Archive for the ‘Falcons/NFL’ Category

By crushing the champion, the Falcons show they’re Super

"Yeah, baby! Take that 24-2 and give my regards to Broadway!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"Yeah, baby! Why don't you take that 24-2 and give my regards to Broadway?" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

So now we know: In addition to being a darn good football team, the Atlanta Falcons are the world’s best sandbaggers.

In working 13 games of varying quality, they’d dropped the hint that this team was no better than before and was, ergo, bound for the same one-and-done postseason fate. Turns out the Falcons were just being sly. “Go hyperventilate over somebody else,” they were saying, “while we win enough games to put ourselves in position. And then you can tell us again how we can’t beat anybody any good when it matters.”

On Sunday this unassuming crew dropped a 500-pound sandbag on the collective noggin of the reigning Super Bowl champions. Forty-nine weeks ago, the Falcons were overpowered 24-2 in the Meadowlands. But these Falcons, as was made manifest Sunday, are not those Falcons. These Falcons not only beat the haughty Giants by 34 points but pulled off a deft bit …

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Heat Check: Division-winning Falcons are in cold storage

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is apparently peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check arrives, perhaps inappropriately, on a chilly morning.

FALCONS: The good news — well, to some ears — is that they’re getting a new stadium. The bad news is that they stunk out Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, losing by 10 points to the last-place Carolina Panthers. Atmospheric reading: The Falcons are in a really weird place, and by this we don’t mean Flowery Branch or the doomed Georgia Dome. They clinched the NFC South with a month to spare, which essentially thrusts them into another preseason. They know they’re going to the playoffs and they know they’ll need to play well once there, but the reality is that these final regular-season games mean next to nothing.

HAWKS: Had a chance to nose ahead of the Miami Heat in the NBA Southeast. Didn’t do it, losing by nine after a pretty stout first half. This came two days after an eye-opening road victory at Memphis. …

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Does Atlanta need a new stadium? No, but it’s getting one

Frank Poe and Rich McKay, laughing all the way to the construction site. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Frank Poe and Rich McKay, laughing all the way to the construction site. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

On Monday, the man charged with making the Atlanta Falcons’ pitch for a new stadium actually made a case for the current one. “We don’t need a building to play in next Sunday,” team president Rich McKay said. “The Georgia Dome is a good building. We love playing in it. (Falcons coach) Mike Smith has an incredible record in it.”

So why, if the Dome is dandy, was McKay sitting at a dais with Frank Poe, executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, briefing the assembled media an hour after the GWCCA board unanimously approved terms that will surely lead to the building of a new stadium?

Because in sports as in life, new and shiny trumps tried and true. The Dome opened in 1992, and it’s a nice place two decades on, but by 2017 it’ll be gone, having been rendered superfluous by its billion dollar baby brother.

Said McKay: “We need a new stadium …

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The powerful Falcons, Brees’ INTs and the Saints’ botch

The Falcons react as the first half runs out on the Saints. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Falcons' sideline reacts as the first half runs out on the Saints. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This post is an adjunct to the Falcons-Saints game column, which can be found here.

1. The Falcons set out to prove a point. After losing in the Superdome 17 days earlier, coach Mike Smith noted that his time wasn’t winning the line of scrimmage. The Falcons rushed for 46 yards that day. They rushed for 71 yards on Thursday night’s opening drive, which culminated in a Michael Turner touchdown. On the drive, they deployed guard Mike Johnson as a tight end for more oomph.  Said Smith: “The game of football is about the line of scrimmage. I thought we did a nice job of getting our running backs to second level, which is how you have 100 yards rushing in a half.”

2. This secondary keeps losing men but making plays. Cornerback Brent Grimes was lost after the opening game, and Asante Samuel left this game early after re-injuring the shoulder he seems to tweak every week. But subs …

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The 11-1 Falcons leave their nemesis with egg on its face

Christopher Owens plays a little pass defense. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Christopher Owens plays a little pass defense. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The plot for this one was, er, delicious. Would the Falcons lay another egg against their nemesis? Or would they put game away early – render it over easy, so to speak – and exit sunny side up?

The hated Saints arrived in town Wednesday to an airport egging of the team bus. This became national news, and it only added to the curious history of this strangest of rivalries. (Or non-rivalry, as the Falcon-turned-Saint Curtis Lofton averred this week.) From Big Ben Right to The Yolk’s On You — let’s see Cowboys-Redskins top THAT.

No matter the buildup, Falcons-Saints is always a frenzied affair. The way Thursday’s game began, you’d have sworn the Georgia Bulldogs had donned a different red-and-black uniform and showed up two days early. The Falcons ran so fast and hit so hard and gesticulated with such force that they appeared to be wide-eyed collegians, not jaded pros.

The trouble with working …

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Live from Falcons versus Saints: Welcome to the Egg Bowl!

