Archive for October, 2012

Weekend Predictions: No sacrifices, but Falcons, LSU win

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Welcome back to Weekend Predictions, where we may fool you into taking one of our Just Kidding Picks once a while — Georgia over South Carolina? Just kidding — but we would never pimp out our abused young pawns to the highest bidder for the sake of a case of footballs, new carpeting and a dozen legal pads. Because then, we would be no better than a financially desperate athletic director.

And speaking of Georgia State. What next? Maybe lease out 20 or 30 players to the Atlanta Police Department for Taser practice? That would clear $100,000.

In another attempt to provide a thoroughly enriching college football experience — go with it — Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick has brokered deals to throw her fledgling program’s abused slabs of meat into the center of the Roman Coliseum against Alabama and West Virginia next season and Oregon in 2015.

See, I don't make up my pop culture references.

Wait, I thought Cheryl Levick had blonde hair?

For these three sacrifices, GSU will make $2.15 million, less medical …

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Video blog: Are Falcons (5-0) really better than before?

The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. Is this team really different from ones of recent seasons? I discuss with CineSport’s Noah Coslov in this week’s video blog.

By Jeff Schultz

Previous CineSport videos are archived here

Got some time? Here’s a few things from digital jukebox

Radakovich says Johnson is ‘right person for job’

Al Groh’s problems at  Georgia Tech weren’t pure ‘fantasy’

Falcons are easy highlight in Atlanta’s dark sports weekend

Short takes: Gonzalez, Bryant and missing RG3 in Falcons’ win

Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team

Chipper Jones on loss in his finale: ‘Ultimately, I’m to blame’

Braves are hoping to change postseason script

Weekend Predictions: Dogs over Darth Rooster, Falcons over Skins

Spurrier should take lesson from Richt on handling criticism

Continue reading Video blog: Are Falcons (5-0) really better than before? »

Radakovich says Johnson is ‘right person for this job’

Paul Johnson's program has slid since a fast start but mostly because of defense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

After 2-4 start, Tech coach Paul Johnson fired his second defensive coordinator. (AJC/Curtis Compton)

In his first two seasons at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson went 20-7, including 12-4 in the ACC, and won a conference title (the whims of NCAA investigators notwithstanding).

In the 2½ years since, he is 16-16, including 10-10 in the ACC, and has lost nine of his past 13. He also just fired his second defensive coordinator, hoping to salvage a season that has some fans grumbling and wondering if those early results were some aberration.

Yet to be determined: Is this merely a step back before another eventual ACC title run (most optimistic) or ugly foreshadowing of a Bill Lewis collapse (most pessimistic).

Welcome to today’s sports world, which can be best summed up as: What a beautiful morning/Wait I felt A Raindrop/The Sky Is Falling! (Elapsed time: 12 minutes.)

For what it’s worth, the sky isn’t falling in Dan Radakovich’s office. The Georgia Tech athletic director …

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Al Groh’s problems at Georgia Tech weren’t pure ‘fantasy’

Al Groh's teaching methods and schemes failed from day one at Tech. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Al Groh's teaching methods, schemes failed from outset. (Johnny Crawford)

Al Groh was a mistake. He was Paul Johnson’s mistake. It took about 2½ years for the Georgia Tech head coach to realize that.

Groh, who had success as a defensive coordinator in the NFL but was a disaster at Georgia Tech from the outset, was fired Monday by Johnson, who has seen the Jackets regress since Groh’s hiring in 2010.

It’s not surprising Johnson would fire an assistant. He fired Groh’s predecessor, Dave Wommack, even after winning an ACC championship in 2009. He fired a coach (Groh) whose defense had given up 42, 49 and 47 points in the last three games, collapsed late in overtime defeats to Virginia Tech and Miami and allowed 510 yards in offense to Middle Tennessee State.

The stunning part is that Johnson did this now. I had been asked several times by readers over the past two weeks whether I believed Groh would make it through the season. My answer always was yes, simply because …

Continue reading Al Groh’s problems at Georgia Tech weren’t pure ‘fantasy’ »

Falcons are easy highlight in Atlanta’s dark sports weekend

Roddy White jumps on Julio Jones' shoulders after the rookie receiver's 18-yard touchdown catch gave Falcons a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. (AP photo)

Roddy White jumps on Julio Jones' shoulders after Jones' 18-yard touchdown catch gave the Falcons a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. (AP photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After another playoff cameo role by the Braves on Friday and the ugliness by whatever remains of Georgia and Georgia Tech on a college football Saturday, the Falcons didn’t need to accomplish much Sunday to achieve some degree of popularity.

Almost anything north of humiliation would’ve been an improvement.

They provided more than that. They won.

They weren’t great. The quarterback threw a pick-six in the second quarter. A fumbled snap ended their next possession. The offense made the NFL’s 29th ranked defense look almost impressive at times. The defense allowed Washington’s far lesser of two rookie quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins to throw a 77-yard touchdown pass (and he hadn’t taken a snap all season).

