If I could just make one request before we get started: Let’s be civil. Please.
I don’t like deleting comments. I don’t like banning people from commenting. I certainly don’t like preventing readers from cheering or yelling or venting about their team, the opponent or something that just happened in the game. That’s what having a live blog is all about. But too often in blogs and columns — particularly those involving Michael Vick – emotions cause some readers to jump the rails and I’m forced to take action.
So let’s go over two simple and obvious rules:
• 1) No profanity. Not even profanity cleverly disguised with asterisks and missing letters or spelled out phonetically. (And, yes, I notice it; and, no, it’s not cute.)
• 2) No commenting that addresses — even remotely — anything about race. I’m forced to draw a clear line on this because I know from past experience that giving an inch allows many to take a mile. So it is zero tolerance. If you want to have a Michael Vick vs. Matt Ryan debate, you should be able to do so without pointing out that one is black and one is white and claiming that anybody who doesn’t agree with you must be racist.
If you can’t handle these two rules, then don’t comment. And don’t preach to me about the first amendment. The first amendment is kind of my area.
That’s it. I think. Now let’s have fun.
Tonight, the Falcons play Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on national television. That should be enough to get everybody excited.
The Falcons are coming off a dreadful performance in the season-opening loss at Chicago. Tonight’s game isn’t a must-win situation, but a loss would dig the Falcons quite a hole. They would be 0-2 with these six games left before the bye week: at Tampa Bay (difficult), at Seattle (bad team but long trip), Green Bay (defending champions), Carolina (better than expected) and at Detroit (possible playoff team). A win changes the outlook significantly.
The Eagles won impressively at St. Louis 31-13. Vick completed only 14 of 32 passes but he had two touchdown passes without an interception and rushed for 97 yards. Downside: He also had a fumble at the Rams’ 19, killing a scoring drive.) Ryan had some good but more bad in the Falcons’ loss, including two key turnovers that both led to Bears’ touchdowns. A few bullet points:
• Big for Ryan: I’ll repeat what I wrote earlier in the week. If the Falcons win, it will be the biggest victory of Ryan’s career. Yes, bigger than beating Baltimore and New Orleans and Green Bay. Vick’s shadow still looms large over the organization and Atlanta, especially with his return to prominence, and defeating Vick on the field would have no equal.
• Reeves comments: I was a little surprised, though not stunned, at Dan Reeves’ comments regarding the Falcons’ decision to release Vick. Reeves is one the classiest men I’ve ever known. a tremendous football coach and, in my view, he was wronged when he got fired by Falcons owner Arthur Blank — effectively because the Falcons fell apart after Vick broke his leg. So I know there’s some bitterness there. But I can’t agree with Reeves’ reported comments to the Philly Sports Daily: “When Mike really needed them they turned their back on him in my opinion. They could have been a big supporter and they let him go. I think it could have been handled differently. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the organization’s standpoint, but I thought they could have been more supportive and instead they severed ties with him.”
Vick’s lies, actions and all that came with that made his return to Atlanta impossible. Vick obviously still has thousands of fans here, but he alienated more fans than he retained. The Falcons could not take him back. If Reeves has an idea about how Blank could have better handled the situation, I would like to hear it.
• Falcons’ offense: It must show more aggressiveness and creativity against the Eagles than it did in Chicago. That doesn’t mean Ryan needs to chuck 10 bombs down the field. But he, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and coach Mike Smith must trust that Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas can beat their defender and make a play. There was too much standing still last week. Pass protection also needs to be better.
• Falcons defense: The Eagles have a slew of great weapons around Vick: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Ronnie Brown. Stopping them won’t be easy, especially with the Falcons clearly having issues in their secondary and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux missing his second straight game. But what they can do is get physical with Vick. That means hitting him whenever possible. He still has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and is prone to fumbling. Turnovers, as always, could be key this game.
OK, here we go. Looking forward to tonight. Let’s have some fun.
By Jeff Schultz