Archive for November, 2009

Falcons’ game against Eagles shaping up as must-win

Matt Ryan met (and lost to) his childhood idol, Donovan McNabb last season in Philadelphia. This time, he'll probably have to beat him for the Falcons to make the playoffs (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Matt Ryan lost to one of his idols, Donovan McNabb, last season in Philadelphia. This time, he'll probably have to beat him for the Falcons to make the playoffs (Curtis Compton/AJC).

Two months ago, there was great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game Dec. 6. Why? Because it would be Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta.

There should still be great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game. Why? Because if the Falcons don’t win that night, they may not make the playoffs.

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Having lost four out of their last five games and dropping to 5-5,  the Falcons logically are out of the NFC South race. They probably have to go at least 4-2 (maybe 5-1) in the final six games to win an NFC wild card spot. Strange things happen in the NFL. But the Falcons have made things difficult on themselves because they’ve already lost four NFC games and head-to-head meetings with …

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It’s hard to see Georgia’s defense stopping Tech

What's the chance of Willie Martinez coming up with a game plan to upset Georgia Tech?

Any chance Willie Martinez comes up with a game plan to upset Tech?

In 2006, when a 7-4 and unranked Georgia team defeated a 9-2 and 16th ranked Georgia Tech team, it wasn’t difficult to figure out why. The Dogs’ defense rattled Reggie Ball, the oft-rattled quarterback, who went 6-for-22 with two interceptions and a fumble.

“That was our goal from Day 1,” defensive tackle Ray Gant said afterward. “As soon as we started game-planning Tech, shake Reggie.”

The biggest reason not to expect an upset next Saturday when Georgia goes to North Ave? The Dogs’ defense seldom rattles anybody any more.

If this is another indictment of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, so be it. We watched Kentucky score four second-half touchdowns Saturday night, and even though two of those scores were set up by turnovers, the game illustrated Georgia’s lack of ability to make a play when it matters.

Question: Do you see Martinez putting together a game plan and inspiring a defense to the point that …

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Georgia loses to Kentucky, and the song stays the same

This is the picture? Do need to know more? Joe Cox had this fourth-quarter pass intercepted by Kentucky's Shane McCord, which set up one of the Wildcats four second-half touchdowns in a 34-27 upset.

This is the picture? Do you really need to know more? An interception by Kentucky's Shane McCord of a Joe Cox pass set up the Wildcats' winning touchdown in a 34-27 upset of the Dogs.

ATHENS — They got bruised in Stillwater, blindsided in Knoxville and humbled in Jacksonville. Also, their dog died.

Nobody intended for Georgia’s season to unfold like a country-western song. It just sort of  turned out that way.

So what were the objectives Saturday night? Easy. To create a memory for seniors who were playing their final game in Sanford Stadium. To diminish chances of the season ending in Shreveport. To look convincing enough in a win over Kentucky — whose 6-4 record entering the night mirrored Georgia’s — that the Bulldogs’ somewhat jaded fan base would start salivating over a possible upset next week on North Ave.

They whiffed.

With representatives from the Independence and Liberty Bowls in attendance, the  Bulldogs held a 20-6 halftime lead over Kentucky, then unraveled like …

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We’re live from Georgia — and are you still watching?

An empty doghouse. It's been that kind of season.

An empty doghouse. It has been that kind of season in Athens.

ATHENS — They got bruised in Stillwater, blindsided in Knoxville and humbled in Jacksonville. Also, their dog died.

Put it all together and Georgia’s season is a like country-western song.

So here’s my question for you: If you’re still watching, what is it you’re hoping this team can still accomplish?

The Dogs play their final home game of the season tonight against

Mark Richt has triedl to keep everybody focused on the season, not what comes after.

Mark Richt has tried to keep everybody focused on the season, not what comes after.

Kentucky. The backdrop isn’t what this team’s seniors were hoping for, especially after what seemingly was projected two years ago when Georgia finished the season ranked No. 2 in the nation. But there are still some tangible goals left.

I’m guessing if Bulldog fans could lay out a perfect finish to an imperfect season, it would go something like this (in order of priority):

1) Beat Georgia Tech next week.

2) Win the season’s final three games (Cats, Jackets, bowl …

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Herschel Walker’s first MMA bout set for Jan. 30

Herschel Walker never sleeps. This was before he appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Does this man ever sleep? Here was Herschel Walker before he appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" in April.

For those Georgia fans who might be down about the season or the passing of Uga VII, well, look at the bright side: Your most famous football player is about to jump into an MMA ring.

OK, so maybe that wasn’t quite the pick-me-up you were looking for.

Two months ago, we told you that Herschel Walker had signed with Strikeforce, a California-based promotional company that stages mixed martial arts bouts. The news was surprising, given that, while Walker is a sixth-degree black belt, he’s also 47 years old. But he’s apparently serious. Strikeforce announced Walker’s first bout will be held Jan. 30 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Smart promoter. The Super Bowl is in south Florida the following week. That’s worth a few thousand fans right there. No opponent has been announced. It probably would be worth a few more tickets if they can find a former Gator in MMA.

