Archive for December, 2012

Falcons’ line on a roll, now gets rematch against Suh

Ndamukong Suh grabbed Matt Ryan's facemask (and did a few other things) when Falcons and Lions last played. (AP photo)

Ndamukong Suh grabbed Matt Ryan's facemask (and did some other things) in last Falcons-Lions game.

FLOWERY BRANCH – This won’t play well with any coach who believes his weekly game plans belong on life’s top shelf, along with quantum physics and atom-splitting. But football really isn’t that complicated. To quote Vince Lombardi, “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist, but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.”

Which is why, after the Falcons’ most impressive victory among their 12 this season, it seems appropriate to throw a few roses at their offensive line. The blockers on this team don’t get talked about a lot, except maybe when Matt Ryan gets drilled or Michael Turner gets stuffed for no gain on third-and-1.

They’re not unique in that regard. Nobody thinks about the pipes in their house until they leak.

“That’s most o-lines,” Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo said. “Who has a good o-line? Across the league, …

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‘Haters’ roundup: National view on Falcons has changed (video added)

Julio Jones (left), Roddy White and Falcons have a lot to celebrate these days. (AP photo)

Julio Jones (left), Roddy White and the rest of the Falcons have a lot of reasons to celebrate these days. (AP photo)

(Added CineSport video below on Falcons’ potential playoff match-ups.)

I hate the term “haters.” Fans tend to label somebody a hater any time somebody doesn’t agree with their own view of things, as if their own view of things is the absolute truth and the only opinion that matters. (Welcome to my world.)

But, yes: Many in the national media (and among the team’s own fan base) have had doubts about the Falcons, despite their record. And the doubters generally have been labeled “haters.”

So given Sunday’s resounding 34-0 victory over the New York Giants, it seemed like a good morning to take a spin around the Internet to see what all of those Nattering Nabobs of Negativism were saying and writing.

Guess what? Suddenly everybody loves the Falcons! (Shocking, I know.)

Highlights and linkage . . .

From former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who appeared on ESPN’s …

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Ryan asks for more, gives more at right time for Falcons

It wasn't a playoff game, but this was no ordinary victory for Matt Ryan and the Falcons. (AP photo)

It wasn't a playoff game, but this was no ordinary victory for Matt Ryan and the Falcons over New York. (AP photo)

On the day following the Falcons’ loss at Carolina, Matt Ryan stood up in a team meeting and issued a mandate to his teammates.

“He told everybody, ‘I want an extra 30 minutes from everybody this week,’” Roddy White recalled. “In the film room, on the field, everywhere. And he said, ‘If you give me an extra 30 minutes, I’ll give you an extra hour.’”

Now, it would be presumptuous to suggest that one moment from this team’s leader is going to propel the Falcons to the postseason success that has been missing from the team and the quarterback’s respective resumes. But Sunday’s game has to count for something.

The Falcons saved their best performance of the season for when it mattered most — in December, against the defending Super Bowl champion and a week after they went splat in Charlotte. They body-slammed the New York Giants 34-0, moving a little closer to …

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LIVE: Falcons seek home field and, yes, respect

The last time Matt Ryan saw Eli Manning, he was congratulating him for a playoff win. (Getty Images)

The last time Matt Ryan saw Eli Manning, he was congratulating him for a playoff win. (Getty Images)

Let’s start with this: I’m thoroughly convinced that even if the Falcons  go out today and beat the New York Giants by two touchdowns, there is still going to be a segment of the fan base — a large segment — that says, “Just wait until the playoffs.”

And that’s fine. Because as we’ve discussed ad nauseam this season, the Falcons will be judged by how they do in the postseason, not the regular season, which again is going well (11-2). But a strong performance against the Giants would at least ease some of the concerns moving forward.

The Falcons, coming off their worst game of the season at Carolina (30-20 loss), lost to New York 24-2 in the last year’s playoffs. The Giants had a record of only 7-7 with two games left in the season but won their last two over the Jets and Dallas to win the NFC East and then beat four teams with better records than them — the Falcons (10-6), …

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Falcons, Smith know now is when they’re getting judged

Mike Smith knows he'll be judged on how the Falcons finish the season and playoffs.

Mike Smith knows he'll be judged by how the Falcons finish the season and the playoffs. (AP photo)

Mike Smith tries not to curse a lot, certainly not in public. Even when recounting those few times this week when he dropped verbal grenades during film sessions, he edited himself for public consumption, either because he was afraid his mother might be hiding behind a tree (”Sometimes I say things that my mother wouldn’t want me to say”) or because he was concerned that I wouldn’t edit for him.

“Like, ‘I can’t believe we (pause) did that. Or, ‘That was a bad (pause) call.’ Or, ‘Why did I make that (pause) decision?’”

And yes, he really paused.

