Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category

PLAYOFF BUZZ: If the playoffs started today . . .

By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

NFC top contenders

The Falcons (11-2), the only NFC team to have clinched a playoff berth, would be the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Atlanta would open the playoffs on Jan. 12 or 13 against the lowest-seeded winner from the NFC Wild Card round.

The 49ers (9-3-1) 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 (9-4) would play host to sixth-seeded Bears (8-5) on Jan. 5 or 6. The Seahawks, seeded No. 5, would play at the fourth-seeded Giants (8-5) on Jan. 5 or 6.

The other teams with a realistic chance of still earning a Wild Card berth are the Redskins (7-6), Cowboys (7-6), Vikings (7-6) and Rams (6-6-1). The Buccaneers (6-7) and Saints (5-8) also are mathematically still alive.

How Vegas views the …

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Atlanta Falcons: Run defense goes back to the drawing board

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons defense has struggled against Carolina’s zone read option offense this season.

The Panthers rushed for a season-high 199 yards against the Falcons on Sept. 30 and nearly duplicated the effort with 195 yards in their 30-20 upset victory on Sunday.

The Falcons could face zone read option quarterbacks in the playoffs if they play Washington or San Francisco. But defensive end John Abraham said the Falcons don’t have a problem with the attack that is popular in the college game.

Pro defenses are designed to stop drop-back quarterbacks and rarely account for a running quarterback. In their first meeting, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton rushed for 87 yards. On Sunday, he rushed for 116 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run.

“I don’t think the read option really bothered us,” said Abraham on Monday. “Cam just ran a good play into a blitz and things happen. Sometimes you do good things and they show up. It was just a good play by him and …

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Falcons playtime percentage chart vs. Panthers

Atlanta Falcons Playtime Percentage vs. Panthers

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

PLAYER         OFFENSE   SPECIAL TEAMS

T Clabo T              65 100%                  2 8%

J Blalock G           65 100%                  2 8%

S Baker T              65 100%                  2 8%

P Konz G               65 100%                   2 8%

T McClure C          65 100%

M Ryan QB            65 100%

T Gonzalez TE         62 95%

R White WR             61 94%

J Jones WR               61 94%

H Douglas WR          50 77%

J Rodgers RB             30 46%            6 25%

M Turner RB               20 31%

J Snelling RB               15 23%            14 58%

M Cox …

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Falcons quoteboard after the 30-20 loss to the Panthers

CHARLOTTE — Here’s what the Falcons were saying after the game:

“They were much better than us today. They beat us in all three phases. We couldn’t sustain drives on third down offensively. We couldn’t even come close to getting them off the field on third downs (defensively.)”

Falcons coach Mike Smith on the game

“We misfit some runs. We lost some leverage and we missed tackles. When you do that, you’re going to give the number of yards and points that we gave up. Again, it was not up to our standards whatsoever. They were definitely the better team today. My hat is off to them.”

Smith on the run defense, which gave up 195 yards rushing, four yards shy of the season-high 199 they gave up to the Panthers on Sept. 30.

“Not at all, I thought we had a very good week of practice. On Tuesday we came back and had a Falcons on Falcons day and then we started our game planning on Wednesday. I thought we had very good practices. They played well and we didn’t …

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Atlanta Falcons: Jacquizz Rodgers ready for his share of the load

FLOWERY BRANCH — Jacquizz Rodgers probably is the quietest Falcon.

“He doesn’t say anything,” offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said.

On game days, he’s one of the best dressed, too. He’s, of course, at 5-foot-6, the shortest.

But based on the way he plays the game, Rodgers, the dynamo from Richmond, Texas, is probably the toughest player on the team.

The second-year player’s progression has been steady throughout the Falcons’ climb to 11-1, and his role has expanded in recent games.

“There are a lot of things I’m impressed with by him, but I think his effort is really good,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “For a smaller guy, he’s strong, he’s physical, he’s shifty, he’s non-stop and he’s relentless.”

