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Archive for September, 2010

Moneyball – Week 3 Review

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

This really was an epic game. So much tension that really drained me as I watched this one. There were instances where both teams were in a position to put the game away and they didn’t, but the Falcons won this one in the end. A nice statement game that should put the rest of the NFC on notice.

This was the best passing performance of Matt Ryan (in terms of Moneyball earnings) since he earned $15 in Week 2 of last year, and when you factor in the $4 he added on the ground scrambling, it matched his best game. He didn’t have his first poor throw until 5 minutes left in the third quarter and it was his 22nd pass attempt. Turner and Snelling were very strong on the ground, combining for a strong $22. Thanks in large part to Ovie Mughelli who was just downright sick in this game with his blocking, picking up 6.5 key blocks. There were so many plays where Mughelli’s ability to pick up the linebacker freed up both backs for big runs.  And while the offensive line certainly did their part, they were a bit too many breakdowns to say it was a great game. Namely for the left side of the line as neither Sam Baker or Justin Blalock had strong games. Baker was flagged for a false start, but it was really Blalock that actually jumped. Along with Mughelli, Gonzalez was lights out this game. He was unstoppable on third down, finishing the game with 5 conversions. Roddy White was fairly quiet for most of the game, but made two big plays on the Falcons final scoring drive in regulation.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Matt Ryan$13$4$0$0$0$0$17.00
MIchael Turner$0$13$0$0$0$0$13.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$2$0$0$11.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$0$4$5.5$0$0$9.50
Jason Snelling$0$9$0$0$0$0$9.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Harvey Dahl$0$0$0$2.5$0-$1$1.50
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0-$2-$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0-$1-$3.00

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Falcons run over Saints for big OT win

September 26th, 2010 Comments off
courtesy of Getty Images

Michael Turner (Getty Images)

The Falcons might have made a huge step forward with a big win against division rival and the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints with a 27-24 victory in overtime. With the victory over the Saints and a 2-1 record, the Falcons now are tied for first place in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Matt Ryan had a very strong performance, completing 19 of 30 passes for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for 26 yards on 6 carries as well. Michael Turner and Jason Snelling both had solid days as the Falcons ground game was pivotal in the team’s ability to control the clock and tempo of the game throughout. Turner led with 114 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown. Jason Snelling added 62 yards on 14 carries. In the air, Tony Gonzalez had a standout performance with 6 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. It marked his first 100-yard game as a Falcon. Roddy White added 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Ovie Mughelli had 2 grabs for 29 yards, and Turner added 2 catches for 11 yards. The Falcons held the ball for almost 46 minutes of the 72 minutes of total gametime. They converted 9 of 18 third downs, and 2 of 3 fourth down attempts. They also tallied 417 total yards, marking the second week in a row where they gained over 400 yards in total offense. The Falcons leaned heavily on the ground game in the second half. In the first half, the team only had 57 yards on 22 carries. But in the second they exploded with 145 yards on 28 carries, which included some long runs by both Turner and Snelling as the Saints defense wore down late.

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Moneyball – Week 2 Review

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

There isn’t a whole lot to this game. The Cardinals got behind early, thanks to penalties, and could not dig themselves out of the hole. The Falcons played well, but it wasn’t exactly as strong a performance as the score indicates.

Their biggest success on offense was their running game. Now, that was a strong performance. The Falcons dominated in the line of scrimmage and basically could dictate their will on  the Cardinal defnese in the trenches and on the ground. Snelling had a great game, and Turner had a great game, but was limited to basically playing only a quarter. Had he finished the game, he probably would have to put numbers as good as Snelling. Ryan had a nice game. He made the plays and throws he needed to get the ball moving. The blocking was excellent, as Ryan barely felt any pressure all game, and all the blockers were able to move the  line of scrimmage several times down the field on the ground.

