Archive for October, 2012

The new Atlanta Hawks: They’ll run, and it should be fun

Lou Williams puts the ball in the air, as is his wont. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Lou Williams shoots, as is his wont. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Draftees of high risk/reward are described as “boom or bust” picks. The 2012-13 Atlanta Hawks will be a boom AND bust team. They’ll have nights when the pace is fast and the shots drop and they win by 30. They’ll have others when those shots get rerouted to Brick City USA and nobody guards anybody and they lose by that much.

In sum, this will be a scary team in both senses — scary to play because of its firepower, scary to coach because of its defensive liabilities. For those of us who have only to sit and watch, these Hawks should be tons of fun.

“Clearly our strength is our speed and shooting,” said Danny Ferry, the general manager who arrived in June and redid a stagnant roster in the course of a coffee break. “We have three shooters (Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins) who are as strong as any team’s.”

You could argue all day as to which of the three shooters is the sharpest, and this doesn’t …

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Heat Check: Dogs and Falcons are smokin’; Tech’s a-mopin’

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Who's sitting pretty now? Alexander Ogletree, for one. His team, for another. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Our weekly Heat Check was set back a day due to logistics (delayed-but-thankfully-not-canceled flight from Philadelphia on Sunday night), fatigue (mine) and breaking news (Dan Radakovich). But we’re up and running again. And we begin with:

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs won the game they had to win. (Some nut predicted as much, I do believe.) They’re exactly where I expected them to be, albeit not quite in the manner I expected. The question now becomes: Can they beat Alabama/LSU? Forecast: The same nut who liked Georgia to beat Florida sees no reason why the Bulldogs can’t give the West champ a run in the Dome come Dec. 1.

FALCONS: I put a 50 percent premium on road victories. (Even a lousy team, I figure, can luck out at home.) Sunday’s performance under ominous skies in a city that has never been kind to the Falcons was the most impressive regular-season road victory I’ve …

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AD Radakovich leaves, and a wobbly Tech takes another hit

Hat's all, folks. Dan Radakovich is a Tech man no longer. (AJC file photo)

Hat's all, folks. AD Dan Radakovich is a Georgia Tech man no longer. (AJC file photo)

In the grand scheme, this might turn out to be good for Georgia Tech. Who among us can know the future? But in the here and now of a football season gone unbelievably sour, seeing Tech’s athletic director hop in a car and motor 125 miles up I-85 to take the same job at a conference rival looks really, really bad. It looks as if Dan Radakovich is ducking out on a program in disarray.

For better or worse, most athletic programs go as football goes. The best move Radakovich made at Tech, or so it seemed, was to hire Paul Johnson to coach football. Now we’ve been given cause to wonder if Johnson’s success was but a two-year blip. Picked to finish second in the ACC Coastal Division, the Jackets dumped their defensive coordinator in mid-season and just lost to BYU – that’s three home losses this year, two against non-BCS conference schools – to fall to 3-5. And now the man who hired Johnson works …

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No quibbling: The Falcons bear the look of a special team

Here we see cornerback Asante Samuel, exultant in sweet victory. (AP photo)

Here we see the expressive cornerback Asante Samuel, exultant in sweet victory. (AP photo)

Philadelphia – For three games they’d won without dazzling. This time they dazzled. The Falcons came to a city where they hadn’t won since Reagan was in office and won laughing. They overwhelmed the Philadelphia Eagles, whom the former Falcon Michael Vick once held to possess dynastic capabilities, and in so doing they moved to 7-0. In sum, they had a lovely Sunday afternoon in a place that was expecting nasty weather.

“We went on that field to play a game and dominate on all sides of the ball,” said free safety Thomas DeCoud, and they came pretty darn close.

The final score was 30-17, and that flattered the flattened losers. The Falcons scored on their first six possessions against a defense that had just dumped one coordinator for another. The Falcons’ relatively new offensive coordinator drew up a diverse and dizzying scheme. (Moral of story: Sometimes coordinators matter, and …

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The Falcons’ offense, their receivers and that Philly crowd

Julio Jones flashes past Philadelphia safety to score. (AP photo)

Julio Jones flashes past Eagles safety Nate Allen to score on a 63-yard reception. (AP photo)

1. Dirk Koetter called a lovely and measured game. The Falcons’ offensive coordinator mixed runs of different sorts (Julio Jones on a reverse) with passes of all kinds (deep balls, slip screens, even a shovel pass to Jason Snelling) to a coldly efficient end (392 yards, 30 points). The Philadelphia defense, in its maiden voyage under just-promoted coordinator Todd Bowles, had no answer. The Falcons scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and kicked field goals on the next three. They didn’t punt until six minutes remained.

