Archive for September, 2012

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, …

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Heat Check: The Braves close in; Tech and UGA run wild

Pennant fever! Ger yer pennant fever right here! (AP photo)

Pennant fever! Ger yer pennant fever right here! (AP photo)

Is it just me, or do the local teams never lose? Our Heat Check examines.

BRAVES: Swept the team they’re chasing, so the season’s final 2 1/2 weeks might actually see a real chase. They’re 5 1/2 games back with 15 to go — the Nationals have 16 remaining — and if you’re wondering if such a thing could happen: Sure it could. The pholdin’ Phillies of 1964 led the National League by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play. Heat Index: Even if the Braves don’t catch Washington, they’ve still all but assured themselves a wild-card spot. And, assuming they’re indeed a wild card and assuming they win the play-in, they could well play the Nats in the Division Series, which would be a best-of-five with the first two games at Turner Field. (With the new playoff format, teams from the same division can meet in Round 1.)

FALCONS: Technically they haven’t played yet — that comes tonight — but they had a very good Sunday. The Saints are 0-2. …

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With Peyton in town, Monday is a prove-it night for the Falcons

Are you a team looking for a big-name opponent? Well, here's your guy. (AP photo)

Are you an NFL team looking for a big-name opponent? Well, here's your guy. (AP photo)

Counting the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons are 24-11 since Jan. 3, 2010. That’s not bad. But the reason this winning team doesn’t yet occupy space on the NFL’s shelf of the elite is that, duh, it hasn’t won a playoff game since Jim Mora was a rookie coach, and also because it tends to spit the bit in prime time.

Of the Falcons’ six most recent night games, they’ve lost four. One exception was a victory over Jacksonville last December, and we affix an asterisk because it came on Thursday and was aired by the NFL Network, which not everybody gets. Of the five times in 2010/2011 the Falcons played on Saturday (NBC), Sunday (NBC again) or Monday (ESPN) nights, they’ve lost four.

They could have clinched the NFC South two nights after Christmas 2010, but they lost here to the Saints. Nineteen days later they were the marquee game of Saturday’s divisional playoff round, and they lost 48-21 to …

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It won’t be long until Notre Dame is playing ACC football, too

ACC commish John Swofford with Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. (AP photo)

ACC commish John Swofford with Father John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. (AP photo)

The big news Wednesday was that Notre Dame will join the ACC in every league sport except football. The news someday soon will be that Notre Dame has decided to remove the qualifier from its new affiliation. The guess here is that, come 2016, the biggest independent in the history of independents will be playing conference football in a conference that needs a football jolt.

Speaking on a teleconference, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday: “Our intention is to remain independent.” Then this: “If something would change, and it would have to be a drastic change, we’re committed to the ACC.”

In college football, drastic change occurs every hour on the hour. Three years ago, who’d have believed a playoff grid would be in place? Three years from now, the Irish will have grasped that continuing independence is overrated.  (Not incidentally, Notre Dame’s TV contract with …

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Notre Dame to the ACC, but not in football? It’s still a big deal

ACC commish John Swofford: He's earning his money, you'd have to say. (AP photo)

ACC commish John Swofford: The man is earning his money, you'd have to say. (AP photo)

Well, it’s official. The ACC is bigger than the SEC.

OK, only by a margin of one. But you’d have to admit: In college football, Notre Dame is a pretty big one.

OK, so there’s an asterisk, and a pretty big one to boot: Notre Dame is joining the ACC in every conference sport except football. But the Irish have committed to playing five football games every season against ACC opposition, and that can’t help but heighten the profile of a league that, at least in football, could stand some heightening.

And you’ve have to think that Notre Dame agreeing to play five games against the ACC only clears the path for the Irish to commit to playing a full conference slate someday soon. (There are press conferences scheduled for later in the day, so maybe we’ll know more then.) As they say in England, and perhaps in Ireland: In for a penny, in for a pound.

