Tampa — Michael Koenen used to punt for the Falcons. Now he works for Tampa Bay. Anwar Richardson of the Tampa Tribune asked Koenen to compare and contrast cities. In shocking revelations, Koenen declared that he prefers Florida oranges to Georgia peaches and that Atlanta has worse traffic.
Asked about Mike Smith, who coaches the Falcons, and Raheem Morris, who coaches the Buccaneers, Koenen said: “The atmosphere is way different … Up there, it’s a lot tighter. There is a little more nervous energy, but here it’s light-hearted and just fun energy.”
Wow. Who knew the coach who bears a passing resemblance to the comic/actor/author/musician Steve Martin wouldn’t be a wild and crazy guy?
Then again, Koenen can afford to crow — a bit. By way of a different comparison, he seems the greatest punter in 21st Century Falcons annals. Koenen left as a free agent and was lavished with a $19.5 million contract by the Bucs. Through two games, Koenen is seventh among NFL booters in yards per punt and third in net punting.
The Falcons, meanwhile, have deployed Matt Bosher, who enlivened last week’s festivities by punting out of bounds on his own 20.20-yard-line. (The Eagles would score to take a 10-point lead.) Bosher’s numbers: Next-to-last in yards per punt, 26th in net punting.
And now you’re asking: Do I, keen analyst, believe this game will be decided by punting, net or otherwise? No. I like the Falcons to win for a rather basic reason: They’re the better team. That said …
It has been raining for the past hour and the field is so wet nobody has ventured out to warm up. (Not even the punters.) This could be one of those slick-ball turnover-rich extravaganzas, which means: Don’t even bother trying to handicap it.
So I won’t. I’ll turn it over to you instead. I’ll be here all game, and I welcome your input. (Oh, and here’s an actual bit of pregame news: Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas is inactive; Mike Peterson starts in his place.) Join me, won’t you? See which punter walks off with bragging rights!
By Mark Bradley