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Archive for October, 2008

Baker to have surgery on his back

October 29th, 2008 1 comment

In an update on the status of Falcons offensive Sam Baker, head coach Mike Smith said in his press conference following today’s practice that Baker will undergo a minor procedure on his lower back. Smith gave no indication of how long Baker will be out, but the team has already indicated that he will not play this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

Initially, Baker’s injury was said to be to his hip. But the surgical procedure, called a discectomy, will be performed on his lower back.

Smith indicated that Todd Weiner is slated to replace Baker in the starting lineup at left tackle. But it is unknown if even Weiner will be able to go this weekend due to a knee injury he suffered vs. the Eagles. If Weiner too is unable to play, then Quinn Ojinnaka or newly signed Wayne Gandy could start.

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Falcons bring back Gandy

October 29th, 2008 Comments off

Pro Football Talk cites NFL Network’s Adam Schefter as reporting that the Falcons have signed Wayne Gandy. Per the report, the Falcons worked out Gandy and Todd Steussie yesterday. Gandy is expected to shore up depth with Sam Baker being out.

Gandy was cut by the Falcons this past February after serving as the team’s starting left tackle since 2006. However he missed significant time in 2007 due to a torn ACL.

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Baker shut down with hip injury

October 29th, 2008 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the Falcons have decided to keep rookie left tackle Sam Baker out of this weekend’s upcoming game against the Oakland Raiders, as he’ll be sent to see two specialists about his hip. Baker did not start this past week against the Eagles due to the hip injury. Todd Weiner started in his place, but also left the game after reaggravating a previous knee injury. He was replaced by Quinn Ojinnaka.

Baker has already missed time this season due to a concussion and other injuries. If either he or Weiner are unable to go, Ojinnaka is expected to start. Per the AJC, the Falcons might pursue other options in free agency to shore up the left tackle position.

In other injury news, defensive end Jamaal Anderson’s status for this weekend is unknown. He left Sunday’s game against the Eagles with a concussion and will be reevaluated this week.

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Jackson busted for banned substance

October 26th, 2008 Comments off

Per a report by Jay Glazer during FOX’s pregame show on Sunday, Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson tested positive for a diuretic in a recent batch of the league’s testing for steroids and illegal substances. As such, Jackson will be subject for a four-game suspension.

The story was initially broken by Josina Anderson of Denver’s FOX 31 in that several NFL players tested positive for a diuretic called Bumetanide. Bumetanide is on the league’s list of banned substances due to the possibility that it can be used as a masking agent for other illegal substances. It is also used for weight loss. Jackson is listed at 345 pounds.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen followed up the report indicating that eight NFL players have pending cases in relation to this recent rash of positive tests. It is assumed that Jackson is among the eight. Including Jackson, seven players have been identified so far: running back Deuce McAllister, defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant all with the New Orleans Saints, defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings, and Houston Texans long snapper Bryan Pittman.

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Westbrook leads Eagles over Falcons

October 26th, 2008 Comments off

AP The Falcons lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a heart breaker by a score of 27-14 in a highly contested game on the road, coming off their bye week. The Falcons had a chance late to come back down 20-14. But due to a controversial call on a punt return by Adam Jennings, the Eagles were given the ball back and with a 39-yard run by Brian Westbrook, the Eagles put the game out of reach with less than 2 minutes to go.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons with 277 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, while completing 23 of 44 passes. One of Ryan’s turnovers came at an inopportune time as the Falcons had been driving all the way to the Eagles’ 2-yard line, but a pass attempt to Roddy White in the endzone was picked off by Lito Sheppard. Michael Turner was the team’s leading rusher with 58 yards on 17 carries. White proved to be the team’s primary offensive weapon on the day and had 8 catches for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jerious Norwood added 5 grabs for 55 yards.

