Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Falcons’

Heat Check: Hot ‘Dogs face a warm swarm of Yellow Jackets

This was the one time the Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This was the one time the Mark Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Given that this is Thanksgiving week, our Heat Check begins about where you’d expect.

GEORGIA: Will play for the SEC title. Could play for the BCS title. First, however, the Bulldogs must win the state title. This hasn’t been much of an issue for Mark Richt — he’s 10-1 against the North Avenue crew — but the one blip (in 2008, in case you’ve forgotten) was monumental. Barometric reading: Remember when we wondered if things would ever again get really good for this coach at this school? Richt’s team has a chance to finish all drills.

GEORGIA TECH: Will play for the ACC title, thanks to Miami’s decision to remove itself from postseason play. For a team that wasn’t sure it could wangle even a trip to Shreveport, that’s a nice bit of rallying. Barometric reading: Chances are, Tech will be an underdog — the opening line for this weekend favors Georgia by 14 points — in every …

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Heat Check: Was cutting Ray Edwards a message sent?

"So, Brian, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"So, former colleague Brian VanGorder, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Our weekly Heat Check appears a day late but, one hopes, not quite a dollar short.

FALCONS: Lost for the first time this season against the rival that has become an abject nemesis and, in losing, saw their biggest weaknesses – can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run — exposed. And what were the two things Mike Smith, after taking this job in January 2008, said a good team had to do? Run the ball and stop the run. Barometric reading: Barely 24 hours later, the Falcons cut defensive end Ray Edwards, who had little to do with Sunday’s loss but who did little after signing as a big-ticket free agent. Students of Falcons history will note that, after the first loss of the 1998 season, Dan Reeves cut cornerback Juran Bolden for messing up a coverage in San Francisco. Those Falcons would go 14-2 and make the Super Bowl.

(Please see my video chat with Brian Clark of CineSport, …

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Here’s why the Falcons’ Smith should have gone for two

To borrow from the great Lousianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

To borrow from the great Louisianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

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

1. Mike Smith erred in not going for two after the Falcons cut the lead to 28-23. Smith’s position was that, with 13:57 remaining, it was too early. “You don’t even start looking at the 2-point chart until there’s seven minutes to go,” he said. But a 2-point conversion would have drawn the Falcons within a field goal, and the successful 1-pointer pulled them only within four, which is essentially the same as being down five: You still need a touchdown (or two field goals) to take the lead. And a successful 2-pointer would have left the Falcons within tying range on their final three possessions.

2. You might never see a better duel of tight ends. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two …

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The unbeaten Falcons fall in a distressingly familiar way

Just a reminder: This is what it looks like when a running play succeeds. (AP photo)

Just a reminder: This is how it looks when a running play actually succeeds. (AP photo)

New Orleans — First, a spot of perspective. The Falcons are 8-1 and positioned to win their division. Just because they lost an excruciating game to the hated Saints doesn’t override all the good work that came before. That said …

The good work that came before didn’t include much in the way of short-yardage excellence. And when a team that couldn’t convert on fourth-and-1 on three infamous occasions last season loses its first game of another year due to the same failures, a flag gets hoisted. No, not a white one of surrender, but surely a bright red banner of warning.

“I don’t know what situation you’d rather be in,” said Michael Turner, the feature back who managed 15 yards on 13 rushes Sunday. “You’ve got one yard for the lead.”

“You’ve got to punch the ball in,” said Jacquizz Rodgers, the change-of-pace back whose 18-yard burst had pulled the Falcons within sight of that final …

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Live from New Orleans: The Falcons will lose – but not today

Just another example of how the Saints afford us Atlantans no respect. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Just another example of how the Saints afford us Atlantans no respect. (Photo by M. Bradley)

New Orleans – Father Peter P. Finney delivered the homily at the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Clement of Rome in Metairie, La., this morning, and here we note: Father Finney is the grandson of Peter Finney, the gentlemanly sports columnist of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Father Finney actually gave no homily at all. It’s a St. Clement tradition to do without one during its annual Oyster Festival, which is ongoing this weekend. (There was carnival paraphernalia all over the parking lot.)

Father Finney noted that today’s Oyster Festival session is set to commence at noon –  “when the Saints kick off,” he said. Then he noted: “The Saints’ game will be shown on television.”