So they weren’t perfect. Or close. And yet: They’re still perfect.

They rallied with a …

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SHORT TAKES: Gonzalez, Bryant, no RG3 key Falcons’ win

Robert Griffin III left the game in the third quarter with a concussion after a hit by Sean Weatherspoon. (AP photo)

Robert Griffin III left the game in the third quarter with a concussion after a hit by Sean Weatherspoon. (AP photo)

(I’ll be back shortly with the game column. Until then, here are my three short takes on the Falcons’ 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins.)

1. Plan B always works: The Redskins’ defense effectively shut down the Falcons’ deep threat of Roddy White and Julio Jones for most of the game. But as we’ve seen this season, the offense always has a backup plan. In this case, it was tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had 13 catches (one short of his career high) for 123 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a 36-year-old who plans on retiring after this season. Maybe he can be talked out of it.

2. RG3 injury benefits defense: You’ll never hear anybody on the Falcons admit this but it obviously helped their cause when quarterback Robert Griffin III left the game with a mild concussion. Yes, rookie backup Kirk Cousins threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. But that …

Continue reading SHORT TAKES: Gonzalez, Bryant, no RG3 key Falcons’ win »

LIVE: Falcons try to provide some relief for Atlanta fans

The weather in the Washington D.C. area has been similar to mood of Falcons' fans: gloomy. (AP photo)

Weather in the Washington D.C. area has been similar to mood of Falcons' fans: gloomy. (AP photo)

LANDOVER, Md. — Good morning. It’s the Sunday of what is shaping up as one of the worst sports weekends in Atlanta sports history. (I don’t want to declare it as the worst. Too much competition.)

On Friday, the Braves lost their wild card playoff game to St. Louis 6-3. On Saturday, Georgia got bodyslammed by South Carolina 35-7 and Georgia Tech lost to Clemson 47-31.

Today, it’s the Falcons’ turn to . . . well, what exactly?

They face the Washington Redskins. On paper, this is a game they should win. The Falcons are 4-0 for only the third time in franchise history (1986, 2004, 2012) and have one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Redskins are 2-2, their only wins this season have come over New Orleans (0-4) and Tampa Bay (1-3) and they have one of the worst defenses in the the NFL (29th in total defense, 31st in pass defense, 27th in scoring defense).

But if the backdrop of the …

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Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team

Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Center fielder Michael Bourn may have played his last game for the Braves, who have some big decisions to make this offseason. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Once you get past the fact that the Braves waited until game No. 163 to resemble baseball’s all-thumbs team, and that a major league umpiring crew just made the NFL’s replacement referees look fit to be air traffic controllers, this is what the 2012 season really comes down to: The Braves’ margin for error this season was just too narrow.

They won 94 games. That’s impressive. They went 20-9 down the stretch after it looked again like they were circling the drain. That’s really impressive. But what really pushed this team into the postseason were two unexpected occurrences: 1) A 40-year-old (Chipper Jones) unexpectedly hit .300 for most of this season, had two walk-off homers against Philadelphia (the second when the club looked comatose on Sept. 2), and finished second in game-winning RBIs (12) and third in go-ahead RBIs (18) …

Continue reading Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team »

Chipper Jones on loss in his finale: ‘Ultimately I’m to blame’

Chipper Jones. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones never imagined an error in his final game would cost his team a playoff game. (AP photo)

Bunting hanging from the rafters. Red tomahawks. An actual sellout for a postseason game (but then, it’s new again).

Ted Turner. Jimmy Carter. Bobby Cox (except in the stands, not in cleats).

Also, there was Chipper Jones. He was a 23-year-old rookie in 1995 when the Braves won the World Series. He was a 40-year-old, 19-year veteran when he was making his way from his home to Turner Field Friday for a playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Perfect weather. Perfect backdrop. Perfect emotions.

“I told my dad, ‘This is why I know I’m ready to go. I’m not even nervous,” Jones said earlier Friday.

It wasn’t the perfect ending. No walk-off homer. No catching the final out. No fairly tale.

More like Stephen King.

Of all the endings Larry “Chipper” Jones envisioned for the final game of his career . . .

“This wasn’t one of them,” he said, completing a …

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Braves are hoping to change the postseason script

Chipper Jones is the only remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Chipper Jones is lone remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin)

As much as there will be grand proclamations Friday night — because that’s just the way things function in this 24/7, hyperventilating, turbo-Tweeting sports world — let’s start with a little perspective:

If the Braves defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card game — a best-of-one? — it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they’re absolutely destined to win 11 more postseason games and the World Series and will make people forget the ’27 Yankees, and if they lose to the Cardinals it won’t wouldn’t affirm that the Kenshin Kawakami signing has forever cursed the franchise (although that one might be worth studying for a while).

It’s just one game.

But isn’t it about time for a new script?

We’re all familiar with the mixed-emotions math of the Braves in the 1990s and 2000s: 14 divisions, 5 pennants, 1 World Series. Too small a number at the end for such a big number …

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