Archive for September, 2012

Heat Check: Hot Falcons, hot Dawgs – and then there’s Tech

"Don't worry, guys. I know exactly what I'm doing." And he does. (AP photo)

"Don't worry, guys. I know exactly what I'm doing." And he does. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check finds that a warm front has settled over the area. With certain exceptions.

FALCONS: There are three unbeaten NFL teams. This is one. I’d argue that this has been the most impressive one, but sometimes I get carried away. Heat Index: How many times does a team fly across country on a short week and win a game by 24 points on a day it was slotted as a three-point underdog?

MATT RYAN: Leads the NFL in passing efficiency. Just presided over victories in which the opposing quarterbacks were Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Heat Index: Yeah, it’s early. But he’s looking a bit like an MVP candidate, is he not?

GEORGIA: Beat Vanderbilt by 45 points and looked great doing it. And it’s not always easy to beat Vandy — ask South Carolina — or look good in the process. Heat Index: The comprehensive nature of Saturday’s victory recalled the Georgia teams of 2002-2004, when great talent was …

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The Brandt Snedeker story: One weekend reaps one windfall

"High five for the man who just broke the bank!" (AP photo by John Bazemore)

"How about a high five for the man who just broke the bank?" (AP photo by John Bazemore)

The Tour Championship isn’t considered one of golf’s majors — or even the figurative fifth Beatle, the Players Championship having laid claim to that designation — but this autumn event has risen above niche status. It’s golf for those who don’t much care for golf. It’s golf on (medicinally prescribed) steroids. It’s golf with huge names and big money and fabulous prizes.

Those who do care for golf might cringe at the description, but the Tour Championship is golf as done by NASCAR. Which is no accident, seeing as how the season-ending Chase was the figure-it-out-on-the-fly model for this whole FedEx Cup deal. (”Deal,” as we know,  being the catch-all term favored by those on the stock-car circuit.) Only the PGA might just have out-NASCAR’ed NASCAR.

On Sunday at East Lake, Brandt Snedeker won himself a tournament — something he’d done only three times on tour — and the $1.4 million purse …

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3 points about the Georgia Bulldogs, who only won by 45

Aaron Murray scans the field and probably likes what he sees. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

QB Aaron Murray scans the field and probably likes what he sees. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

1. Aaron Murray is having himself a year. He ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown 10 touchdown passes against two interceptions, and against Vanderbilt he completed his first 12 attempts. And that’s just the statistical side of it. Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: “Aaron just prepares like no one we’ve ever had. All our [quarterbacks, the list of which includes luminaries David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford] were pretty good at it, but he takes it to another level … You hope [a quarterback] can get you out of a bad situation [at the line of scrimmage] and into a good one, but he’s getting where he can turn a good situation into a great one.”

2. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Georgia offense has become something to behold. The Bulldogs are 13th nationally in total yards, ninth in points. Against Vandy they drove for seven touchdowns, not one of …

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Yeah, it was only Vandy. It was also utter domination by UGA

Note the number of Commodores on the ground. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Just for fun, note the number of Commodores on the ground. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – This was billed as the year of the New Vanderbilt. What happened here Saturday night indicated it might be the year of the Old Georgia.

Old as in the days of Sinkwich and Trippi, of Dooley and Erk, of the Davids Greene and Pollack. Heck, maybe even old as in the days of Herschel Walker, the Goal-Line Stalker.

I know, I know. The opposition was only Vanderbilt, the Harvard of the South and the straggler of the Southeastern Conference. But these Commodores arrived with a new attitude and a serrated edge, or so we were told. They’d come close to beating Georgia a year ago, and coach James Franklin had gotten big mileage from his postgame spat with Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Franklin’s message to the world: “We’re nobody’s punching bag anymore.”

New message: “Would somebody please ask that team in red to stop hitting us so hard?”

Of Vandy’s five most recent SEC …

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Live from Athens: Me, I’m thinking UGA wins easily and calmly

"You, sir, are no gentleman! I'm not even sure you're a real commodore!"

"You, sir, are no gentleman! And furthermore, I'm not even sure you're a real commodore!"

Athens – I can’t imagine Todd Grantham and James Franklin renewing interpersonal hostilities tonight. Such things don’t happen two years running. Did Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz get all huffy over another handshake when the 49ers and Lions met again last Sunday? Nope. Did John Chaney threaten to kill John Calipari more than once? Nope.