Defensively Westbrook gave the Falcons a handful, rushing for 167 yards and 2 scores and also having 42 receiving yards and 6 catches. Chauncey Davis led the team with 6 tackles. Curtis Lofton (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Michael Boley (5 tackles), Keith Brooking (5 tackles), Erik Coleman (5 tackles), Jamaal Anderson (2 tackles, 1 sack), Lawyer Milloy (5 tackles), and Domonique Foxworth (3 tackles) had notable contributions.

Jason Elam had no field goal attempts. Michael Koenen punted 7 times for an average of 38.4 yards with 5 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jerious Norwood had 4 kickoff returns for an average of 17 yards, while Jennings had 4 punt returns for an average of 5.5 yards. With 2:28 to go in the 4th quarter, Jennings attempted to field a punt but at the last second pulled off. The Eagles recovered what was initially believed to be a muffed punt. However, since the Falcons were out of timeouts they were unable to challenge the play and the Eagles took possession at the Falcons 37-yard line. Two plays later, Westbrook ran the ball in for a score to essentially end the game. The Falcons got the ball back with less than 2 minutes to go, and were able to drive the ball 52 yards into Eagles territory before turning it over on downs.

Next week the team hopes to bounce back against the Oakland Raiders (2-5), again on the road. The Falcons have lost their last two road games against the Raiders, and are 0-3 all-time when playing at the Oakland Coliseum. The Falcons have yet to lose two games in a row this season, but are 1-3 on the road this season.

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I Want to Believe

October 14th, 2008 Comments off

And now I do. This past Sunday’s game against the Bears was a great one. And now I’m firmly a believer in what Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have been preaching these past nine months.

Any one who is a patron of this site’s boards knows that I’ve been critical and skeptical of many of the moves and decisions that Dimitroff and Smith have made over that span of time. Unsure of if these are the guys that are going to get the Falcons out of their 42-year funk. And while we still need at least another fourteen wins away from our first back-to-back winning season, I’m confident and optimistic now that these are the guys that will take us there. I don’t know if that’s going to happen this year, next year, or later, but I’m drinking the kool-aid now, and I like-a the juice!

The Bears aren’t a great team, but this makes it no less of a quality win. The Falcons showed a lot of character on Sunday and pulled out an incredible win. The quality of the opponent is really not that important. What I saw on Sunday, was a team. A team that when certain star players had down games, some of the young guys stepped up and filled the void. Ryan and Roddy had great games. But Turner struggled, but Norwood was able to provide a spark on offense and special teams. Jenkins and Douglas were able to make big plays on offense. Abraham was essentially a non-factor for the game, but Jamaal Anderson stepped up and provided some big plays. Elam made the big kick when the game was really on the line.

The job isn’t finished yet. But I really now believe that the team truly is headed in the right direction and it’s in capable hands. Now, I’m sure there will be still many instances in the future that I’ll still be critical of a call or move they make. Beating the Chicago Bears doesn’t buy that sort of loyal obsequiousness. But there definitely will be a marked difference, when you say “I don’t really like this move, but I trust these guys” as opposed to “I don’t like this move, these guys don’t really know what they’re doing.”

You can see it that the team trusts Smith and Ryan, and that’s exactly what needs to happen for this team to be able to take it to the next level and usher in a new era in Atlanta. I don’t know if or when it is going to happen, but I really like our chances. It’s rather simple. I wanted to believe and now I do.

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Falcons beat Bears in a wild finish

October 12th, 2008 Comments off

Getty Images/K.C. Cox The Falcons beat the Chicago Bears 22-20 on a last second Jason Elam field goal in a very wild finish. Elam, who had connected on four field goals earlier in the game, missed a 33-yard chip shot in the fourth quarter that could extended the Falcons 19-13 lead with less than 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Chicago went down the field and scored to take the lead with only 11 seconds left. But Matt Ryan threw a brilliant 26-yard strike to Michael Jenkins to put the Falcons in scoring position again with only 1 second left on the clock. Elam redeemed his earlier miss with a game-winning 48-yard field goal.

