Archive for January, 2013

I’ve moved — let me show you my new neighborhood…

Roddy White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are seeking a little redemption. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Roddy White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan hope to be doing this Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Roddy White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are so excited because the the AJC has a new digital platform!

OK, not really. But we have moved. You can still find my old blogs on this site. But for the new ones, please go to ajc.com/weblogs/jeff-schultz.

Hopefully we can get through this transition period with a minimal number of hiccups. Also, please note that readers commenting on blogs now need to register first. Just go to my latest blog (about the Falcons) for all of the info.

Thanks for reading, Jeff

Continue reading I’ve moved — let me show you my new neighborhood… »

Falcons’ secondary has been effective mix of crash, flash

Thomas DeCoud jumps on teammate William Moore after one of Moore's two interceptions against New Orleans recently. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Thomas DeCoud leaps onto William Moore after one of Moore's two interceptions against New Orleans recently. (Jason Getz/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – There’s a pair of mustard-colored Dickies’ coveralls hanging in the Falcons’ locker room, an ugly oversized jumpsuit that seems more appropriate for a guy who’s tearing down walls or nailing up Sheetrock than a professional athlete who shortly after practice will climb into his Mercedes.

Which I guess is kind of the point.

“DBs come to work,” safety William Moore said Thursday, reading the words he wrote in black marker on the suit after purchasing it in downtown Atlanta. “I used to wear those back at Missouri in the winter. I bought that one here, but it was too big. I was going to bring it back, but then I thought, no, I’ll bring it here. It means something. It’s who we are.”

There are a few discernible differences between this Falcons team and ones of recent seasons. The game plans are less predictable. Matt Ryan is …

Continue reading Falcons’ secondary has been effective mix of crash, flash »

Time to put Hall of Fame vote on shelf, overhaul system

Chipper Jones will be in Hall of Fame one day. But how does Fred McGriff get only 118 votes while Craig Biggio gets 388? (AJC photo)

Chipper Jones will be in Hall of Fame one day. But how does Fred McGriff get only 118 votes while Craig Biggio gets 388? (AJC photo)

Junk it. Fix it. At the very least, put all of this on a shelf for a while and let it breathe.

Maybe the whole system needs to be blown up. Maybe the voting populace needs to be redefined, or at least shrunk to a more workable size (enough to fit into small boardroom).

Maybe the powers of baseball and the Hall of Fame can issue some sort of declaration like, “This is what qualifies as cheating. That is what doesn’t.”

Or, “Frankly, we don’t care who did what.”

But right now the system stinks. It’s broken. When Craig Biggio gets more than three times as many votes as Fred McGriff, it’s totally broken. Something needs to change or everything needs to change. The only certainty is that whatever needs to be fixed won’t be done before 2014 ballots being mailed out.

So take a year off from elections. Maybe two years. Let it breathe — not …

Continue reading Time to put Hall of Fame vote on shelf, overhaul system »

Time’s up for Falcons: They need to win in postseason now

Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff understand they're being judged on playoffs now. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff know they're being judged on playoffs now. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – When Falcons coach Mike Smith was asked this week whether he could sense when a team was ready to take the next step, he gave a long, winding answer that never really arrived at “yes” or “no,” even if he spoke in well-crafted sentences.

It reminded me of middle school when I was faced with an essay question that I didn’t know the answer to, which led to something like, “The Taft-Hartley Act is considered one of the most important documents in history, written half by Taft and half by Hartley, both of whom were fine, distinguished gentlemen who liked to wear suits, and this had a big impact on the United States of America! You’re my favorite teacher! Oh, look at the birdies …”

This was Smith, on whether he knows when a team is ready to take the next step, or possibly the Taft-Hartley Act: “We feel very good about what we’ve accomplished thus far …

Continue reading Time’s up for Falcons: They need to win in postseason now »

Falcons vs. playoff field: unbeaten but seldom tested (with video)

John Abraham (55), Jonathan Babineaux (95) and Falcons are 2-0 vs. playoff field. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux and Falcons are 2-0 vs. playoff field. (Curtis Compton)

Much has been made about how difficult the Falcons’ schedule was this season and whether, at 13-3, they’re truly one of the elite teams in the NFL playoff field.

We really won’t know the answer to that until we see how they fare Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, and possibly beyond. But here’s one measuring stick, which you may or may not consider relevant. I went through all 12 teams in the playoff field and compared their results against other postseason teams.

The Falcons are the only team that went undefeated: 2-0.

They’ve also played the fewest playoff teams: two (Denver and Washington). Every other team faced between three (Washington) and seven (Minnesota and Houston) playoff teams during the regular season.

The most impressive team: Seattle at 4-1. The Seahawks have beaten Green Bay, New England, Minnesota and San Francisco, and their only loss came to a divisional opponent …

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Seattle tough but Falcons have some advantages (updated)

Are the Falcons ready for Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks? (AP photo)

Are the Falcons ready for Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks? (AP photo)

(Updated: 8:50 p.m. with opening odds.)

The Falcons last won a playoff game eight years ago (47-17 over St. Louis, Jan. 15, 2005). The have lost four straight since.