The …

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NFC rankings: Falcons down, Stafford up, Mora still nuts

It hasn't been an easy (or pain-free) season for Matthew Stafford.

It hasn't been an easy (or pain-free) season for Matthew Stafford.

Matthew Stafford is 1-6 as a starter this season, recently threw five interceptions in a game at Seattle and has one of the lowest quarterback efficiency ratings in the NFL at 59.5.

But guess what? It’s not all bad.

Stafford is earning points with the Detroit Lions for his toughness. He has been playing through a knee injury in Detroit that caused him to miss two games (plus the bye week). According to the Detroit Free Press, “Stafford still doesn’t put weight on his right knee when he gets up off the turf, but he makes a point of getting up quickly.”

He also avoided throwing any interceptions against Minnesota despite being constantly harassed and/or sacked.

I know. The natural reaction is: For a $78 million contract, that’s what he’s supposed to do. Fair enough. But we tend to find out about quarterbacks when they get body-slammed every week. So it counts for something.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he didn’t …

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Tech’s Dwyer would be No. 8 player in NFL draft, scout says (UPDATED)

Jonathan Dwyer has run to the head of the pack, according to NationalFootballPost.com

Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer has run to the head of the pack for running backs, says NationalFootballPost.com.

(I updated this blog with some comments from Wes Bunting below)

Georgia Tech’s latest surge has done more than just elevate the Yellow Jackets to the No. 7 team in the country. It has raised Jonathan Dwyer to the No. 8 draft-eligible player in the nation, at least according to one scouting website.

In his “Super 30″ rankings updated this week, Wes Bunting of NationalFootballPost.com lists Dwyer, a junior, as the best running back on the board and the No. 8 overall NFL prospect, ahead of Cal’s Jahvid Best (16th) and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller (22nd). Bunting called Dwyer “a violent runner who exhibits good vision between the tackles and has the initial burst to separate from defenders at the second level.”

Dwyer, who hasn’t yet said that he will enter the draft, has rushed for 610 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games, with a 7.27 per carry average.

Bunting also …

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Predictions: Dogs win, Birds lose, Vols — empty your pockets

week12

It was down the stretch of the regular season last year when the defense of the tumbling football program at Georgia allowed 38, 49, 38, 13 and 45 points, and almost every week the secondary looked like the after shot when a chicken truck collides with Fred, the crazy neighbor, who just had to show you some tricks on his new motorcycle, because, like, you know that old joke about the last words heard by a redneck: “Hey, watch this …”

(We don’t have a rednecks in the audience today, do we? No? Just two? OK …)

The 13 points the Dogs allowed in that stretch last season came to Auburn, and soon after

You know, the plans always sounds so good.

Ever notice how the plan always sounds so good?

Tommy Tuberville was shown the exit ramp. I thought about this last week when Georgia beat Auburn again, 31-24 — they should play them more often — and Mark Richt lauded the defense, notwithstanding its current No. 11 ranking in the SEC and No. 56 nationally against the pass and its No. 120 ranking nationally in takeways (eight), all of …

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Will success of Hawks, Thrashers alter our view of Spirit?

That's Steve Belkin on the (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

All for one? Notsomuch. That's Steve Belkin on the far right and the non-Belkins to the left. More often than not they haven't played as a team. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

We are now witnessing the Atlanta Spirit’s alternate universe.

The Hawks are winning, having started Thursday tied for the NBA’s best record. The Thrashers are winning, already having more victories than they had by mid-December last season. The attorneys are winning, having backed Steve Belkin into a corner with seemingly only two undesirable options: pay back millions for ownership’s past  financial losses just to stay in the group, or walk away with nothing.

“I’m sleeping a little better because I don’t have the Belkin lawsuit hanging over my head any more,” owner Michael Gearon said. “But honestly, I’ll sleep a lot better when more fans start showing up in the building.”

And therein lies the problem. All is good on wood and ice. But Gearon suspects the problems at the box office, …

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Worried about Matt Ryan? Johnston says you’re nuts

Count Daryl Johnston among those who don't doubt Matt Ryan's future.

Count Daryl Johnston among those who don't doubt Matt Ryan.

Jumping off the Matt Ryan bandwagon? Daryl Johnston has a message for you.

“If they’re selling, I’ll buy their seat,” said the Fox analyst and former Dallas Cowboys fullback. “His intangibles are off the chart. He’ll be fine. It’s very difficult to find a quarterback, and the Falcons have a very, very good one. He’s a young guy who’s going to get better. Did he set the bar high last year? Absolutely. But what he’s going through now is completely normal. Peyton Manning went 3-13. Troy Aikman was 0-10. I’m not saying Matt Ryan is either one of those guys, but it’s normal to struggle.”

Johnston worked the Fox broadcast last week when Ryan threw two interceptions that played into the Falcons’ 28-19 loss at Carolina. He also watched the Falcons’ wins over San Francisco and Washington, and will work this week’s game against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.

Ryan has thrown at least one interception in six straight …

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