carries….134 yds this week and 3 receptions for 58 yards will be player of the week!

[...] GAME DAY CENTRAL: Falcons vs. Chargers As a rookie, he led the Falcons to a 22-16 victory over the Chargers on Nov. 30, 2008, at Qualcomm Stadium. He tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas to put the Falcons up 22-13 with 14:56 left to play in the fourth quarter. Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
10:55 am

I.. I love you guys :’(

Ueeediot

September 21st, 2012
10:57 am

Carolina fans have to be feeling really good about life.
Did you hear Cam Newton’s interview after the game last night? That guy threw the entire city under the bus and all his team mates at the same time. He actually said that the fans of Carolina should be hanging their heads in shame. In fact, what he said was “IF I was a fan of the Carolina Panthers I would be hanging my head in shame” Fortunately, Cam is not a fan of the Panthers.

I cant wait for this Panthers team to come in to the GA Dome and get blown out.

TB fans, got a rough season ahead of you. At least youll be able to get a good QB in the draft next year.

Taints fans….just cut smaller eye holes in those paper bags you all wear. (You know like the REAL taints fans) Ill bring some to the game for you in case you need to use yours for a sick bag.

DazzyG

September 21st, 2012
11:01 am

LOL! Lofton’s performance with the aints thus far. Man I’m glad he accepted their offer! Not a 3 down player at all!

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
11:02 am

D man: Doncha worry now, I will be a steadfast Saints fan till the day I die.

I say Turner won’t get even 16 yards this week, though, I do admit, he may get 16 carries….

Neutral Onlooker

September 21st, 2012
11:03 am

Carolina destroys the Saints, New York dismantles Carolina,……. hmmmmm what does this tell us?

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
11:05 am

@ the imposter at 10:55am, you’re a living example of why this is such a snot rag of a blog.

Danny

September 21st, 2012
11:08 am

Neutral -
That the Saints are dreadfully aweful ???

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
11:09 am

@ Neuteral: It tells us that you’re no neutral onlooker if you’re looking for inferences between two different games.

Ueeediot

September 21st, 2012
11:10 am

DUI is not that big of a deal? Seriously?
10,000 people a year killed by DUI drivers…not a big deal?

Show me someone who thinks DUI is not a big deal and Ill show you someone who will be getting a DUI

Neutral Onlooker

September 21st, 2012
11:10 am

Just an observtion fella

North FLA Falcon

September 21st, 2012
11:11 am

Big test on the road but I like our team right now. If the run doesn’t work, make adjustments! Play solid and we can win this one. GO FALCONS

Neutral Onlooker

September 21st, 2012
11:13 am

Enter your comments here

Ueeediot

September 21st, 2012
11:13 am

@North FLA
That is the #1 difference in this team over the past 4 years. This team and coaching staff will actually make adjustments!
Hopefully they will adjust the running game to a 100+yd day

Post-It

September 21st, 2012
11:13 am

Then you should leave, Seen. Though with your team tanking along with all of your preseason boasts and predictions, it is somewhat entertaining that you’re still trying to dish it out.

Seen This B4

September 21st, 2012
11:15 am

An observation! Oh, well then, why didn’t you say so in the beginning. Here’s an observation: The falcan’ts have played well during the season for the last four years but always go 1 and done in the playoffs….hmmmm what does that tell us for this year?

Neutral Onlooker

September 21st, 2012
11:16 am

I like the Falcons so so, if I had to pick a pro team, not a big NFL fan but just watching games recently, Saints are sort of slipping

Neutral Onlooker

September 21st, 2012
11:18 am

Hey guy, are like this all the time ?? I take it your a Saints fan ?

PMC

September 21st, 2012
11:18 am

I was really impressed with the secondary especially the safeties last weekend. Not only were they in position to make plays, they made plays, over and over again.

I’m getting more comfortable with them out there than I have been. I think we will see more of Akeem Dent this week.