For that trend to change, they are going to have to beat a Seattle team that possesses: 1) a mobile quarterback (Russell Wilson); 2) a physical defense that held Washington to only 203 yards in offense (69 after the first two possessions); and 3) a powerful running game.

So you expected easy?

But after three playoff losses in the last four years, there are several positives for the Falcons going into their match-up against Seattle, which advanced after beating the Redskins 24-14 Sunday.

UPDATE: The Falcons have opened as only a two-point favorite over the Seahawks at LVH Superbook. Since home teams generally get three points, the line effectively means Seattle is considered one point “better” than Atlanta.

1.) Beat-up factor: The …

Continue reading Seattle tough but Falcons have some advantages (updated) »

After 10-2 start, Georgia Tech gets an ACC reality check

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory didn't see much that pleased him in the team's first ACC game of the season. (Phil Skinner/AJC)

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory didn't see much that pleased him in the team's first ACC game of the season. (Phil Skinner/AJC)

Given the most important of metrics – wins and losses – Georgia Tech started the season impressively: 10-2. It was a record so good after a season that was so bad (11-20) that the Yellow Jackets technically could have gone 1-18 the remainder of the season and still not taken a step back from the first one under Brian Gregory.

But what we witnessed Saturday might have provided more clarity about just where Tech sits in this rebuilding process.

In the Jackets’ first ACC game of the season, they were competitive early against Miami (17-17), withered at both ends of the court for the remainder of the first half (outscored 16-6), fell behind by as many as 23 points and eventually lost by a not-so-humiliating 13 (62-49).

“You just have to look at it and say that on Jan. 5, they’re a better team than we are,” Gregory said.

Odds suggest he will be …

Continue reading After 10-2 start, Georgia Tech gets an ACC reality check »

Georgia projects well for 2013, even with flaws in win

Mark Richt gets the Gatorade bath after Georgia's Capitol Bowl win over Nebraska. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Mark Richt gets the Gatorade bath after Georgia's Capitol Bowl win over Nebraska. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ORLANDO – The players wore hats reading “CHAMPIONS” in all cap letters. The fact that “Capital One Bowl” — and not SEC or BCS — also was stitched on the caps in a much smaller script might deflate that declaration a bit, but it doesn’t take away from where Georgia may be headed.

Were the Bulldogs great in their final game of the 2012 season? Hardly. The defense, purported to be loaded with NFL talent, too often played sloppy and undisciplined. The quarterback, Aaron Murray, threw two interceptions in the team’s first three possessions. It is what happens sometimes in bowl games. The Dogs didn’t save their best for last. Their best came in the next-to-last game against Alabama.

But ultimately, what came out of Georgia’s 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl were signs that this program isn’t likely to take a step back next season.

There will be new …

Continue reading Georgia projects well for 2013, even with flaws in win »

Short takes: Murray, defense rebound; freshmen shine

Tavarres King goes up for a 75-yard touchdown from Aaron Murray, one of five scores thrown by the Georgia quarterback. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Tavarres King goes up for a 75-yard touchdown from Aaron Murray, one of five TDs from the quarterback. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

I’ll be back with my column on Georgia’s win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl shortly. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the game.

1. Defense underperforms but rebounds: When the season began, we were led to believe that Georgia’s defense was stuffed with several potential NFL players. If that’s true, the Bulldogs underperformed in several games. They were missing two linemen Tuesday (nose guard John Jenkins was academically ineligible; end Abry Jones was out with an ankle injury). But even then, Todd Grantham’s defense too often looked undisciplined (leading to breakdowns and penalties) and was shredded for far too many big plays. However, like in some other games, Georgia’s D made some big plays when it mattered most: Alec Olgetree forced a fumble at the Dogs’ 37, and Damian Swann had two interceptions. Nebraska, after scoring 31 …

Continue reading Short takes: Murray, defense rebound; freshmen shine »

LIVE: Georgia tries to forget SEC ending, close with win

Aaron Murray gives a high five to tackle Xzavier Ward before taking on Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. (Brant Sanderlin)

Aaron Murray high-fives Xzavier Ward before the Capital One Bowl. (Brant Sanderlin)

ORLANDO — When asked the other day if he viewed this season as a missed opportunity to win SEC and BCS championships, Georgia coach Mark Richt said, “Every year is a missed opportunity, I think.” And that’s probably the right thing to say, even if it’s not every season the Bulldogs come within one tipped pass of winning the SEC title and going to the BCS championship game.

When Georgia faces Nebraska today in the Capital One Bowl, the question is whether we’ll witness any hangover from the last game. The Dogs (11-2, coming off a 32-28 loss to Alabama, No. 7 BCS) may be a more talented team than the Cornhuskers (10-3, coming off a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin, No. 16 BCS). But that doesn’t always mean anything in bowl games. Witness Georgia Tech vs. USC. Or witness Georgia’s last two bowl efforts — losses to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl two years ago and Michigan State in the Outback last …

Continue reading LIVE: Georgia tries to forget SEC ending, close with win »