Archive for September, 2012

Medlen becomes an unlikely key to Braves’ postseason

Kris Medlen is 9-0 with a 0.97 in 12 starts this season and owns the major league record for the Braves winning 23 straight when he starts. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen is 9-0 with a 0.97 in 12 starts this season and he owns major league record for Braves winning 23 straight in his starts.

The Braves are going back to the playoffs, and as anybody could have predicted back in spring training their two most important players when the postseason opens will be Chipper Jones and . . . Kris Medlen.

OK. Maybe not so predictable.

It’s sort of like if the guys at NASA had a running bet and one predicted that the first two astronauts to walk on the moon would be Neil Armstrong and the kid who brought him coffee every day.

“This has been the ride of my life,” Medlen said Sunday. “I mean, you go through some adversity and you come back with the kind of success that I’ve had, it’s awesome. It’s crazy.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez put it another way: “It’s Nintendo-like stuff.”

Medlen did it again Sunday. He started and he won. He started and the Braves won. Like, “Good morning: Oh look, there’s the sun.”

The Braves’ middle …

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Georgia has uncomfortable mix of highlights, slapstick

The Bulldogs celebrated their fifth win but know they have to play much better. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The Bulldogs celebrated their win but know they have to play much better. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS — Georgia arrived at 5-0 at the most unexpected place: Smack at the intersection of the Sun Belt Conference and a Marx Brothers movie.

This is where it’s important to point out that it’s only September, and style points don’t yet matter, and it’s not like Georgia did not do some pretty spectacular things Saturday (two freshmen running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, combining for 294 yards and five touchdowns), and this is the SEC, and a win is a win, and (add whatever cliché that comforts you).

But there was a point in Saturday’s game against Tennessee when you found yourself thinking, “OK, who’s going to pull out the seltzer bottle?”

When two teams combine for 95 points, 13 touchdowns, 46 first downs, 1,038 yards, three fumbles, four interceptions, two botched extra points, one blocked extra point, one blocked punt and one dropped kickoff return out of bounds at the …

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SHORT TAKES: Georgia shows its talent and its ugly side

Todd Gurley takes off for 51-yard TD run, one of his three scores in first half. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Todd Gurley takes off for 51-yard TD run, one of his three first-half scores. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(I’ll be back with the column off today’s Georgia game soon. Until then, here are my three “Short Takes” on today’s game against Tennessee.)

1. Hold off on “great defense” declarations: Yes, Georgia has that potential. But on a day when the Bulldogs got two of their better players, safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, back from suspensions, the defense had its worst game of the season. Granted, turnovers led to three Tennessee touchdowns (20 points). But the Dogs gave up far too many big plays, and few would’ve predicted the Volunteers would have 477 yards in offense.

2. Hey Herschel, look at the freshmen! We’ve addressed before that replacing Isaiah Crowell might be a concern. If that concern hadn’t been completely obliterated after the first four games, it certainly was against Tennessee. With former Georgia great Herschel Walker in attendance, Todd Gurley …

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LIVE BLOG: Georgia tries to avoid ‘trap’ against Tennessee

Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo goes through warmups before the Tennessee game. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo goes through warmups at Sanford Stadium. (Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – So is this affirmation week or trap week?

Georgia plays Tennessee today. Honestly, I was a little surprised when the Glantz-Culver line (adopted by the AJC and Weekend Predictions, Inc. as the official point spread ) opened with the Bulldogs as a 15-point favorite and it immediately dropped to 13½ (though it has inched back up to 14).

The Dogs are ranked No. 5, and look like legitimate

Alec Olgetree, along with Bacarri Rambo, returns from a four-game suspension. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Alec Olgetree, along with Bacarri Rambo, returns from a four-game suspension. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

title contenders. Other than some first-half hiccups in the SEC opener at Missouri, they have looked strong defensively and leveled Vanderbilt 48-3 last week. Tennessee isn’t as bad as some people think – Derek Dooley inherited a mess and really isn’t doing a bad job – but for the Volunteers’ defense to give up 555 yards at home in a 37-20 loss to Florida speaks to where the program is.

The “trap” …

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After celebration, Chipper Jones admits he was ‘emotional wreck’

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chipper Jones acknowledges fans as he walks to plate for his first-inning at-bat. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 11 p.m.)

The celebration Friday night wasn’t merely for a player and his career. It was for a player who in his final season had managed to will his team to one more postseason.

Imagine if the backdrop was similar to a year ago. Imagine if the Braves found themselves handing out gifts to a retiring legend before a game Friday night, mugging for cameras with forced smiles, knowing that when the ceremonies ended they would have to return to the reality of the standings, their fingers digging into the side of a cliff.