Ryan led the team with a season-high 301 passing yards, completing 22 of 30 passes with a touchdown. Michael Turner didn’t have a great deal of success on the ground, rushing for only 54 yards on 25 carries. Jerious Norwood added 31 yards on 3 carries. Roddy White led the receivers with 9 grabs for 112 yards and a touchdown. Harry Douglas added 5 receptions for 96 yards and Jenkins had 4 catches for 58 yards. The Falcons offense proved a handful for the Bears defense early on converting 4 of 9 third down attempts and held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half. However the Falcons too often settled for field goals on their successful drives, which effectively kept the Bears in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons played well for the most part. They had an excellent goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, stuffing the Bears twice at their own 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs. They did however falter on the Bears final drive, allowing them to go 77 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown on 11 plays in two and a half minutes. Curtis Lofton led the defenders with 7 tackles. Keith Brooking (6 tackles), Jamaal Anderson (4 tackles, 1 sack), Michael Boley (5 tackles), Chris Houston (6 tackles), Brent Grimes (5 tackles), and Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

On special teams, Elam’s performance stood out. He connected on field goals of 29, 48, 32, and 41 before hitting the game-winner from 48 yards out. Michael Koenen punted only twice for an average of 31 yards. Coverage units put the clamps on Devin Hester, the league’s most dynamic return threat, who averaged only 20 yards on his 3 kickoff returns. Jerious Norwood himself had a nice day returning the ball, with 4 kickoff returns for an average of 44.5 yards including an 85-yard return. Adam Jennings lone punt return went for 6 yards.

The Falcons will be off next week due to their bye. Afterwards, they will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles.

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Game #5 AT Green Bay Packers Game Review

October 12th, 2008 Comments off

The first half was about as good as anyone can play. The second half almost became a disaster. It seems that the defense had no answers over the middle in pass coverage. Grimes was targeted again and the run defense seemed to soften in the second half. Fortunately, Boley came up with a huge INT and Turner punched it in to give us much needed breathing room and a 27-24 win.

Here’s what I saw:

Offense:

Running game: Turner (26/121, 1 TD), Norwood (4/12), Ryan (4/16), Douglas (1/18), and Mughelli (1/9). Effective Runs (4 yards or more or scores TD)-Turner, 13; Norwood, 1; Douglas, 1; Mughelli, 1 and Ryan, 1. Turner was outstanding today.

Breakdown of passes:

Ryan: 16/26, 194 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT. Breakdown of incompletions: 2 Bad passes, 3 Dropped passes, 2 Thrown away, 1 Clock Play, 1 Mental Error (Jenkins) and 1 Defended pass. Other than the bad pass on the INT, a very good day for Ryan but that INT was definitely a game-changer.

Drops (3): Norwood, 1 and White, 2.

YTD Drops (13):

White – 5
Douglas – 2
Jenkins – 2
Finneran – 1
Turner – 1
Peele – 1
Norwood – 1

Run blocking: With half of Turner’s runs going for 4 yards or more or a score, no complaints at all.

Pass blocking: Outstanding job keeping Ryan off the ground. Superb effort.

Sack responsibility (0): None

YTD Sacks (7):

Justin Blalock – 2.0
Todd Weiner – 1.5
Tyson Clabo – 1.0
Busted Play – 1.0
Matt Ryan – 1.0
Jason Snelling – 0.5

Note: QB responsible sacks are those that he has at least 3 seconds and either chose to try to scramble or stayed in the pocket when the better decision would be to throw it away. Also includes those rushing attempts that go for 0 or negative yardage that for some reason are counted as a sack.

Defense:

Run defense: 40 yards allowed in the 1st half and then 64 yards in the 2nd half. Not sure why the run defense tends to soften in the 2nd half but this is the 3rd week in a row it’s happened.

Pass Defense: Green Bay picked the middle of the field all day and occasionally went to Grimes’ side. Noticeably, teams are going away from Houston.

