Archive for December, 2012

Atlanta Falcons: If the playoffs started today . . .

If the playoffs started today …

NFC top contenders

The Falcons (12-2), who have clinched a playoff spot, would be the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Atlanta would open the playoffs on Jan. 12 or 13 against the lowest-seeded team to advance from the NFC wild card round.

The 49ers (10-3-1), who have clinched a playoff spot, would be the No. 2 seed with a first-round bye. San Francisco would open the playoffs on Jan. 12 or 13 with a home game against the highest-seeded winner from the NFC wild card round.

NFC wild card picture

The third-seeded Packers (10-4) have clinched a playoff spot would play host to the sixth-seeded Vikings (8-6) on Jan. 5 or 6. The No.5 Seahawks (9-5) would play the No. 4 Redskins (8-6) on Jan. 5 or 6.

The other teams with a realistic chance of still earning a wild card are the Cowboys (8-6), Giants (8-6) and Bears (8-6). The Rams (6-7-1) and Saints (6-8) are also still technically alive.

How …

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Atlanta Falcons: One win away from wrapping up home-field advantage

FLOWERY BRANCH — Asante Samuel is the Falcons’ resident expert on the importance of momentum entering the playoffs.

He should know. Samuel is the proud owner of two Super Bowl rings — XXXVIII and XXXIX.

He experienced a seismic momentum roll during his rookie season with the New England Patriots, who took a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs and steamrolled Tennessee, Indianapolis and Carolina on their way to the Vince Lombardi trophy.

One year later, the Patriots had less velocity, entering the postseason with just a two-game winning streak. But they still generated enough momentum to beat Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and become the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

What does Samuel think now?

“I think (Sunday) was the best game that we put together so far,” the cornerback said of the Falcons’ 34-0 thrashing of the New York Giants. “We just want to take this momentum that we’ve got and ride it into the playoffs. That’s how …

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Atlanta Falcons: Disguised coverages have led to interceptions

FLOWERY BRANCH –  The Falcons had two interceptions against the Giants to give them 18 for the season, which ranks fourth in the league. Only Chicago (21), Giants (20) and Arizona (22) have more interceptions.

The Falcons are also plus-9 in takeaways, which is eighth in the league before Monday’s night game between the New York Jets and Tennessee.

To go with their 18 interceptions, the Falcons have nine fumble recoveries for 27 turnovers. The offense has 14 interceptions and four fumbles for 18 turnovers.

The defense has recorded six games with two interceptions are more. They are 6-0 in those contests.

Players credit the ability to disguise their coverages as the key to interceptions.

“If we can confuse a quarterback and make him throw it somewhere where he wasn’t expecting to throw it, or after play-fake, look back and see a completely different coverage, it helps us out exponentially,” said safety Thomas DeCoud, who leads the team with six interceptions. …

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Atlanta Falcons: Joe Hawley will return to the team Tuesday

FLOWERY BRANCH –Falcons center/guard Joe Hawley, who has served his four-game suspension, will return to the team on Tuesday, Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

It is unknown who the team will release to open up a roster spot for Hawley’s return. Guard Harland Gunn was signed to take Hawley’s spot on Nov. 20. He has been inactive for the last four games.

Hawley was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy on Nov. 19. He tested positive for Adderall and not any anabolic steroids, according to his agent Kevin Omell.

“He is sincerely sorry to his teammates, coaches and Falcons fans for the consequences of this oversight,” according to a statement released by Omell. “Joe will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help the team continue the success they’ve achieved thus far this season. He has chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation which is why he will not exercise his appeal rights and …

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Video: A look at the NFC playoff race

The Packers won their second straight NFC North title on Sunday. A three-way tie has developed in the NFC East. Colin Kaepernick outdueled Tom Brady in the 49ers’ 41-34 win over the Patriots.

