Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

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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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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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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LIVE: Falcons have chance to clinch playoff bye (or more)

Stopping Carolina starts with stopping Cam Newton for the Falcons. (AP photo)

Stopping the Carolina Panthers starts with stopping Cam Newton for the Falcons. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE — Good morning. When I walked out of the deck parking lot toward the media entrance of the stadium (a healthy walk here at Bank of America Stadium), there was only a slight drizzle. But a few minutes later, the skies opened up, I got drenched and it totally ruined my coiffure.

(Go ahead, I’ll give you a few minutes to laugh. … Waiting. … Still waiting. … )

So yes, it is raining here in Charlotte. The forecast says there’s only a 10 percent chance of showers, but that 10 percent clearly resides on this block. So at the very least, the field will be slippery for the Falcons’ game against the Carolina Panthers today.

Some folks around the Falcons are worried about this game. The Panthers are only 3-9 but seven of those losses have come by six points or less (one in overtime). The Falcons were fortunate to rally and beat Carolina 30-28 on a last-minute field goal drive in Week …

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Even at 11-1, Falcons know they can’t afford to settle

Thomas DeCoud and the Falcons already have celebrated an NFC South Division title. So what's next? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Thomas DeCoud and the Falcons already have celebrated a division title. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

With one-quarter of the season left to be played, the Falcons already have clinched a playoff berth and a division title. By the end of Sunday, there’s a chance they will have locked up the NFC’s No. 1 seed and home field through the playoffs, leaving nothing tangible to play for in the final three weeks.

Unless, well, you count the Super Bowl as tangible.

“If you’ve watched the past few years, the teams that are playing the best and have some momentum going into the playoffs are the ones going the deepest,” Falcons center Todd McClure said. “Momentum is a big thing going into the playoffs. Nobody remembers you for September and October. You remember teams for what they do in December and January, so we want to be playing our best ball in the next month.”

The Falcons (11-1), who have their best 12-game record in franchise history, play at Carolina on Sunday. They shouldn’t be …

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OK, critics: Find something wrong with John Abraham

John Abraham is in double-digits in sacks for the seventh time in his career -- and at the age of 34. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

John Abraham is in double-digits in sacks for the seventh time in his career — and at the age of 34. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

At the age of 34, in his 13th NFL season, in the 171st game of his career, after the generally mandated assortment of groin, ankle, back, shoulder, head and who-knew-I-even-had-a-body-part-there ailments, John Abraham made a play. Actually, he made the play. Again.

The Falcons were leading New Orleans 20-13 in the fourth quarter last Thursday on national television. The Saints had the ball, driving toward a possible tying score. But on third down from the Atlanta 36, Abraham — looking as if he had just been drinking from the Fountain of Red Bull — flew around the left corner, leaving Saints tackle Zach Strief spinning like a weather vane, and buried quarterback Drew Brees for a sack.

End of touchdown threat. End of field-goal threat.

Soon, end of Saints.

“He’s no different for us than Ray Lewis (is for Baltimore),” teammate Jonathan …

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Falcons’ offense hits wall, but as usual it doesn’t matter (UPDATED)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 12:30 a.m.)

They keep it interesting, don’t they?

The Falcons came out against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night as if determined to bury their recent nemesis’ playoff hopes six feet under (which at least has the advantage of being out of egg-chucking range).

They led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game and 14-0 just 52 seconds into the second quarter. Most impressive of all was their offense, which is the side of the ball that ultimately will determine how far this team goes in the playoffs.

They discovered a new wrinkle: The running play. Michael Turner had a 35-yard run on the game’s second play, and before the first quarter ended he had already rushed for more yards (67) than he had in all but three of the previous 11 games.

Then the Falcons’ offense did something uncommon for any New Orleans …

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Falcons win (but run before somebody changes their mind)

Falcons' real stars came on defense, like this fumble return for a touchdown by Jonathan Babineaux. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons' real stars came on defense, like this fumble return for a touchdown by Jonathan Babineaux. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Sometime after the game’s first pass went off Roddy White’s hands and turned into an interception, and Michael Turner was stuffed for no gain and then dropped a pass on the Falcons’ second and third plays, and Matt Ryan (five interceptions) mutated into some unrecognizable being, it probably occurred to everybody: This wasn’t going to be one of those games when we would all fawn over the Falcons’ offense.

“We were kind of sleepwalking through the first quarter,” coach Mike Smith said.

Sleepwalking? Actually, that would’ve been improvement. Curly mixing up the cake flour with the dynamite powder is when things kind of went sideways.

Five interceptions. Six turnovers. A coach who forgot the challenge rule and as a result was penalized and potentially lost an overturn of a fumble.

They won anyway.

This is kind of like a Big Foot sighting. …

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