Archive for the ‘Falcons/NFL’ Category

The Falcons’ bye, the run defense and Abe’s honest effort

The un-blockable John Abraham slams Carson Palmer. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The "un-blockable" John Abraham slams into Carson Palmer. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Note: This post is an adjunct to the game column off the Falcons’ 23-20 victory over Oakland, which can be found here.

1. The Falcons’ bye week comes at a propitious moment. They’re 6-0 and riding high, and after three fourth-quarter escapes they’re getting the feeling they can win without playing their best. They need to disabuse themselves of that notion posthaste, and having a week away from football might serve as a reality check. If not, the guess is that Mike Smith will remind them that these past three games could easily have been lost when the team reconvenes next week in Flowery Branch.

2. The run defense is getting offensive, as it were. The Falcons ranked 28th among 32 NFL clubs in rushing defense entering Sunday’s game, and the Raiders, possessors of the league’s lowest-ranked running attack, ground out 149 yards. If that’s not a red flag, then Betsy Ross wasn’t a seamstress. …

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The Falcons stay undefeated, but there’s cause for concern

Matt Bryant boots the winner from 55 yards out. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Matt Bryant boots the winner from 55 yards out. This team never loses! (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s better to be 6-0 and picking nits than to be 0-6 and searching for bright spots. We’re agreed on that. But even the unbeaten Falcons conceded that Victory No. 6 was lovely only in its final score.

“We can’t make it hard on ourselves,” said defensive end John Abraham, whose irresistible presence kept this one close enough to win. “Take the stuff we did to ourselves out of the game and we win easy.”

Said Thomas DeCoud, the free safety: “We know the longer we stay undefeated, the better teams are going to be playing against us.”

For 3 4/5 quarters Sunday, the Falcons appeared to know no such thing. They’d been roundly outplayed by the 1-3 Raiders, and the only reason Oakland didn’t build an unassailable lead was that it couldn’t stop performing illegal acts. The visitors were flagged 12 times, many of the penalties holds on Abraham. The Raiders outgained the Falcons 474 yards …

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A chilly Heat Check: Bad losses, bad behavior, bad times

Visual verification that happy days aren't here again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We offer visual verification that happy days aren't here again. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We begin our weekly Heat Check by noting that the Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise annals and that the Hawks opened their exhibition season by beating the reigning NBA champs, and then we turn to more dire matters. Which is to say, everything else in local sports.

GEORGIA: Played its biggest game of the season and lost by 28 points, and that only after what even the head coach conceded was a “consolation” touchdown. Linebacker Christian Robinson took to Twitter to report that the house he shares with quarterback Aaron Murray had been “egged and rolled.” Chill Factor: There have been more depressing weekends in the long history of Georgia football, but not many.

BRAVES: Played its biggest game of the postseason and made three errors that generated four unearned runs, thereby ensuring that this would be their only game of the postseason. Also messed up a strange safety …

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Heat Check: Braves lose the NL East; Falcons haven’t lost

If you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

Well, if you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

The regular Monday Heat Check was delayed because of logistics. It arrives today, and we can only hope that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

BRAVES: They can’t catch Washington. They were eliminated from the divisional chase last night. That’s a disappointment, but — speaking of logistics — it might not be the worst thing in the world. The thought of having to play a division tiebreaker in D.C. on Thursday and then, if they were to lose, play the wild card elimination game here on Friday and then, if they were to win, start the best-of-five NLDS here on Sunday was rather daunting, not to to mention confusing. Forecast: The play-in game is a coin flip, but if the Braves prevail — and Kris Medlen hasn’t lost since May 23, 2010 — they’ll be a tough out. And I say that knowing full well they managed only two hits against Pittsburgh on Monday.

FALCONS: You can’t really …

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Update: Ray Hamilton’s response to Mike Smith’s apology

Falcons coach Mike Smith during Sunday's heated game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Falcons coach Mike Smith during Sunday's heated game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Falcons coach Mike Smith today expressed remorse for his actions on the sideline near the end of his team’s breathless victory over Carolina on Sunday and said he has apologized to defensive line coach Ray Hamilton.

“It was something that happened in the heat of battle,” Smith said, speaking by phone from team headquarters in Flowery Branch.

