Archive for September, 2009

The Falcons say they don’t practice censorship – really!

I’ve gotten several complaints from readers who claimed their critical posts were deleted from the message boards at AtlantaFalcons.com and they were then blocked from reading the boards. Here, from an AJC.com poster who goes by the screen name of Falcons Censor Critics/Crybabies!, is this:

“You know, Mark and Atlanta, I criticized Coach [Mike] Smith and the coaching staff as well as the entire team for the abysmal performance against the Patriots on their message board. It seems the FALCONS BRASS and ARTHUR BLANK don’t like criticism. I was banned from their site and not even allowed to read their message board as a result….NO CURSING just telling the brutal truth. If you are not a cheerleader , even in a terrible loss, they whine about the criticism.
“HEY, COACH SMITH AND ARTHUR BLANK, GROW UP!! If you can’t take criticism you’re in the wrong business. Watch out, Mark Bradley, King Arthur can’t stand criticism.”

In the interest of  clarification, I called Reggie Roberts, …

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LSU changed defensive coordinators; UGA still has Martinez

When last they met, Georgia and LSU mustered 90 points and 950 yards between them. When the offseason arrived, LSU coach Les Miles decided his defense was substandard and dumped his co-cordinators for John Chavis, the top free agent on the market. Georgia’s Mark Richt elevated John Jancek to co-coordinator but left Willie Martinez essentially at the tiller.

The teams meet again Saturday in Athens, and neither defense has been great. LSU surrendered 23 points to Washington, which seemed pretty shoddy until the Huskies up and beat Southern Cal, and 26 to Mississippi State and needed a goal-line stand to escape. Georgia did OK against Oklahoma State and Arizona State but yielded 37 points to South Carolina and 41 to Arkansas.

LSU ranks 49th nationally in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense; Georgia ranks 67th and 95th. The key difference: The Tigers are tied for fifth in turnover margin, having intercepted seven passes and recovered three fumbles; Georgia is 115th, having …

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Was the non-catch to the Braves as Fifth Down was to Tech?

By now you’ve seen the photo: There’s second baseman Clint Barmes of the Colorado Rockies on the ground, and there’s the baseball, also on the ground. Meaning: The sprawling catch-and-double-play that ended Sunday’s Rockies-Cardinals game probably wasn’t a catch. The tying run should have scored and the Cards should have had the go-ahead run at third with one out, and had they lost that day the Rockies would lead the Braves by two games as opposed to three.

If you’re expecting me to author a screed against the umps for blowing it … well, you’ll be disappointed. It was a wild play, and even TV replays didn’t capture what photos, which came to light only a day later, seemed to catch. (Pun intended.) Umpires are human. They make mistakes. And besides, I still remember a key game in the Braves’ stretch drive of 1991 ending in the Astrodome on a called third strike by Alejandro Pena that hasn’t to this day clipped a sliver of home plate.

But because this is Colorado the Braves are …

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The Braves’ postseason rotation: Does Lowe get a start?

This is premature. But we geniuses were talking about it last night  in the press box, and I figured one or two of you might be having a similar conversation. So here goes: What’s the rotation if the Braves make the playoffs?

The obvious answer: Javier Vazquez in Game 1 because he has been the Braves’ best pitcher this season; Jair Jurrjens in Game 2 because he has been the second-best, and Tommy Hanson in Game 3 because he has been to this team what Steve Avery was to the 1991 aggregation. And then Bobby Cox would have to face the question all managers must tackle in postseason — a three-man rotation or a four-man?

And I’m thinking Cox will choose the latter. When he has had a big-time fourth starter in postseasons past, he hasn’t skipped him. Only when the Braves’ rotation was short a man did Cox deploy a starting pitcher on three days’ rest. And the Braves do have a high-salaried starting pitcher who has won clinching games in both the League Championship Series and the …

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The Braves are in a playoff race, but does anybody care?

See? There were some folks in the house Monday night? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

See? Some folks were in the house Monday. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The announced crowd at Turner Field on Monday was 25,046. I’d guessed the actual attendance as 15,000 and thought I was being kind. But no matter the number, the image was clear.

Another big baseball game in the A-T-L.

Another unpacked house.

And here I’m supposed to get all righteously indignant and say something like, “It just goes to show what a lousy sports town this is. If this game had been in Boston or Chicago or New York, you couldn’t have gotten a ticket.”

But you know what? I’m not going to say anything like that. Because I don’t really care about the folks in Boston and Chicago and New York. (And anyway, I just came from a Patriots game in Foxborough, where Gillette Stadium was officially sold out but empty seats were apparent.) Besides, this time I feel no call for indignation, righteous or otherwise.

As I tried to note last night, this is a weird sort of stretch drive. It crept up on all of …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Did Smitty coach scared in Foxborough?

