Archive for the ‘Falcons/NFL’ Category

Live from the Dome: Big D against the overrated (?) Falcons

"Hey! You there! Are you the one calling us overrated?" (AP photo)

"Hey! You there! Are you the one calling us overrated? This next one's for you, pal. " (AP photo)

Rob Ryan, brother of Rex and son of Buddy, has predicted his Cowboys — Rob is the defensive coordinator — will beat the Falcons tonight. Falcons fans will probably take offense, no pun intended, but really, what’s he supposed to do? Say, “I’m guessing Atlanta wins by 10″?

For those easily riled, here’s another in the lengthening series of Atlanta-isn’t-as-good-as-its-record stories. (I know a bit about these, having written one myself.) In this one, Gary Horton of Sports Inc. declares on ESPN Insider (link requires registration) that the Falcons have issues running the ball and stopping the run — no news there — and wonders if this offensive line will hold up and if the defense can improve its red-zone efficiency. These are legitimate issues, no question, but still:

About here, I’m waiting for someone to predict that these Falcons are absolutely, positively going to tick off the …

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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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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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Heat Check: UGA isn’t exactly the hot choice in Jacksonville

Mark Richt poses with the only Gator coach against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Mark Richt with the only Gator against whom he has a winning record. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The weekly Heat Check commences with a team that frankly didn’t look so hot Saturday night. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

GEORGIA: Picked in preseason to repeat as SEC East champs, the Bulldogs are a 6 1/2 point underdog to Florida on what is technically a neutral field. This tells us that the Gators have had the more impressive season to date, but you knew that already. Forecast: This doesn’t mean Georgia can’t win. On the contrary, how many times have the Bulldogs gone to Jacksonville with the better-looking team and lost?

FALCONS: Didn’t lose for the seventh consecutive Sunday. (Ha! Little joke!) But now the schedule gets intriguing, if not necessarily untenable. The next four opponents: Philadelphia (3-3), Dallas (3-3), New Orleans (2-4) and Arizona (4-3). Forecast: Win three of those four and the Falcons are looking at the NFC’s No. 1 seed come the playoffs. Win ‘em all and …

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The Falcons are 6-0, but certain other numbers don’t add up

Mike Smith and VP of Communications Reggie Roberts leave to check the stats. (AP photo)

Mike Smith and Falcons VP of communications Reggie Roberts exit to check the stats. (AP photo)

There’s only one unbeaten NFL team, and it’s based in Flowery Branch. And we know, courtesy of Bill Parcells, that in the NFL you’re as good as your record says you are, which would suggest that the Falcons are flat-out great. But here’s where we run the numbers, and numbers, as we also know, can be pesky things.

The biggest number, duh, is 6-0. The Falcons have never been undefeated this deep into a season in their previous 46 years of doing business. But here’s another number: 11-21. That’s the combined record of the six teams the Falcons have beaten. Of those six, only San Diego is above .500. (And the 3-2 Chargers play Denver on Monday night.) This wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Falcons’ schedule always seemed tougher on the far side of the bye week. To look again, however, is to wonder.

We all thought Philadelphia and Dallas and New Orleans — the Falcons’ next three opponents — …

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Heat Check: Falcons are unbeaten; Georgia State’s on a roll!

Sean Weatherspoon leads cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon leads the cheers: "Our team is red hot!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Truth in advertising: This week’s Heat Check isn’t the most scintillating, given that the bulk of our local teams didn’t actually play. But we press on nonetheless.

FALCONS: They’re the only NFL unbeaten remaining, and here I offer the boldest prediction of my so-called career — they won’t lose next Sunday, either. Forecast: They’ve got a bye, and they could use one to refocus and recalibrate. When you’re 6-0, there’s obviously nothing grievously amiss. But the past three games weren’t nearly as emphatic as the first three.

GEORGIA STATE: The Panthers won a game! And won it big! Thank goodness for Rhode Island! Thank goodness Bill Curry won’t ride off into the sunset on an 0-11 nag of a season! Forecast: OK, back to reality. They play 5-2 Villanova in the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs got what they wanted even as they weren’t playing. South Carolina lost to …

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