Of Hamilton, Smith said: “Ray and I have worked together for 10 years [including five when the two were assistants in Jacksonville]; he’s one of my closest friends in coaching … I apologized to him this morning. I said, ‘I’m very sorry about my action. I’m very sorry about what happened last night.’ ”

Said Hamilton, also via phone: “Mike mentioned it to me this morning. I didn’t even realize anything had happened. I didn’t give it a second thought until somebody called me and asked about it this morning.”

Of Smith’s apology, Hamilton said: “His apology is …

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3 points regarding the Falcons, who won on a 3-pointer

Michael Turner, again the Burner, on his touchdown jaunt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, again the Burner, on his touchdown jaunt. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

1. On a day when Carolina’s pressure made it hard to throw, Michael Turner had his biggest game of the season. Roundly castigated after two indifferent games and his subsequent DUI arrest, Turner rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries and caught three passes for 68 yards, 60 of them coming on a dinky screen pass that the Burner turned into something greater. On that burst, he didn’t look old or slow or chubby. He looked pretty much like the Michael Turner of old, which is welcome news for the Falcons.

2. Often great, Roddy White has rarely been greater. Falcons wide receivers caught 10 passes Sunday; White had eight of them, for 169 yards. Three of his receptions either scored points or led to them: The leaping-over-Haruki-Nakamura 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter; the 14-yard slant for a touchdown in the second quarter, and the 59-yard victimization of Nakamura on the first play of the …

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A great escape shows us how special these Falcons can be

Ball in the air, game on the line: Who grabs it? Guess. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Ball in the air, game on the line. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

For three games they’d run nice and easy, never once trailing, facing only one gotta-have-this drive. (That came against Denver, and they got it.) But the Falcons play in the NFL, where nothing stays nice and easy, and Sunday they happened on an opponent who wouldn’t yield and a predicament that would have taxed the faith of a saint.

So it was that Matthew Thomas Ryan, named after two saints, took a snap at his 1 and backtracked into the end zone with 59 seconds remaining and his team, without a timeout to its name, down a point. Already Ryan had been sacked seven times, and as a nod to Carolina’s pressure the Falcons did something odd. At a moment of near-desperation, a time when you’d expect every receiver on the roster to be zigging this way or that, they dispatched only two men to run routes.

Roddy White down the left side, Julio Jones on the right. Everybody else stayed to block, and even as he retreated …

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Live from Falcons-Panthers: Is Cam still Carolina’s man?

Cam Newton: Is he the Panthers' leader or a man apart? (AP photo)

Cam Newton: Is the gifted quarterback the Panthers' leader or a man apart? (AP photo)

The Cam Newton backlash has begun, as if on cue. The man who was going to elevate the woebegone Carolina Panthers, similar to the way he’d lifted the Auburn Tigers on high, has been the subject of much criticism for his play and, most especially, his demeanor.

Cam takes losses hard. When you’re the team leader, you can’t take losses so hard that you depress the rest of the team. (This tends to lead, as night follows day, to more losing.) The wide receiver Steve Smith upbraided Newton on the sideline during the fourth quarter of Carolina’s awful Thursday-night loss to the Giants, and in the 10 days since that has become the talk of the Queen City.

(Side note: Charlotte is known as the Queen City. So is Cincinnati.)

About the Falcons: They’ve looked as good as any team in the league. They should win today. But Cam is capable of extraordinary things. One of his best days came in this building in …

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After further review: Packers intercept pass, lose game

You've probably seen this image a time or two already. (AP photo/seattlepi.com by Joshua Trujillo)

I'm guessing you've seen this image already. (AP photo/seattlepi.com by Joshua Trujillo)

Gee, I don’t know. Looked like an OK call to me.

(Kidding! I’m a kidder!)

In all seriousness: Yes, the NFL looks awful, and yes, the NFL has it coming for putting its precious product — meaning, professional football — in a position to be compromised by a bunch of officials whose training in no way prepared them for this task. And yes, the NFL needs to end the lockout posthaste for the greater good of the NFL. But you knew that already.

What’s of greater interest (at least to me) is that the NFL’s famous “after-further-review” system, which was radical in its conception and implementation, failed at the moment it was needed most. Anyone who watched the Falcons-Broncos game of the previous Monday night grasped that the on-field officials were so cowed by the setting that they were scared to call anything, but replay — and there were a slew of replays that night — was there to set the record …

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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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