I expect this to be a well-mannered game on the part of the coaches, if not necessarily the players. (Young men will, as we know, be young men.) I also expect Georgia to win by at least two touchdowns. I can’t see a team, meaning Vanderbilt, that lost by 11 points at Northwestern two weeks ago coming here and keeping it close.

But I’ve been wrong a time or two, and tonight could be another of those occasions. Vandy could win. Franklin and Grantham could trade bon mots, or something approximating them, at 10 paces afterward. Whatever happens, I’ll be here …

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Fantasy baseball: Could the Braves really catch the Nationals?

Does this look like a team in the early stages of collapsing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Does this look like a team in the early stages of collapsing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Washington holds a five-game lead over the Braves with 14 to play. (The Braves have 12 games remaining.) That’s still a sizable margin. But it’s not nearly as big as it was a week ago, when the Nationals were 8 1/2 games in front. And if you’re wondering if such a lead has ever been squandered in so short a time, the answer is yes. The 1964 Phillies, long the gold standard of flops, led by 6 1/2 with 12 to go.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering, “How far ahead of St. Louis were the 2011 Braves with 14 games remaining?”, the answer is 4 1/2 games. We know how that turned out.)

In sum, it can happen. Working against the Braves is that they don’t play Washington again. Working for them is that the schedules are imbalanced. All of the Nationals’ remaining games will come against Los Angeles, Milwaukee, St. Louis or Philadelphia — all of whom have reason to believe they can still make the …

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Michael Turner hasn’t had a great week, but he’s still needed

Michael Turner's job is to break tackles, not get tackled. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Michael Turner's job is to break tackles, not get tackled. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Flowery Branch – A lot of folks are down on Michael Turner. He’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry, which means if you handed him the ball four times in a row he’d make a first down, but you’d need a measurement to prove it. He also managed to sully one of the sweeter moments this franchise has lately known by getting arrested for DUI on the way home.

Comments left on AJC.com blogs suggest that Turner should be benched, cut or traded within the next half-hour, but none of the above is up to happen anytime soon. Because the Falcons, like it or not, still need Michael Turner.

Their offense is changing, yes, but it isn’t changing so much that it will have no further use for yards rushing. On the contrary, the more you throw — and the Falcons under Dirk Koetter have and will throw more than they did under Mike Mularkey — the greater the opportunity is to run. We saw it happen Monday night: The …

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Video: On the Falcons, their big victory and the really bad refs

Continue reading Video: On the Falcons, their big victory and the really bad refs »

3 points about the Falcons, who put Peyton in his place

Robert McClain, who's not exactly world-famous, returns his interception. (AP photo)

Robert McClain, who's not exactly world-famous, returns his interception. (AP photo)

1. In victory, the Falcons were equal parts happy and relieved. They knew full well that they’d been starved for Signature Wins, and this qualified. They beat Peyton Manning, who’s among the best ever, and the Denver Broncos, who made the playoffs last season and beat the Steelers once there, on a Monday night. The Falcons led from the game’s third minute until the end, and they made the great Manning look addled early. In sum, it was a big night for this franchise.

2. The Falcons’ secondary might have played its finest game since the 1998 NFC title tilt in Minneapolis. Brent Grimes, who’s a starter, has been lost to an Achilles tear. Asante Samuel, who’s a starter, missed plays Monday night with a neck injury but returned. Christopher Owens, the new nickel back, suffered a head injury and didn’t return. Working with guys such as Robert McClain, who had been cut by both Carolina and …

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The Falcons spoil ESPN’s Peyton party and win a big one

The Falcons' Vance Walker slams into the famous Denver quarterback. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Vance Walker slams into the famous Denver quarterback. (AP photo by David Goldman)

ESPN tried to throw a Peyton party Monday night. Some guys wearing red almost turned it into a pity party. The Worldwide Leader sought to show the world the greatness that is Peyton Manning; the Falcons almost made you feel sorry for the old guy.

Almost, I said.

We can only hope that some who tuned in to watch Peyton stuck around to appreciate the team in red. It ain’t bad, folks. It’s better than it was last season, maybe better than in the 13-3 run of 2010. In Week 1 the Falcons let Kansas City hang around before pulling away on the road. On Monday night they never let Denver get started. It was 10-0 barely five minutes in, 20-0 late in the second quarter, 27-7 midway through the third.

Of Peyton’s first eight passes, four were caught by Broncos; three were snagged by Falcons. In order, the interceptors were William Moore, Thomas DeCoud and Robert McClain. There were those who thought Manning …

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