Archive for September, 2012

A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Kris Medlen pitched yet another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings but left without a decision. (AP photo)

Kris Medlen pitched another gem for the Braves, allowing just one run in seven innings, but he left without a decision. (AP photo)

(UPDATED 11:20 p.m.)

The problem with trying to project the Braves’ future is the struggle to assess the present. What are they?

Five months and 145 games after breaking spring training, they lack definition. They’re like a compass with a broken arrow that refuses to point north more than consecutive days. Or innings. Are they the team that went 18-8 in July, or the one that has been only Milwaukee-like since — well, except for the fact they just got swept by Milwaukee.

If we dare to look ahead to the postseason – and yes, that foolishly assumes no quicksand – what can the Braves hang their hat on right now? Other than pitcher Kris Medlen, who hasn’t lost a start since he was, like, 12, and closer Craig Kimbrel and maybe Martin Prado, can we be certain of anything? The lineup is full of slumps. The rotation is a row of question marks.

That may not …

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Predictions: Falcons over No. 666, Tech wins, Pigs faceplant

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Welcome back for another week of almost-flawless investment advice. We’re off to a decent start here: 17-5 overall, 14-8 against the spread and 12-0 in the games I was really serious about. The “Sack Schultz 2012″ contest is not playing out as well. I went 8-7 last week, which puts me in 319th place, or right on track to win the trip to … Kabul.

If things don’t improve, I may have to reassess my marketing leverage and join the ACC (at least in softball and lacrosse).

And speaking of numbers:

OMG -- the Denver school people are right!

OMG — the Denver school people are right!

The Falcons face Beelzebub this week. No, not Bobby Petrino — Peyton Manning. Yes, Manning is pure evil. Or at least his jersey number is. The Greeley-Evans (Colo.) school district has barred kids from wearing Manning jerseys because he’s No. 18, and there’s concern that he has ties to the “18th Street” gang, or maybe because 666 (The Number of the Beast!) adds up to 18, or maybe because every single member of the Greeley-Evans School District is …

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Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Falcons coach Mike Smith can't let his team go into a funk over the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes. (AP photo)

Falcons coach Mike Smith knows his team can't go into a funk over the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes. (AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Lawrence Taylor spent his career terrorizing and sometimes mangling opposing quarterbacks. But even he, the assailant, couldn’t avoid the physical residue of his profession.

“When you get old, everything is hurting,” Taylor said. “When I get up in the morning, it sounds like I’m making popcorn.”

Football is a brutal sport. No player goes through a season without an injury. The only question is whether that ailment involves a broken bone or a shredded ligament, something that can’t be merely iced, duct-taped or sufficiently numbed for the following week’s game. When there’s only 16 of them, the words “can’t play” are avoided at all costs.

Brent Grimes suffered one of those injuries. A torn Achilles not only ends an athlete’s season, it can be career-threatening, particularly for a relative Munchkin cornerback who makes his living running and …

Continue reading Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season »

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense, early picks

Two important Falcons: Julio Jones (left) and Brent Grimes (who has been lost for season with a torn Achilles). (AP photo)

Two important Falcons: Julio Jones (left) and Brent Grimes (who has been lost for season with a torn Achilles). (AP photo)

Earlier today, I spoke with CineSports’ Noah Coslov about the Falcons’ big win in Kansas City and the pyrotechnics going on with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the team’s new aggressive offensive scheme. Then, of course, the news broke later in the day about cornerback Brent Grimes being lost for the season with a torn Achilles.

So, before we get to the video, a few words about Grimes. This has to be devastating for him personally, not just the Falcons. A torn Achilles is a difficult injury to come back from, particularly for a smallish cornerback who relies so much on his speed and leaping ability.

Grimes, remember, could not come to an agreement with the Falcons on a multi-year contract, so he ultimately took the only other option available: He signed the $10.431 million franchise tender. I know nobody is going to cry for an athlete making that much money, …

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Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

Julio Jones, here scoring his second toucdown, led Falcons' 40-point assault. (Kansas City Star)

Julio Jones, here scoring his second toucdown, led Falcons' 40-point assault. (Kansas City Star)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Season openers do not always indicate which way a season will go. But they are like taking off a mask. They can reveal beauty marks that wow admirers or moles that look like a third eye and scare small children.

If there was particular concern about the Falcons’ season opener, it was justified. This year’s first game would come on the road. Openers on the road haven’t mirrored the intersection of joy and bliss for this team. They had lost the last three. The offense hadn’t produced even one touchdown in 12 quarters and an overtime. Matt Ryan? Losses to Pittsburgh and Chicago produced seven sacks, two interceptions and a few rearranged major organs. And he was outscored by a defensive end (Kroy Biermann, interception return).

“I know I hadn’t won one of these on the road,” Ryan said. “It’s a hard thing to do.” True. It’s just not always that ugly.