Sacks: Two sacks on the day, Grady Jackson got the first and Abraham got the second. Abraham also caused an intentional grounding penalty on Rodgers. That should count as a sack in my opinion but officially just a “good job of pressure”.

Special Teams:
Norwood had 3 kickoff returns and 1 touchback: 1. from the 2, 17 yards; 2. from the -4, 14 yards; 3. from the -2, 54 yards. A bad day until that last return.

Coleman handled an onside kick by Crosby with no problems.

Jennings had 3 punt return opportunities: 1. from the 36, 3 yards; 2. from the 26, muffed and recovered at the 29; 3. fair catch at the 10. Can anyone say Brandon James in the 3rd round next year?

Koenen had 3 punts: 1-29 yards to the 12, fair catch. 2-43 yards to the 2, downed. 3-53 yards to the 1, downed. Excellent day punting.

Koenen had 6 kickoffs: 1-to the 2, 19 yard return. 2-to the 5, 21 yard return. 3-to the 5, 45 yard return. 4-to the 17, 9 yard return (nullified by holding penalty). 5-Touchback. Fairly deep on all but I’d still prefer more touchbacks.

Field Goals: Elam was 2/2 from 41 and 42.

Special Teams coverage: Very good on punts, not as good on kickoffs as it has been.

Things that really need improvement:

1. Cover the middle of the field better in pass coverage (especially Tight Ends).
2. Eliminate 3rd and long conversions by opposition.
3. Grimes looks more like a nickel back at times and the league may be catching on.

Offensive MVP: Roddy White 8 catches, 132 yards, 1 TD

Defensive MVP: John Abraham (6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 3 hurries)

Special Teams MVP: Michael Koenen for all 3 punts inside the 20 and 2 inside the 2.

Goat of the Week: Pass coverage in the middle of the field.

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Next up: VS Chicago Bears October 12th!

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Game #4 AT Carolina Panthers Game Review

October 5th, 2008 Comments off

Second consecutive disappointing road performance. As much as Carolina abused Brent Grimes, we really shot ourselves in the foot. The game could have gone entirely different with a few things here or there but that wasn’t the case unfortunately.

Here’s what I saw:

Offense:

Running game: Turner (18/56), Norwood (3/51), and Ryan (2/11). Effective Runs (4 yards or more or scores TD)-Turner, 6; Norwood, 3 and Ryan, 1. We didn’t get Turner going early and didn’t use Norwood near enough as he was much more effective.

Breakdown of passes:

Ryan: 21/41, 158 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. Breakdown of incompletions: 8 Bad passes, 6 Dropped passes, 1 Busted Play and 5 Defended passes. Ryan got very little help from his receivers today. A couple of the drops were tough but should have been made and would have extended two drives for certain.

Drops (6): Finneran, 1; Douglas, 2; Turner, 1; White, 2.

YTD Drops (10):

White – 3
Douglas – 2
Jenkins – 2
Finneran – 1
Turner – 1
Peele – 1

Run blocking: Carolina consistently stopped Turner but did have trouble with Norwood. The no-huddle seemed to be effective but standard formations were not.

Pass blocking: The middle of the line held up well but Weiner and Clabo gave up far too many pressures.

Sack responsibility (2): The first was on Ryan for holding on to it too long and missing Norwood wide open in the flat. The second was on Weiner being beaten by Peppers.

YTD Sacks (7):

Justin Blalock – 2.0
Todd Weiner – 1.5
Tyson Clabo – 1.0
Busted Play – 1.0
Matt Ryan – 1.0
Jason Snelling – 0.5

Note: QB responsible sacks are those that he has at least 3 seconds and either chose to try to scramble or stayed in the pocket when the better decision would be to throw it away. Also includes those rushing attempts that go for 0 or negative yardage that for some reason are counted as a sack.

Defense:

Run defense: For the second consecutive week, the run defense was great in the first half and seemed to give up ground in the second half.

Pass Defense: Grimes was abused all day long. While he did come back in the third quarter with a few good plays, they worked him again afterwards.