Mike Smith: Was Sunday's loss a function of timidity? (AP photo)

Mike Smith: Did timidity hurt his team? (AP photo)

I read Ron Borges‘ Monday column in the Boston Herald on the plane back, and I was impressed: He had a good point and made it nicely. And his point was:

Mike Smith coached a dud game against the Patriots.

I’m not apt to paraphrase Mr. Borges half as well as he expressed himself, so I’ll just quote:

“Falcons coach Mike Smith, of all people, should have known what was coming yesterday. Even when Tom Brady isn’t sharp, if you go soft on him he will make it hard on you.

“Yet despite being armed with knowledge gained from harsh experience, Smith allowed Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to make the same decision yesterday that Smith made Jan. 12, 2008.

“Both paid the same price: They got beat.

“At the time, Smith was the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a divisional playoff game, he decided that his team could not pressure Brady under any circumstance and chose instead to drop seven and eight …

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Don’t look now, but a playoff drive has come out of nowhere

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The Braves handed out “Believe” signs to those who entered Turner Field on Monday, not that a lot of folks deigned to enter. (Attendance was generously — very generously — announced as 25,046.)  But we can’t blame anyone for being slow to catch on. Not this team. The Braves themselves weren’t sure they were in a playoff drive until … oh, about five minutes ago.

We’ve seen some Septembers in this city. We saw the worst-to-first’ers chase down the Dodgers in 1991, and we saw the Braves pass the Giants in the final six hours of the 1993 regular season to conclude what many claim was The Last Great Pennant Race. But we’ve never seen one quite like this, and neither has Bobby Cox, who has seen everything twice.

“We got in it a little bit late,” he said Monday night, and by “a little bit” he means “at the last possible instant.” But here Cox’s team is, two games back of Colorado in the wild card chase with six to …

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Live from the ballpark: Are we believing this playoff run?

Even now, an hourly check of the standings is required. Because the first five times you look, you don’t really believe what you find. Two and a half games back with a week to play? The Braves? The Atlanta Braves? The 2009 Atlanta Braves? Pull the other leg, pal.

The 2009 Atlanta Braves are in a playoff drive. We around here had grown accustomed to playoff drives, so the sensation shouldn’t feel new. But this one definitely feels funny. It’s the chase from nowhere. It’s the finish we didn’t see coming and still in many ways refuse to acknowledge. Here’s a team that was 23-21 on Memorial Day, 39-41 on the Fourth and 70-67 on Labor Day, and still it has a real chance.

On the morning of Sept. 10 the Braves were 8 1/2 games back of Colorado in the wild card standings. They also trailed San Francisco, Florida and Chicago. They have lost two games since. They’ve gone 14-2 since Bobby Cox pulled Tommy Hanson after eight shutout innings in Houston and Rafael Soriano lost the game in …

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5 things the Falcons must do before they play again

Matty Ice needs to fling a few long snowballs. (AP photo)

Matty Ice needs to fling some longer snowballs. (AP photo)

1. Move Jamaal Anderson to defensive tackle. Again, he has supplied next to nothing in the way of a pass rush. (Except for a roughing call against Tom Brady on Sunday, which was kind of funny when you think about it. Jamaal? Roughing somebody?) But he’s pretty good against the run; if he weren’t, he wouldn’t still have a job. The center of the Falcons’ line was pushed backward in Foxborough, suggesting Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis aren’t the answer in Peria Jerry’s absence. Could J.A. be?

2. Play Lawrence Sidbury at defensive end. This is a bye week, which means the Falcons’ coaches have time to tinker. Sidbury came hailed as the steal of the draft. Time to put him to work. The defensive line hasn’t had a sack in two games.

3. Find a role for Jerious Norwood. Michael Turner managed only 56 yards against New England and fumbled for the second time in two weeks. He’s still a big-time player, but Norwood can be big-time, …

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The Falcons suffer a thumping loss but learn a needed lesson

Kevin Faulk was one of four different running backs who hurt the Falcons. (AP photo)

Kevin Faulk was one of four Patriots' running backs who hurt the Falcons. (AP photo)

Foxborough, Mass. – A young team was exposed by the smartest and saltiest bunch in the NFL. If you looked hard, you could have seen it coming. Thomas Dimitroff, who built this young team, looked hard and did.

“We said this would be a benchmark for our organization,” said Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons’ general manager but once New England’s chief scout. “And the reality is that we still have a lot of work to do. And I knew — I knew — that [the Patriots get] agitated when it’s suggested they’re losing something. I knew they would play physically and come out with all guns blazing.”

To use the Dimitroff buzzword of 2009, the Pats played with urgency. They’d rushed for a total of 156 yards in the season’s first two games; they ran for 168 Sunday. They kept possession for nearly 40 minutes. “They ball-hogged the ball,” receiver Roddy White would say later, and in so doing the Pats hogtied the …

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