This will be the first in a series of blogs during the NFL season checking on the Falcons’ competition in the NFC South, and not a minute too soon because they won their season opener and I think their magic number for clinching the division is down to 16 . . .
♦ New Orleans Saints: They’re pretty good. We’ll get back to them in a minute.
♦ Carolina Panthers: Not so good. Most figured the Panthers, who come to Atlanta Sunday, would contend for the division title. But after Jake Delhomme went 7-for-17 with four interceptions and a fumble, and Carolina was pounded at home by Philadelphia, 38-10 — the worst opening day loss in franchise history – the
Panthers’ home now is that they can just stay ahead of Tampa Bay. The enterprising Charles Chandler of the Charlotte Observer figured out that Delhomme has committed 11 turnovers in his last seven quarters of play. It’s so bad that the Observer even accumulated a list of available quarterbacks, in case the Panthers want to go shopping for a replacement, although they deny that. (Teams not taking the advice of sports writers is somewhat universal.)
On the list: Brian Brohm, Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington, Andrew Walter, A.J.
Feeley, Brian Griese.
And finally, there are some great quotes from wide receiver Steve Smith. When asked whether he was concerned about Delhomme, Smith said: “I don’t want to comment on something that’s outside my pay grade.” And when asked about the Panthers’ next game, he said: “I’m not fooling, who do we play? Atlanta? Divisional opponent, we’ve got to play. We could be playing Independence High School next week, and if we don’t come out and execute offensively …”
♦ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They were expected to stink, so they really disappoint anybody Sunday, losing at home to Dallas, 34-21. Love the headline in the St. Petersburg Times’ sports home page above columnist Gary Shelton’s column: “If only optimism could play safety.”
First-year coach Raheem Morris might end up being a fine coach, but he’s been handed a bag of rocks. The Bucs haven’t been any good offensively for a while now, so that part’s not alarming. But the decline in personnel on the defensive side of the ball is staggering, and coupled with the departure of long-time coordinator Monte Kiffin, the defense has gone from one of the NFL’s best to one of its worst.
The Cowboys finished with 462 yards in offense. Tony Romo threw for 353 and three touchdowns. And try this: The Bucs gave up passing plays measuring 80, 66, 44 and 42 yards (three of those going for touchdowns).
♦ Back to the Saints: Can’t wait to see the two games against the Falcons. Should be 21-21 by, “. . . and the home of the brave.” The Saints beat up on the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford (16-for-37, three interceptions), 45-27, and DrewBrees threw for six touchdowns and 358 yards.
The scary thing about the Saints offense is they scored 45 points despite committing three turnovers. But it’s not really fair to grade a team against the Lions. They’re the Louisiana Tech of the NFL. Want a better read on them, Falcons fans? Next week: New Orleans at Philadelphia.
With Donovan McNabb out and Michael Vick still suspended, maybe Brees can play quarterback for both teams.