Imagine if Chipper Jones hadn’t ignited a city and a team on Sept. 2. He hit that walk-off, three-run homer against Philadelphia. It punctuating a five-run ninth inning that gave the Braves a miracle 8-7 win over the Phillies. It was like plugging a team into a light socket. The Braves had lost 10 of 14. They were on the verge of being swept at home by …

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Chipper Jones: Treasure on field, wealth of material off of it

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

When Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will lose a legend and we'll lose the rarely scene honest and open athlete. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(This is just one of several articles that will run in Sunday’s AJC special section on Chipper Jones. The section will be a collectors’ item so be sure to pick one up.)

Economics preclude me from following Chipper Jones into retirement. But there’s a side of me that wonders, “Now what?”

This column isn’t about Chipper Jones’ greatness as a baseball player (obvious). Or that he will end his Hall of Fame career with the same franchise that drafted him (reducing Todd Van Poppel to an amusing trivia question). Or that what we are witnessing in his final season seems pure fantasy: A 40-year-old athlete with creaky limbs manufacturing enough highlights to push his team into the playoffs.

Rather, this is about what really has set Chipper Jones apart: genuine, unfiltered, cold-slap honesty.

In the media, we tend to be drawn to the talkers. It’s …

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Predictions: No bagels, but Dogs win, Jackets don’t collapse

board

Having just completed my annual day of Jewish repentance — 24 hours usually isn’t enough, so I tend to just focus on the top seven or eight sins — I was surprised to see a headline on the London Daily Mail website about, “Bagel Heads” taking over Japan. And I’m thinking, OK, I break my fast with bagels every year. I can see the Japanese liking bagels. Everybody likes bagels.

(The real bagels, not the press board at Kroger. There are two things that never should be considered acceptable: replacement bagels and replacement NFL officials. I swear, if Roger Goodell ever got on stage and said, “I think these replacement bagels are getting the job done,” he’d have 7,000 rabbis jump him and make him scream, “Onion! Sesame! Poppy!” within seven seconds.)

Where was I? Right, “Bagel Heads.”

Oy. Really? (via natgeotv.com)

Oy. Really? (via natgeotv.com)

So it turns out this actually is a “fashion trend” in Japan. I wish I was making this up: Misguided youth are having saline injected into their forehead, after which …

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Video: Are Falcons NFL’s best (after 3 weeks)? We debate

The Falcons are 3-0. That includes two road victories (Kansas City and San Diego) and a home victory in ESPN’s coming out part for Peyton Manning. They have been impressive. But are they the best team in the NFL? I discuss this topic in living color with CineSport’s Noah Coslov.

And, action …

By Jeff Schultz

Here’s a link to previous CineSport videos

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Falcons are looking special, and it starts with Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan says he feels more confident than ever, and it shows in his performance. (AP photo)

Matt Ryan threw three more touchdown passes Sunday and seems to have taken his play to a new level this season. (AP photo)

SAN DIEGO – The common refrain in football is that the quarterback gets too much credit when everything is going right for a team and too much blame it’s circling the drain. So let’s start with this: The Falcons aren’t 3-0 just because Matt Ryan seems to have morphed into Roger Staubach.

A defense that lost its best cover cornerback (Brent Grimes) in Week 1 forced four more turnovers and made the San Diego Chargers look anemic Sunday (three points). Ryan has a receiving corps that enables him to alter his targets (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez) the way others laugh and change aim in a boardwalk shooting gallery (ducks, birds, wildebeest-looking safeties). There also is an obvious resilience about a team that bodyslams Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on a Monday night, then travels to the West Coast in a short week and humiliates a pretty …

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Short takes: Resiliency, Ryan and turnovers carry Falcons

Thomas DeCoud had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. (AP photo)

Thomas DeCoud, here tackling Ryan Mathews, had two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

(I’ll be posting the column soon on today’s Falcons’ win over San Diego, which will focus on quarterback Matt Ryan. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the game.)

• 1. This was an impressive win on many levels, but no moreso than in the resiliency they showed. They were playing on the road in a short week after a physically punishing win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night, yet they flew to the West Coast and dominated San Diego from the opening drive. It’s only three games into the season but this might have been the strongest sign yet of how good the Falcons can be.

• 2. The Falcons will need to be able to run the ball effectively at some point. But it hasn’t been an issue yet, primarily because of quarterback Matt Ryan. Michael Turner was not a factor when the team built a 20-0 halftime lead — he had only eight carries for 15 yards for a 1.9-yard average through two …

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