But when the …

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Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia’s win over Missouri

This late-game interception by Jarvis Jones led to a Georgia touchdown. (AP photo)

This late-game interception by Jarvis Jones led to a Georgia touchdown. (AP photo)

(Hello. This is a belated blog: Three quick thoughts on Georgia’s win over Missouri. Now, they’re obviously not “quick thoughts” because I’ve been occupied with other things, but, well, never mind . . .)

If you missed it, here is my column off the game. Now, about what stood out Saturday night:

SHORT TAKES: Georgia vs. Missouri

1. Georgia’s defense has best-in-nation potential: If the Bulldogs ever actually get to the point of having everybody off suspension — what a concept — they have the potential to have the best defense in the nation. Think about it. We saw how outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (who had a sack and an interception that led to two touchdowns) can take over a game. What happens when they get back two of their best players, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo (who most likely would’ve prevented Missouri’s 69-yard touchdown pass play to L’Damian Washington)? …

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Short takes: 3 thoughts on Falcons’ win over Chiefs

Caption.

Caption.

(I’ll be back with the game column shortly, which will focus on the Falcons’ offense. Until then, here are three quick thoughts’ on the Falcons after their opening game against Kansas City. This is a new feature in the AJC.)

1. Julio Jones is Falcons’ No. 1 weapon: Every receiver can be stopped by some defense or cornerback at some point. But opponents are going to struggle to contain Jones this season, particularly in an offense that has so many options and with a coordinator (Dirk Koetter) who is far less predictable in play-calling than Mike Mularkey. Jones had three receptions and a touchdown before the seats at Arrowhead Stadium got warm. He had six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns by halftime.

2. Jacquizz Rodgers is no longer MIA: The running back, seldom used in his rookie season, had a 77-yard kickoff return and had eight “touches” on offense (34 combined rushing and receiving yards). Rodgers doesn’t yet show the ability to be an every-down back, but …

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LIVE: Falcons hope for a new look and better start

Dirk Koetter has changes planned for Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Dirk Koetter has changes planned for Matt Ryan and the offense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

KANSAS CITY — Good morning. After a solid 4½ hours sleep, I’m back.

Mr. Ledbetter (who was Mr. Sidebar at the Georgia-Missouri game) and I left Columbia at close to 1 a.m. CDT for the drive back to Kansas City and my head hit the pillow at 3:24 this morning. So I’m tired but not complaining. It was a great atmosphere at Mizzou and a fun game to cover (although, speaking for the entire media contingent, we would’ve preferred a day game).

Georgia started the SEC season right with a 40-21 win. Can the Falcons do the same in their regular season opener?

The backdrop for both games were similar in that both are/were slight road favorites but there are/were enough concerns to make fans nervous. The Falcons did not look great in the exhibition season (although it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from that). There also are these issues:

• The Falcons went into last season with high expectations but …

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Georgia starts slow, then writes winning script (UPDATED)

If Georgia's comeback to make a big enough statement, this message did. (AP photo)

If Dogs' comeback wasn't big enough statement, this was.

(UPDATED: 1:15 a.m.)

COLUMBIA, Mo. — By the time this night was over, Georgia had to be more than just somebody else’s memory.

Decades from now, there couldn’t be any warm-and-fuzzy storylines about how some newbie won its first SEC game, because the flip side to that would be that the Bulldogs had lost it. There couldn’t be the tale of how a long-standing program (Georgia)  had stumbled in its conference opener for the third straight season, this time falling to a program (Missouri) that some questioned was even worthy of this leap.

But by the time the evening ended, Georgia didn’t have to worry about that. The Dogs had several early hiccups Saturday. They turned the ball over. They committed penalties. They trailed as late as 20-17 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. Then they changed the script.

The Dogs scored the final 24 points of the game. They scored 38 in the final 30:30 of the game after …

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LIVE Dogs blog: Hail, hail the SEC! (no really, hail)

Two famous statues: Former coach Don Faurot (background) and D. Orlando Ledbetter (in white shirt).

Famous statues: Former coach Don Faurot (background) and D. Orlando Ledbetter (white shirt).

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Welcome to the northern most point of the SEC map. I can honestly say that I never thought I would get pelted by a hail storm the night before a conference opener. (More on that shortly.)

Georgia opens the real season tonight against conference newbie Missouri. I can hang with you for a little while on the blog but eventually will need to shift my focus to the game column. Please play nice. Remember, there are a lot of very fine insults you can hurl at each other that won’t get you banned. (And yes, I will go back and check.)

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Shakespeare's sign: "No J-School Parking." Aspiring journalists live at pizza place. Shocking.

Quickly, about the game: As you’ve probably heard, the Bulldogs will still be missing four  suspended defensive starters: safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Alec Ogletree, cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser. But they’ll likely will get …

Continue reading LIVE Dogs blog: Hail, hail the SEC! (no really, hail) »