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

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Falcons playtime percentage chart vs. Giants

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had a first half interception of Eli Manning, celebrates shutting out the New York Giants 34-0 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had a first half interception of Eli Manning, celebrates shutting out the New York Giants 34-0 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons Playtime Percentage Chart vs. Giants

(Percent of playtime per player on offense, defense and special teams)

PLAYER              OFFENSE          SPECIAL TEAMS

T Clabo T               68 100%                 6 32%

J Blalock G           68 100%                 6 32%

S Baker T              68 100%                 6 32%

P Konz G              68 100%                  6 32%

T McClure C        61 90%

M Ryan QB           61 90%

J Jones WR           56 82%

T Gonzalez TE       52 76%

R White WR          50 74%

H Douglas WR      32 47%

J Rodgers …

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Report card: Falcons earn high marks in win over Giants

Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 34-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

GAME BALLS: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for leading a spirited defensive effort and the offensive line for battling the mighty Giants defensive line rotation.

A — Quarterbacks: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan broke a pair of his own franchise records. He topped his club record for passing yards in a single season. After just 14 games he has 4,202 yards for the season. Ryan threw for 4,177 yards in 2011. Ryan also broke his club record for completions in a season, as he has connected on 369 passes this season. He set the franchise record with 357 completions in 2010. Ryan is the only quarterback in team history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Ryan finished the game completing 23 of 28 passes (82.1 percent) for 270 yards with three touchdowns and a 142.6 passer rating. His 82.1 completion percentage is the second …

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Matt Ryan breaks his own passing records vs. Giants

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan broke a pair of his own franchise records in the 34-0 victory over the Giants on Sunday.

He topped his club record for passing yards in a single season. After just 14 games he has 4,202 yards for the season. Ryan threw for 4,177 yards in 2011.

Ryan also broke his club record for completions in a season, as he has connected on 369 passes this season. He  set the franchise record with 357 completions in 2010.

Ryan is the only quarterback in team history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Ryan finished the game completing 23 of 28 passes (82.1 percent) for 270 yards with three touchdowns and a 142.6 passer rating. His 82.1 completion percentage is the second highest of his career, trailing his 24 of 28 (85.7) performance against Green Bay on Nov. 28, 2010.

The win over the Giants marked the 32nd time in his career that Ryan has posted a passer rating of 100-or-higher. The Falcons are 31-1 in those games, including a 20-0 …

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Divine intervention: Lord tells Roddy White to play vs. Giants

Roddy White, slowed by a sore knee, didn’t practice all week, but started against the Giants and caught two passes for 16 yards.

“When I woke up this morning, the good Lord told me, ‘Roddy, you can go out there and play today,’” White said. “So that’s what I did.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leaned more on wide receiver Julio Jones, who finished with six catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

Before the game, some in the media dredged up some White quotes from September, when he said he thought the Falcons’ receivers were better than the Giants duo of Hakeem Nicks (three catches, 40 yards on Sunday) and Victor Cruz (three catches, 15 yards).

“When I talked about me and Julio and us being the best wide receivers in the league, that’s how I feel, no matter who we play against or who’s on the other side,” White said. “I don’t even guard those guys. That’s putting a lot of (pressure) on our DBs, who did an excellent job today.

“The comments …

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Offensive line turns in stellar showing vs. Giants

The Falcons’ offensive line turned in a stellar performance against the Giants’ vaunted defensive line rotation that Atlanta coach Mike Smith repeatedly called the best in the NFL.

The Falcons forced the Giants to respect the running attack. They ran the ball 35 times for 125 yards (3.5 per carry) when discounting three kneel-downs by quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Luke McCown.

Last year, the Giants dominated the line of scrimmage in the Falcons 24-2 loss in the playoffs.

Facing a number of draw plays and some screen passes, the Giants never got their pass rush rolling. They finished with one sack and three quarterback hits.

“I thought our offensive line play fantastic,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Our guys really stepped up to the challenge.”

Chris Canty, rushing over Falcons left guard Justin Blalock, got the Giants only sack, that coming in the second quarter when the Falcons already had a 17-0 lead. Jason Pierre-Paul, who leads the Giants with 6.5 sacks, was …

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