He played more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps in the past two games. He played 53 percent (31 of 58) of the offensive snaps against New Orleans and 52 percent (31 of 60) against Tampa Bay. Running back Michael Turner played 34 percent and 38 …

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Atlanta Falcons: Koetter not worried about dip in Ryan’s numbers

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is not putting too much stock in the slide in quarterback Matt Ryan’s passing numbers over the third quarter of the season.

In the third quarter of the season, some of Ryan’s key statistics dipped appreciably. Over the first four games of the season, Ryan tossed 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. In games 5 through 8, he threw six touchdown passes and four interceptions.

In the past four games, he threw five touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

He has two touchdown passes and six interceptions over the past three games. In his previous outing, he completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and threw for 165 yards, both totals were season-lows.

“I don’t over analyze that,” said Koetter on Friday. “Matt is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s not going to play perfect all of the time. We are trying to figure out how to get a win. I don’t worry too much about the numbers.”

Falcons …

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Falcons at Panthers: 3 key matchups

Falcons DE John Abraham vs. Panthers LT Jordan Gross: Abraham is the NFL’s leading active sack leader with 122. Abraham appears rejuvenated by his reunion with coordinator Mike Nolan. He started his career with Nolan and the New York Jets. He’ll play some right and left end against the Panthers, but his battles with Gross are usually fierce. Gross has started 147 games over his 10-year career.

Falcons RB Michael Turner vs. Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly: Turner averaged a season-high 6.9 yards per carry in his previous outing, Nov. 29 against the Saints, as he rushed for 83 yards on 12 carries. Kuechly, a rookie from Boston College, took over in the middle in Week 5 against Seattle. According to Panthers coaches’ film review, he has averaged 14 tackles per game since the switch. He leads the team with 147 tackles. He also has one interception and three fumble recoveries.

Falcons CB Robert McClain vs. Panthers WR Steve Smith: McClain has been a pleasant surprise …

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Atlanta Falcons: Q&A with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton greet each other at mid-field during pregame warmups last season. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton greet each other at mid-field during pregame warmups last season. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH–Excerpts from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s conference call with Atlanta reporters.

Q. Falcons guys have noticed you seem more comfortable the last few weeks and the numbers have come as well. Any explanation as to why it’s been better?

A. No. As far as statistically I could really care less as far as how it’s been going. We play this game for one reason. We are looking forward to playing this game. It’s a division game and we just want to get back in the swing of things.

Q. Last year you spoke out about all you care about is winning. They haven’t come. How are you handling it?

A. Nothing has really changed as far as I look at playing football games. We all play to win football games. It’s kind of frustrating when you don’t win but we still have to look forward to continue to get better.

Q. I …

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Video: Justin Blalock likes his NFC South hat, but wants a ring

The NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from Falcons practice on Wednesday.
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OTHER RECENT NEWS

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Turner, Rodgers challenge top rushing defense in the league

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Atlanta Falcons: Safety William Moore not worried about a new contract

November 29, 2012 - Atlanta, Ga: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lane Moore (16) makes a catch in between Atlanta Falcons defenders Sean Weatherspoon, left, and William Moore in the first half of their game at the Georgia Dome Thursday night in Atlanta, Ga., November 29, 2012. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

November 29, 2012 – Atlanta, Ga: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lane Moore (16) makes a catch in between Atlanta Falcons defenders Sean Weatherspoon, left, and William Moore in the first half of their game at the Georgia Dome Thursday night in Atlanta, Ga., November 29, 2012. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons safety William Moore, who’s in the final year of a four-year, $3.4 million contract, is turning in a big season.

He’s the Falcons top tackler with 105. He has recorded eight pass breakups, four interceptions and one sack. But Moore, who will get some Pro Bowl consideration, is not worrying about his contract situation.

“Me, personally, the best thing that I’ve got going for myself is that I play because I love the game,” Moore said. “I’m not just saying that because it’s the right thing to say, but I really love the game. I don’t focus on contracts or how much money is being paid. That’s all a bonus because just playing right now …

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