Live from Falcons-Broncos: Either way, it’ll be a long night

Here's one man who'd be in favor of a running clock. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's one coach who'd be in favor of a running clock. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The day after his Falcons opened the season by winning in Kansas City, Mike Smith noted that a game that ended 40-24 had nonetheless been a long “two hours and 52 minutes.” Intrigued, a listener picked up a copy of the stats booklet to cross-check the coach’s numbers.

Sure enough, there it was. “Time of game: 2:52.”

Further intrigued, the same listener asked Smith if he’s in the habit of committing the running times of games to memory. (In the NFL, this is a number you have to hunt to find. Indeed, if you scan the Falcons-Chiefs box score on ESPN.com, you won’t find it at all.) And Smith said he does. He also said it’s one of the first things he checks.

Now this was getting really intriguing. There are a hundred numbers in an NFL stats booklet more important that how long the game lasted. We can assume the head coach already knows the final score, but what about yardage, turnovers, penalties, time of possession, third-down conversions. Heck, what about net punting?

So why does Mike Smith, the best coach the Falcons have ever had, note the times of games? “I want to know how long I had to be standing there,” he said, smiling, and what he meant was: I want to know how long I had to endure this latest round of weekly torture.

Of all the coaching jobs in all the world, Mike Smith has one of the 32 hardest. Managing a baseball team is different because you play 162 games, as opposed to 16, and you’re expected to lose at least 50. Coaching basketball is different because everybody knows basketball is a player’s game. Even coaching college football is different because, if you’re a big-name program, you can schedule four or five victories a year.

The NFL, by way of contrast, is a grind every day of every week of every season. You spend 16-hour days preparing your team to do the right things, and then it’s game time and stuff starts going wrong. Even if you wind up winning by 16 points, you feel as if you’ve been run over by herd of wild horses.

“It’s like a stress test,” Smith said, and here we recall that, after a breathless victory in Charlotte last season, the best coach the Falcons have ever had spent several hours in a hospital undergoing an actual medical stress test.

Speaking of wild horses: For Smith and crew, Game 2 figured to be no lazy day at the dude ranch, either. Game 2 was a Monday night affair against the Denver Broncos and the famous Peyton Manning. All of this only heightened the anxiety: All day to fret, all those hours for ESPN to dole out its usual heaping helping of hype, all those folks sure to tune in. And at the end of that dark tunnel was Peyton M., the scariest man alive if you’ve ever been a defensive coordinator. (Mike Smith was, for five years, in Manning’s division.)

Which isn’t to say there was nothing to be gained by Smitty’s team Monday night. On the contrary, this game offered opportunity by the metric ton. Win and the Falcons would be leading the NFC South by a game over Carolina and Tampa Bay and, more to the point, by two over New Orleans. Win and they’d be 2-0 and off to the flying start everyone in Flowery Branch had in mind. Win and they’d have proved their bona fides on a national stage, which they haven’t done lately. Win and they’d have beaten Peyton Manning.

Win or lose, there was one bit of sobering reality for Smith going in. With both sides working from the no-huddle and figuring to throw the ball all over creation, there seemed no way this game would be done in a brisk two hours, 52 minutes. Usually we newspaper types on deadline are the one gnashing our teeth the hardest over protracted night games, but on this night we had company. Mike Smith’s latest stress test was sure to last a nice long while.

And with that, the figurative floor is again open for questions, comments and observations. I’ll be here until the last second ticks off the ol’ clock, which might be around midnight. But I’d appreciate your company, and I thank you, as ever, in advance.

By Mark Bradley

1,608 comments Add your comment

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:30 pm

Enter your comments hereShould be a good one Mark

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:31 pm

I hope the food isn’t horse meat in honor of the visitors.

Mark Bradley

September 17th, 2012
7:35 pm

It should.

I had supper at home. Not sure what the meal is.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

September 17th, 2012
7:35 pm

I think Denver will score first, but the Birds rally and win by 4!! Need to take away the passing game from Peyton

Big Crimson 75

September 17th, 2012
7:36 pm

Let’s go Falcons!!

kurula

September 17th, 2012
7:40 pm

what’s over/under on punts tonight?

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:41 pm

Peyton’s neck issues worry me. A bad hit could be catastrophic for him

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:43 pm

Mark, did you think tampa’s hitting Eli in the victory formation was a cheap shot?

Mark Bradley

September 17th, 2012
7:47 pm

Actually, I’m surprised more teams don’t try to knock the ball loose.

Lakewood

September 17th, 2012
7:51 pm

I am proud of Spoon & Clabo for sucking it up & playing….missing Spoon would absolutely kill our D

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:52 pm

The ESPN guys, save Ditka, are bashing Tampa

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
7:53 pm

Anyone else getting tired of this Peyton Manning Monday night love fest on TV?