It’s generally wise for a coach to have a self-edit button. Expletives, fist-pounding and thrown objects play well with a segment of the fan base and can make you a star on YouTube. But the act gets old real quick, particularly with players. It’s more important that a coach knows he can command his players’ attention when needed. And …

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SEC’s decision to not suspend Dial sends wrong message

Aaron Murray crumbles after helmet-to-helmet hit by Quinton Dial, who wasn't penalized. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Aaron Murray crumbles after helmet-to-helmet hit by Alabama's Quinton Dial. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Alabama goes on to defeat Notre Dame in the BCS championship game, there’s a pretty good chance that Quinton Dial will play only a minor role. So the problem with what happened Friday is not that the SEC just gave Alabama some unfair advantage by avoiding suspending one of its players — the problem is that it is sending mixed messages about how much it really cares about head injuries in football.

Or are hits to the head only important when it’s convenient?

After reviewing three plays from the SEC championship game between Georgia and Alabama, most notably Dial’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray, the conference declined to issue any suspensions, releasing a statement that said, “After review, all subsequent action will be handled internally by the two institutions and the conference office is satisfied with their actions.”

To translate: The SEC will …

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Murphy: Steroid users don’t belong in Hall (but he does)

Dale Murphy's best chance to get into the Hall of Fame after this year will be via the Veteran's Committee.

Dale Murphy's best chance to get into the Hall of Fame after this year will be via the Veteran's Committee.

Dale Murphy gets a ballot in the mail every year. Well, not a real ballot, just a sample one, although somebody with a more devious mind than his probably would’ve orchestrated a ballot-box-stuffing or “dirty tricks” campaign by now. Where’s Charles Colson when you need him?

This is year No. 15 for Murphy on the Hall of Fame ballot. He will fall off after this season because 15 is the ceiling. The chance of leaping from 14.5 percent of the vote (which he received last season) to 75 percent (which is required for induction) is infinitesimal.

I don’t know if it’s sad irony or a cruel joke that Murphy’s final year of eligibility coincides with the first appearance on the ballot for three cover boys from baseball’s steroid era: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. But it would be nice to see a player who never consumed anything stronger than a “Dodger …

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Bobby Petrino finds a school willing to sell its soul

Here's a screengrab from WKUsports.com. They forgot a few things.

Here's a screengrab from Western Kentucky's website: WKUsports.com. I think they forgot a few things.

(UPDATED: 6:15 p.m.)

According to Western Kentucky’s mission statement — which I suddenly found reason to Google — the university “prepares students to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen leaders of a global society.”

So we’re left to wonder: Will Western Kentucky ask Bobby Petrino be teach a course in social responsibility, or will he be too busy being productively engaged with an athletic department underling?

Petrino is back in coaching. That was inevitable. On one hand, the man has so much personal and professional baggage that he needs a storage unit. But because he can coach college football, it figured to be a short time before one school’s administration declared, “To hell with morals and scruples! This is college football!”

Western Kentucky stepped up to the soul-selling window. This came after even three schools in the …

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Falcons give performance to leave us wondering again

DeAngelo Williams' 53-yard touchdown off a screen pass buried the Falcons late. (AP photo)

DeAngelo Williams' 53-yard touchdown off a screen pass buried the Falcons late. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE – It started with the Carolina Panthers winning the coin flip for the first time this season. It ended with the Falcons being trash-talked off the field by a last-place team. Somewhere in between, we witnessed Atlanta’s worst four quarters of football of the season.

And the Falcons’ deserved it all – the loss, the mocking, the questions about what this means moving forward.

“I can hear everybody right now,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “They’re getting off the bandwagon. I can hear them jumping off. Looking at our history, people are going to go, ‘See, I told you.’”

OK. It’s a little premature for I-told-you-sos. The Falcons haven’t lost a playoff game yet. But it has to be concerning when an 11-1 team falls behind 23-0 to a 3-9 team, and at one point finds itself being outgained 356-66. It’s concerning any time a defensive front is so thoroughly …

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Short takes: Newton and Panthers’ line dominate Falcons

Cam Newton blasts off for a 72-yard touchdown run, giving Panthers a 23-0 lead. (AP photo)

Cam Newton blasts off for a 72-yard touchdown run, giving Panthers a 23-0 lead. (AP photo)

I’ll be back shortly with my column off of the Falcons’ game against Carolina today. Until then here are my three short takes on the game.

1. Defensive front dominated: The Falcons saw Carolina score on its first five possessions of the game (taking a 23-0 lead) and were just fortunate that the Panthers converted only two of those drives into touchdowns. Cam Newton was efficient and the Panthers ran the ball effectively. But the biggest reason for the early success was that the Falcons’ defensive front got dominated by Carolina’s offensive line. It didn’t help that defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux left in the second quarter with what was announced as a ribs injury. But it wasn’t all about Babineaux. This game belonged to the Panthers’ line, as well as … (see No. 2).

2. Cam Newton shows his upside: For all the criticism from “anonymous players” and “unnamed sources” about his maturity …

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