Back in a bit with more. And before you get all …

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Video: On the Falcons and the importance of winning Game 1

Continue reading Video: On the Falcons and the importance of winning Game 1 »

The new-look Falcons are becoming the team they need to be

One giant step for Julio Jones, six big points for the Atlanta Falcons. (AP photo)

That's one giant step for Julio Jones, six big points for the Atlanta Falcons. (AP photo)

Flowery Branch — For 35 months, the Falcons were an operation that ran smoothly and thought alike. Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith had been handed a broken team in January 2008 , and by January 2011 they’d presided over three winning seasons and seen their latest product claim the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Then the Falcons lost to Green Bay in the playoffs, and suddenly it was possible to wonder if this aggregation had, as constituted, gone as far as it could. That 13-3 regular season was nice, but losing 48-21 at home indicated that certain other teams — the Packers and Saints and Steelers and Patriots — had something the Falcons still lacked.

Three months later, Dimitroff moved up 21 spots to draft Julio Jones, and that ineffable “something” was  given a name: The Falcons’ general manager dared to risk five precious draft picks for one wide receiver in the hope of making his team more …

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Heat Check: Keeping up with the Joneses (Julio and Jarvis)

Julio Jones celebrates with his quarterback, who apparently has mad hops. (AP photo)

The burgeoning Julio Jones celebrates with quarterback Matt Ryan, who apparently has mad hops. (AP photo)

Atlanta, city of winners! And our weekly Heat Check reflects as much.

FALCONS: Went to Missouri, faced an energized home team, still scored 40 points and won by 16. Heat Index: A mighty impressive opening victory.

GEORGIA: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but … went to Missouri, faced an energized home team, scored 41 points and won by 21. Heat Index: A mighty impressive road-opening victory.

JULIO JONES: Best receiver on the Falcons roster? Yes. Best receiver in Falcons history? Maybe. Best receiver in the NFL? Maybe soon. Heat Index: That draft-day trade looks better and better, does it not?

JARVIS JONES: Best defender in the SEC? Yes. Best in the country? Probably. Best in Georgia history? With apologies to Bill Stanfill, Jake Scott, Ben Zambiasi, Terry Hoage, Champ Bailey and David Pollack … yes, maybe. Heat Index: Tell me his fourth quarter in Columbia didn’t …

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3 points regarding Georgia Tech, the first concerning Vad Lee

Vad Lee on his 79-yard non-scoring excursion. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Vad Lee on Saturday's 79-yard non-scoring excursion. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

1. Vad Lee might just be the top-end talent Georgia Tech otherwise lacks. Granted, it was one game against Presbyterian, but still: In the the third quarter alone, the redshirt freshman Lee authored the sixth-longest pass completion in Tech annals (82 yards to Jeff Greene) and the longest non-scoring run (79 yards) in school history. Lee isn’t apt to become the starting quarterback anytime soon — he’s still too raw — but he at least gives Paul Johnson a change-of-pace option.

2. For one night, the big plays were back. Tech’s longest gain from scrimmage at Virginia Tech was 22 yards. It had eight plays of 39 yards or longer Saturday night, four in the blowout third quarter. Again, this was against Presbyterian. But not since the record-setting Kansas game (66 points, 768 yards) of last September had the Jackets’ offense displayed such a separation gear (59 points, 712 yards). Johnson’s spread …

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Tech closes a long week by running through the Blue Hose

Tevin Washington on a 59-yard touchdown keeper. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Quarterback Tevin Washington on a 59-yard touchdown run. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

In football parlance, it was a short week. In reality, it was a week — six days, actually — of excruciating length. Georgia Tech returned from its overtime Labor Day loss in Blacksburg, Va., at 4 a.m. Tuesday, and then the Jackets had to wait until 7 p.m. Saturday for toe again to meet leather.

Saturday night’s foe was rather less imposing than Virginia Tech. In the Presbyterian Blue Hose’s’ most recent dances with ACC opposition, they’d lost 58-21 (to Clemson in 2010) and 53-13 (to Wake Forest, same year). There was no way in this or any other world that Georgia Tech was going to lose this game. At issue was whether it could shake off its post-Hokie blues and look like a team capable of making something from a season that started with a wrenching defeat.

Speaking of blues: The Jackets, whose official colors are old gold and white, wore blue jerseys with the white honeycomb helmets they’d …

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