MFranklin

September 17th, 2012
7:53 pm

ESPN: Broncos have more fans than Georgia has pecans?

Don’t the Falcs even get a reach-around?

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
7:54 pm

Enter your comments here

Hairy Douglas

September 17th, 2012
7:54 pm

MB – how does the stadium look, filling up early?

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
7:54 pm

Anyone catching the Peyton Manning love fest going on on TV.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:55 pm

If that kind of play becomes routine the qb will retreat further or try a trick play.

Lakewood

September 17th, 2012
7:55 pm

From the looks of it, ESPN is going to be furious if the Falcons win. They love them some Peyton Manning. Great chance for the birds to step up & gain some credibility. Jaquizz needs a big game. I can already predict Turner will have 9 carries for 12 yards.

MFranklin

September 17th, 2012
7:55 pm

kerryb – Yeah… the ESPN/Broncos lovefest is sticky, gooey sweet.

FootballTopFan

September 17th, 2012
7:56 pm

Football Top Fan and pro fans nationwide look forward to this spotlight match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan versus the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.

May the best team win !!!

FootballTopFan@Yahoo.com

Mark Bradley

September 17th, 2012
7:56 pm

The Dome never fills up early. Except for the SEC title tilt.

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
7:57 pm

I guess the Falcons are just the team that’s playing Peyton Manning tonight. I was surprised to see that most of them are picking the Falcons. Tom Jackson the former Bronco won’t.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:58 pm

@mfranklin. I’ve only seen 4 different Peyton commercials. Doesn’t look like Matty can even get a public service announcement gig.

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
7:59 pm

I hated that Peyton Manning came back. Now I’ve got to see his mug on every other commercial on TV.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
7:59 pm

Does the dome EVER fill out except for the SEC Championship?

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
8:00 pm

Trent Dilbert said that Thomas would have a better night than Julio Jones. Is he kidding? A former Tech guy?

MFranklin

September 17th, 2012
8:01 pm

Todd, make that 5 Peyton commercials and 1 ESPN romance photo.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:01 pm

It really is a Peyton love-in on tv

Big Crimson 75

September 17th, 2012
8:02 pm

Time to shine Matty Ice.

Big Crimson 75

September 17th, 2012
8:02 pm

Gruden likes Ryan.

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
8:04 pm

Well, at least Gruden loves him some Jaquezz Rogers.

MFranklin

September 17th, 2012
8:04 pm

I hated Gruden when he was Chuckie in TB but he makes a great game booth ape…

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:05 pm

ESPN should be aware of the Fairness Doctrine.

MFranklin

September 17th, 2012
8:06 pm

Holy mother of Vaseline… if the Broncos win, manning and the ESPN pervs will have an orgy on the 50 yard line

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:06 pm

Peyton sounds eerily like Ray Goff.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:08 pm

If Gruden would only shed that ridiculous toupee I could take him seriously

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
8:09 pm

Now that he’s a Bronco, Tom Jackson has a glowing man crush on Peyton Manning now.

Lakewood

September 17th, 2012
8:09 pm

Tom Jackson just praised Peyton Manning for wearing a suit…Tom, I am pretty sure Matt Ryan probably wears a suit to bed. Take it easy wild man..

Mark Bradley

September 17th, 2012
8:09 pm

Far be it from me to take up for ESPN, but … it’s not just ESPN. Every network does it. They have their production meetings and decide on their “storyline” and they hammer it to within an inch of its life.

Big Crimson 75

September 17th, 2012
8:09 pm

Ditka’s chewing gum, of course!!

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:10 pm

Call 911!! I’ve o’d on Peyton.

kerryb

September 17th, 2012
8:11 pm

If I hear Stuart Scott refer to Atlanta as the dirty dirty south one more time I’m going to drive to Atlanta and slap him myself. What a moron.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:12 pm

ESPN’s hype only lacks Vince McMahon’s hollering.

Ivan

September 17th, 2012
8:12 pm

Lets go Falcons!!

LOL @MFranklins 8:06

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:13 pm

Matty’s on tv now but the interviewer fell asleep.

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:13 pm

Enter your comments here

Todd Grantham

September 17th, 2012
8:15 pm

ESPN: any success Ryan has is due to Peyton’s example.

Big Crimson 75

September 17th, 2012
8:15 pm

Trent Dilfer was a terrible QB.
How is he making $$ off his expertise?!

Who is peyton manning again?

September 17th, 2012
8:15 pm

I was playing a drinking game where I took a swig of beer everytime I heard “peyton manning”. I’m through my case and on the way to the hospital.

HELP

September 17th, 2012
8:16 pm

my hotel just lost their ESPN feed. Any suggestions for on-line veiwing? Huge Falcons fan!!!