2. The Eagles’ famous secondary couldn’t cover the Falcons’ receivers. Julio Jones ran past the All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on his 69-yard touchdown reception — in vain, safety Nate Allen attempted to offer help — and fill-in slot receiver Drew Davis was left unencumbered on his touchdown catch. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the other cornerback, …

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Live from Philly: Waiting on Falcons, Eagles – and Sandy

The skies are ominous above Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Whoa, Nellie. The skies are ominous above Philadelphia and Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Philadelphia — Nobody in the press box is discussing the game. Which does, you’d have to admit, look like a pretty good one. But the weather has superseded all.

It’s not raining at the moment. It’s cloudy, though, and the wind is picking up. The real heavy stuff from Miss Sandy isn’t scheduled — this assumes hurricanes hew to a schedule — to arrive until late tonight. Tomorrow and Tuesday are supposed to be the really rough days, and by that I mean really rough.

The forecast calls for intermittent rain throughout the day, which I guess is good for the Eagles. They have LeSean McCoy to run the ball against a Falcons defense that has trouble against the run, and the Falcons’ own running game remains mostly a memory.

Then again, Michael Vick does have trouble holding the ball on dry fields, and we shudder to think what might happen on a wet track. But what do I know?

Anyway, …

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Once the face of the Falcons, Michael Vick is now just a foe

One the face of the Falcons, now a foe. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Another Vick fumble. He fumbles a lot. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – Not so long ago, it was the first question posed during a Falcons-Eagles week. This time it was the last. After Matt Ryan’s media session ended, someone mentioned that he’d almost gotten away without having to speak about Michael Vick. “It was close,” Ryan conceded, and he smiled.

And that’s how we know: The hot-button issue of Vick vis-a-vis the Falcons is no longer hot; heck, it’s not even a button. He has been gone since the summer of 2007, when he was indicted on federal charges involving dogfighting. He last played for the Falcons on Dec. 31, 2006. He has now been an ex-Falcon nearly as long as he was a Falcon. He has moved on, and so have they.

Only four Falcons — offensive linemen Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo, defensive end John Abraham and wide receiver Roddy White — ever played alongside Vick here. When you ask the current Falcons about their franchise quarterback, they don’t think …

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The unbeaten Falcons are about to learn how good they are

Win, win, win: All these Falcons do is win. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Win, win, win: All these boring old Atlanta Falcons ever do is win. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – The NFL schedule has been kind to the Falcons. They’re 6-0, and that flying start leaves the Falcons all but certain to make the playoffs. That this is a good team is beyond debate: Lousy teams don’t stay unbeaten deep into October. At issue now: Just how good is good?

Here’s where the scheduler performs another valuable service. The first six games were testing without being taxing, and the Falcons aced the exam. But now, having beaten no team that’s above .500, they’re in need of sterner tests. Bang on cue, here are their next four games: At Philadelphia, Dallas here, at New Orleans, Arizona here.

Technically, only one of those teams has a winning record. (And that’s Arizona, the one you’d least expect.) But the Falcons’ next three opponents are Brand Names, and two of those three games will staged on the road. After three narrow victories, it became possible to …

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Not many are picking Georgia over Florida. I am, though

This isn’t exactly a revelation, given that I made the prediction nearly five months ago, but here, for late tuners-in, it is: I like Georgia over Florida. Believe it or not, I’m not alone.

The many men of Scouts Inc.Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl – have declared on ESPN Insider (link requires registration) that the Bulldogs will beat the Gators 26-23. Their reasoning, conveniently enough, dovetails with what I’m now thinking. Back in May, I was thinking Georgia would simply be the better team. It hasn’t been to date, which doesn’t mean it can’t be Saturday.

From the Scouts Inc. preview:

Signs can’t always be trusted, especially in rivalry games. So don’t be surprised when Georgia turns in its most emotionally charged effort of the year. For 60 minutes, all the elite individual talent on Georgia’s defense will work together as a unit, and it will be enough to hand the Gators their first loss of the season.

I just watched Georgia barely beat one of the …

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The Cardinals refused to lose. So how come they just lost?

Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

It was only yesterday that many among us saw the St. Louis Cardinals as The Perfect Postseason Team. The Redbirds never got rattled, went the party line. (And there was, we concede, reason for such reasoning.) They knew how to manufacture runs. They’d be down to their last strike and still Find A Way To Win.

This just in: The Perfect Postseason Team lost.

Ahead 3-1 in the NLCS, the Cardinals were outscored 20-1 over the final 27 innings. Of the 35 runs the Giants scored in the series, 10 were unearned. The team that overcame staggering odds to beat Texas in the 2011 World Series and the Nationals in the NLDS had three chances to close out the unassuming Giants and didn’t come close in any of them. Yes, there was one massive fluke — the Game 7 double struck by Hunter Pence that actually was struck by Pence’s breaking bat three times! — but that only proves the greater point. Which is:

Even …

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