Our rather roundabout point being: Even when the Saints stink, they’re still the talk of the town. (Metairie is a suburb off Lake Pontchartrain, of which my hotel affords me a half-scenic view.)

I’m on record — if you have …

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Could the Falcons really go 16-0? Nobody seems to think so

Thomas DeCoud estimates the Falcons' chances of going unbeaten at ... 0.5 percent? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Is Thomas DeCoud signaling that he feels his team has an 0.5 percent chance to finish 16-0? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Falcons are halfway to an undefeated regular season almost nobody thinks will happen. Football Outsiders puts the chances of the Falcons going 16-0 at either 0.9 percent or 1.1 percent, depending on which FO index you check. Football Perspective, a more charitable numbers-driven web site, puts the likelihood of perfection at 3.3 percent.

We’ve already seen a slew of articles suggesting the Falcons aren’t as good as their record — I know; I wrote one of them – and the intent today isn’t to revisit that discussion. (But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Football Outsiders, in its Efficiency Ratings, ranks the 8-0 Falcons only the league’s ninth-best team; Aaron Schatz notes that the Falcons’ Defensive-weighted Value Over Average number is the worst of any 8-0 team ever.) Our focus is on the eight remaining games.

USA Today informs us that the …

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Would the Falcons be getting nitpicked if they were 6-2?

Noah Coslov of CineSport posed an intriguing question today: Would the Falcons be better off — profile-wise if not record-wise — at 6-2 than 8-0? (I attempted to answer, and the semi-coherent result can be viewed above.)

At 6-2, the Falcons would be seen as one of the NFL’s half-dozen best teams and folks would be calling them one of a handful of Super Bowl contenders. At 8-0, the emphasis has fallen on their perceived weaknesses (as opposed to their considerable) strengths, and the national media has fallen all over itself to tell us that the NFL’s lone undefeated team isn’t a Super Bowl lock.

I’m not blameless. I critiqued the team after the narrow victory over Oakland andwasn’t effusive in my findings, and the next day I noted that the Falcons’ stats weren’t half as impressive as their record. But at some point — and I’d submit we’re getting pretty close to it — doesn’t the record become the only stat that matters?

This isn’t to suggest the Falcons are a Super Bowl …

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Heat Check: Falcons and Bulldogs and Hawks, oh my!!!

Michael Turner is pumped after scoring on Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, who can still play a bit, is pumped after scoring against Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check begins with the hottest team around. No, not Georgia State.

FALCONS: Made it to 8-0, disappointing Al Michaels and especially Cris Collinsworth in the process. Stacked 453 yards on Rob Ryan’s star-spangled Dallas defense. Next up is New Orleans in the Superdome, site of last December’s Drew Brees rub-it-in record-breaking. Barometer reading: Some in the national keep saying none of this matters if the Falcons don’t win a playoff game. When last I checked, there are no playoff games scheduled until January. Bradley’s Rule: Can’t win in January unless you qualify for the postseason, and being 8-0 makes qualification one less thing to sweat.

GEORGIA: That wobble at South Carolina aside, the Bulldogs are almost exactly where we figured they’d be. Picked to win the SEC East, they’re in position to do just that. Ranked No. 6 nationally in preseason, …

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A battle of defenses: Rob’s ‘Boys lose to Nolan’s No Names

Kroy Biermann introduces himself, not gently, to Tony Romo. (AP photo by Chuck Burton)

Kroy Biermann introduces himself, not gently, to Tony Romo. (AP photo by Chuck Burton)

Technically they didn’t play against one another — it would have been amusing if they had, and the score through three quarters couldn’t have been much lower — but Sunday’s game was a chance for the Falcons’ defense to measure itself alongside one of the best. The Dallas Cowboys arrived with a D ranked fourth in the 32-team NFL. The Falcons began the night rated 20th in total defense, although that status should have carried an asterisk. As in:

* “We may be No. 20, but we’ve lost fewer games than any of those units ahead of us.”

It must also be noted that Rob Ryan, son of Buddy and brother of Rex, coordinates the Dallas defense, and he inherited the familial gift of gab. He told Dallas reporters: “We’ve got to win this week, and we know it, and we’re going to.” That statement got much national mileage — anything a Ryan says is guaranteed to go coast-to-coast — and maybe it served to motivate …

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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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