Sacks: None. There was very little pressure.

Special Teams:
Norwood had 2 kickoff returns and 3 touchbacks: 1. from the 0, 17 yards; 2. from the 3, 20 yards. Subpar return day and an excellent job on the part of Rhys Lloyd for the Panthers.

Jennings had 2 punt return opportunities (1 punt downed and 2 touchbacks): 1. from the 23, 9 yards; 2. from the 19, 16 yards. 1 average and 1 good return.

Koenen had 6 punts: 1-46 yards to the end zone, touchback (could have been downed). 2-60 yards to the end zone, touchback. 3-53 yards to the C 20, 5 yard return. 4-29 yards to the C 14, fair catch. 5-32 yards to the C 44, downed. 6-34 yards to the C 20, 19 yard return nullified by holding penalty. First 4 punts were very good, the last 2 were not so good.

Koenen had 4 kickoffs: 1-to the 4, 18 yard return. 2-to the goal line, 23 yard return. 3-to the end zone, touchback. 4-to the goal line, 21 yard return. Very long kicks.

Field Goals: Elam was 3/3 from 33, 44 and 44.

Special Teams coverage: Very good outside of Jennings not downing the first punt.

Things that really need improvement:

1. Figure out a way to run on the road.
2. Eliminate 3rd and long conversions by opposition.
3. Grimes looks more like a nickel back at times and the league may be catching on.

Offensive MVP: Roddy White 7 catches, 90 yards.

Defensive MVP: Curtis Lofton (8 tackles)

Special Teams MVP: Jason Elam (accounted for all points scored)

Goat of the Week: Brent Grimes

Let me know your thoughts and questions otherwise:

Next up: AT Green Bay October 5th!

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Falcons win at Lambeau

October 5th, 2008 Comments off

AP/M.Ludtke The Falcons prevailed over the Green Bay Packers 27-24, snapping a five-game road losing streak. The Falcons now are 3-2 under head coach Mike Smith. The Falcons got off to an early 17-7 lead, and the Packers attempted a comeback, but the Falcons were able to hold them off.

Matt Ryan led the way with 194 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He completed 16 of 26 passes. Michael Turner rushed for 121 yards on the ground on 26 carries with a score as well. Roddy White led receivers again with 8 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Justin Peelle caught Ryan’s first touchdown pass, finishing hte day with 2 grabs for 15 yards. The Falcons offense was more efficient than they were last week, converting 6 of 12 third down tries against the Green Bay defense.

Defensively, the Falcons held the Packers offense in check for much of the game. Although they did give up 313 yards in the air and 3 passing touchdowns as the Packers attempted to come back from their early deficit. Lawyer Milloy led the team with 10 tackles. Keith Brooking (8 tackles), John Abraham (6 tackles, 1 sack), Erik Coleman (6 tackles), Curtis Lofton (4 tackles), Grady Jackson (2 tackles, 1 sack), and Michael Boley (1 tackle, 1 interception) had noteworthy games. Boley intercepted a pass with less than 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, which the Falcons were able to convert to a Turner touchdown to give them a 27-17 lead and essentially made the Packers comeback insurmountable.

On special teams, Jason Elam connected on both field goal attempts of 41 and 42 yards. Michael Koenen had 3 punts for an average of 41.7 yards, but pinned the Packers inside their own 20-yard line on all three tries, including putting them inside the 5 on two of them. Jerious Norwood had a big 54-yard kickoff return, and averaged 28.3 yards on his 3 returns. Adam Jennings had 2 punt returns for an average of 1.5 yards. The Falcons kickoff came up big with an onsides kick recovery late that sealed their win.

The Falcons will return home next week to host the Chicago Bears (3-2) next week. The Falcons have won three straight at home, including two this season, and hope to start their first two-game winning streak since November 2007. The Falcons have lost 8 of their last 9 against the Bears dating back to 1985. In that span, they have lost 3 of 4 matchups against the Bears at home. Their lone victory came in 1998.

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