The winner of tonight's game gets this handsome egg trophy. (AP photo)

Borrowing a Mississippi custom, the winner of tonight's game gets a handsome egg trophy. (AP photo)

By now, you’ve heard that some workers at Hartsfield-Jackson greeted the arrival of the New Orleans Saints by pelting a team bus with eggs. What the humorless Saints apparently failed to grasp was that the throwing of eggs is an Atlanta welcoming tradition. Like draping a lei around an arriving tourist is in Hawaii. Or like tossing beads is during Mardi Gras.

Wait a second. Scratch that last one.

As if this rivalry of Big Ben Right and Drew Brees rubbing it in needed more fuel, the egg toss surely supplied it. These teams, as you know, despise one another. The Falcons hate the Saints because the Saints keep beating them and laughing about it. The Saints hate the Falcons because the Falcons never seem to get the yolk … er, joke. (And also because of Roddy White. Don’t forget Roddy White.)

Cold numbers in a heated series: The Saints have won 11 of the past 13 games against the …

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Isn’t it high time the Falcons hushed the yapping Saints?

"How about I hit you in the face, lilttle brother? (AP photo)

Jimmy Graham to Thomas DeCoud: "Hold still while I smack you right in the face, non-rival." (AP photo)

Super Bowl XLVII will be in New Orleans, but nothing says the Atlanta Falcons have to beat the Saints to qualify. Still, it would be nice for the Falcons’ ego if, just once, they could exit a game against their nemesis without having to hear the crowing that emanates from the other side.

The Saints are reviled throughout the NFL, but nowhere are they as hated as within the red-brick building at 4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch. In December 2010 some Saints defenders posed on the Falcons’ logo after winning at the Georgia Dome. Last December the Saints allowed Drew Brees to keep throwing at the end of a rout to break Dan Marino’s yardage record.

The Falcons weren’t happy, and many among them wanted to draw the Saints in Round 1 of the playoffs. (They got the Giants instead. And lost 24-2.) Said linebacker Curtis Lofton: “I kind of hoped we’d go back to New …

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Heat Check: Destiny’s Dogs? No-bowl Jackets? Whoa, Nelly

Surrounded by the enemy: Tech's band in Athens. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surrounded by the enemy: The Georgia Tech band in Sanford Stadium. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Our Heat Check arrives just in time to warm what promises to be a chilly week. Face facts, folks: There’s not much happening in local sports.

Kidding.

GEORGIA: Will play for the BCS title — some guy I know predicted they would — with a victory over Alabama on Saturday. Barometric reading: Three weeks ago, people were saying the Bulldogs would have no chance against the mighty Tide. A lot of those same people seem to have changed their minds, and I’m not just talking about Georgia fans. I’m talking about neutrals who see the Dogs as no less talented as Bama. Just as Bacarri Rambo said.

GEORGIA TECH: Paul Johnson now believes his Jackets didn’t give much of an effort in Athens. (Who knew, huh?) But if Tech can rouse itself to topple Florida State — maybe the nation’s most overrated team — in Charlotte on Saturday, the Jackets will be headed for what Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports calls

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On the shifty Jacquizz Rodgers and the shifting Mike Smith

"Sometimes I go for it, Greg, and sometimes I don't." (AP photo)

"Sometimes I go for it, Greg, and sometimes I don't." (AP photo)

This post is an adjunct to the game column, which can be found here.

1. Jacquizz Rodgers injected some needed sizzle. Owing to his size (5-foot-6, 196 pounds), he’s often dismissed as a change-of-pace back, but his 49 yards on 10 rushes made him the star of a slightly upgraded ground game. Michael Turner had another in a series of indifferent games — 13 carries for 17 yards. On this day, however, the Falcons didn’t go as Turner goes (or doesn’t go). Rodgers gave them speed on the flanks and made the Buccaneers’ defense honor at least the concept of the run. He nearly outgained the heralded Tampa Bay tailback Doug Martin, who carried 21 times for his 50 yards. Could the Falcons have found their new feature back? It’s too early to make that leap, but this game was an indication that options exist beyond Turner.

2. Mike Smith got conservative at the end of the first half. The Falcons’ coach had his offense had his …

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The Falcons win the kind of game they’ll play in January

Jacquizz Rodgers shows that the Falcons can so run the football. (AP photo)

Jacquizz Rodgers, shown gaining actual rushing yards. (AP photo)

Tampa – The 8-0 start was nice, but we all know the Atlanta Falcons won’t be judged on what they did in September, or November. Heck, even Mike Smith, the buttoned-up coach, spoke these words in August: “When we get there (meaning the playoffs), we’ve got to play better football.”

We can’t know how these Falcons — or those Packers or Patriots or any team — will fare in the playoffs until 2013 arrives, but we have a bit better feel about the local franchise today. The Falcons just left here having won a game that wouldn’t have seemed out of place if you stuck it in January. They played a hot team. They fell behind three times. They won 24-23.

They won with a sprinkling of flash — the 80-yard pass to Julio Jones that overrode a Tampa Bay lead in 11 seconds — but mostly they won with force, and that was a heartening sign. This team had risen to 8-0 and then 9-1 without doing much in the way of running the ball or …

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