Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

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 more accurate. …

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

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 this year. We have …

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 …

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

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) »

Falcons understand that wins, No. 1 seed only set stage

Calvin Johnson is a special player butthe Falcons may be a special team. (Detroit Free Press photo)

Calvin Johnson is a special player but the Falcons may be a special team. (Detroit Free Press photo)

DETROIT – The schedule says there is a game left. The coach, Mike Smith, says, “We’ve said all along that if there’s games left to be played, we’re going to play them to win.” (And in his head, he probably adds: “Even if we play them with Luke McCown.”)

But this is the reality: Nobody is thinking about Game 16 against Tampa Bay. It’s about what happens in three weeks and that’s where everybody’s thoughts are. There’s no pressure to win the regular season finale next Sunday, no requirement to play in the first round of the playoffs, no pressure to jazz up the resume.

“We’ve done everything we can,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said late Saturday night following his team’s 31-18 win over Detroit, which secured a bye and the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs. “Now we just have to go do it.” In the playoffs, he means.

Imagine being outfitted with the best ski equipment and taking four …

Continue reading Falcons understand that wins, No. 1 seed only set stage »

Short takes: Matt Ryan back to MVP level in last 2 games

Roddy White catches a 44-yard touchdown behind former Falcons cornerback Chris Houston. (AP photo)

Roddy White catches a 44-yard touchdown behind ex-Falcons cornerback Chris Houston. (AP photo)

DETROIT — You know by now that the Falcons beat  the Detroit Lions and clinched the No. 1 seed and home field through the NFC playoffs. Here’s a link to my column off the game, and I’ll have a new column later today with more comments from players. Until then, here are my three “Short takes” from the game:

1. Matt Ryan ascending to elite: The Falcons’ quarterback had a string of average-to-bad games beginning in November, including the five-interception day against Arizona. But for the last two weeks he has looked like the MVP candidate he was inthe season’s first-half. He was the Falcons’ best player in significant wins over the New York Giants and Detroit, combining for 48-of-60 passing (including 22 straight completions) for 549 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Tony Gonzalez said of Ryan: “The talent has always been there. It was just a matter of when, not if, he …

Continue reading Short takes: Matt Ryan back to MVP level in last 2 games »

Falcons respond as great teams should, beat Lions (updated)

Backup tight end Michael Palmer celebrates with Tony Gonzalez after his one-yard touchdown catch made it 21-3. (AP photo)

Michael Palmer celebrates with Tony Gonzalez after his one-yard touchdown catch made it 21-3. (AP)

(Updated: 1:15 a.m.)

DETROIT – With no guarantees for the future, the Falcons nonetheless did all they could Saturday night to comfort its fan base and fire a warning shot over the rest of the NFL’s playoff field. They are ready this time.

The bandwagon still seemed half-empty after 11 wins. The 34-0 bodyslam of the New York Giants last week caused a majority of skeptics to reconsider their position.

But after Saturday’s 31-18 win over the Detroit Lions, the doubters almost certainly represent an extreme minority, like those few purchasing the only sweater at full retail before Christmas.

This was a test for the Falcons. They passed. They didn’t “go cool,” as tight end Tony Gonzalez had put it days after the win over the Giants. They stepped on the gas. They jumped out to a 21-3 lead on three touchdown passes by Matt Ryan. They survived some hiccups in the third and rebounded …

Continue reading Falcons respond as great teams should, beat Lions (updated) »

LIVE: Falcons seek No. 1 seed; AJC endures minus D-Led

An artist's rendering of Darryl Ledbetter's injury.

An artist's rendering of Darryl Ledbetter's injury. (Zazzle.com)

DETROIT — Good evening. Welcome to Monday night football on Saturday night. Because while the NFL sees nothing wrong with multiple Thursday games that increase the chance of concussion hangovers (shortened game weeks) and is pushing for an 18-game season, at least it won’t make teams play on Christmas Eve.

Before we get to the Falcons-Detroit game, I’d like to give a shout out to the captain of the AJC’s Falcons’ coverage, Darryl “Lightning Led” Ledbetter. He’s a former high school cornerback who claims to have patterned his game after Jack Tatum, the only difference being that Tatum took out opponents and

Here's actual updated look at Ledbetter's left leg.

Here's actual updated look at Ledbetter's left leg.

Ledbetter took out himself.

Last Saturday morning, while carrying three loads of laundry, he tripped on a book that was left on the stairs at the state Ledbetter manor. Down went Lightning. His left leg buckled.

An X-ray revealed no damage so D-Led toughed …

Continue reading LIVE: Falcons seek No. 1 seed; AJC endures minus D-Led »

If last week’s Falcons were for real, we’re about to find out

If Julio Jones, Matt Ryan can Falcons can avoid letdown at Detroit, they'll really have something to celebrate. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Falcons can avoid letdown at Detroit, they'll really have something to celebrate. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Online readers: I’m taking the risk of posting this before 11:59.59 p.m. Friday on the assumption the world will still be here at 12:00.01 a.m. Saturday.)

DETROIT — Imagine if the world actually ended on Friday after everybody had finally started to buy into the Falcons?

Alas, life goes on. The Mayans are left to seek a refund from their director of world predictions, Danny Sheridan. The rest of us now watch and see how the Falcons react to acceptance.

That was no small victory last week when the Falcons doubled-over the New York Giants 34-0. If they couldn’t quite make up for last season’s 24-2 playoff loss at New York, they at least finally gave a glimpse of their ceiling. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, came up big in a big moment. Their offensive line neutralized one of the best front fours in the NFL. Their defense, even without safety …

Continue reading If last week’s Falcons were for real, we’re about to find out »