If there was any negative offensively, it was the fact that the Falcons were called for a number of penalties. I don’t think this was a well officiated game, and I think a bunch of ticky tack calls were made throughout this game.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTAL
Jason Snelling$0$23$5$0$0$0$28.00
Michael Turner$0$10$0$0$0$0$10.00
Matt Ryan$9$1$0$0$0-$2$8.00
Roddy White$0$0$6$1$0-$1$6.00
Ovie Mughelli$0$2$0$3$1-$2$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2$1$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$1$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Harvey Dahl$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Brian Finneran$0$0$3$0$0-$2$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Peelle$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0-$3-$1.00

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Norwood out for the season

September 21st, 2010 Comments off
Jerious Norwood

Jerious Norwood

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that the Atlanta Falcons have placed running back Jerious Norwood on the injured reserve after he suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff of the team’s matchup last weekend vs. the Arizona Cardinals. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported earlier today that it was a torn ACL in his right knee.

Norwood had thus far had limited usage offensively this year, with his only two carries coming for 8 yards in the season opener vs. the Steelers. He also had a reception for 9 yards in that game, and had been splitting reps with Eric Weems as the team’s kickoff returner. Injuries are nothing new for Norwood, who had only made it through a full 16-game schedule once since joining the Falcons in 2006.

To fill Norwood’s spot on the roster, the team signed running back Gartrell Johnson. Johnson was a fourth round pick with the San Diego Chargers last year, but was cut by that team at the end of camp. He was picked up by the New York Giants, and appeared in 10 games, carrying the ball 13 times for 43 yards (3.3 avg). The 5’10″ 219-pound running back is more of a power runner than the speedy Norwood. You can read about Johnson in a scouting report included in the 2009 FalcFans.com Draft Guide.

The team did manage to add some speed at the position by signing Shawnbrey McNeal to the practice squad. McNeal was another cast-off of the San Diego Chargers and was an undrafted free agent this past year. You can read a scouting report on McNeal, posted here in the forums.

In the absence of Norwood, Antone Smith will likely be elevated up the depth chart and potentially get more reps on Sundays. Depth at running back is fairly thin with the loss of Norwood. Michael Turner suffered what Mike Smith termed a non-severe groin injury during the Week 2 game vs. Arizona. Jason Snelling is expected to get a heavier dose in the offense as he did against the Cardinals.

To free up a space on the team’s eight-man practice squad, the team parted ways with middle linebacker Bear Woods.

Falcons celebrate big win at home

September 19th, 2010 Comments off
AP/Dave Martin

Douglas celebrates with White

The Falcons had little difficulty rolling over the Arizona Cardinals in their home opener, winning 41-7 to get their record back to .500 at 1-1.

Matt Ryan led the team with a good bounce back performance from Week 1. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jason Snelling led the Falcons ground attack with 24 carries for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. Snelling subbed in for Michael Turner who went down with a groin injury in the second quarter. Turner was off to a fast start, finishing the day with 75 yards on 9 carries. Roddy White led receivers with 7 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, the first thrown by Ryan. Snelling added 5 catches for 57 yards and also got Ryan’s second touchdown pass. Brian Finneran followed up with the third score, and caught 3 passes for 31 yards for the day. The Falcons offense was pretty efficient for the game, but was greatly aided by errors from the Cardinals. Eight of their 33 first downs came via penalties. The Falcons were able to convert 11 of 17 third down attempts and practically doubled the Cardinals time of possession, holding the ball for 39 minutes and 13 seconds. The Falcons took a 24-7 halftime lead with 17 points in the second quarter.

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Grading the Game Week 1 AT Pittsburgh Steelers

September 19th, 2010 3 comments

In past seasons, I’ve used the statistics from the game as a base point and then explaining the numbers with the game review.  This method, while informative, didn’t do what I really wanted it to do.  This new format should accomplish what was missing previous with more analysis and less hard data.  If nothing else, it should provide for some interesting discussion!

AT Pittsburgh Steelers 6-9 (OT)

This was a very hard fought game and definitely a tough loss to swallow.  We had some opportunities to win the game but just didn’t get it done.  That’s stating the obvious so here’s the why and how as I see it.

Passing :  Matt Ryan is taking a lot of heat this week and I really think it’s unjust after reviewing this game.  In the first quarter, it appeared that his timing might have been off.  During the rest of the game, he hit his spots for the most part.  Yes, he through an interception that could have very easily cost us the game but other than that and a few throws that made me wonder what in the world he was thinking, he was very good.  I question why he was put in that situation.  (more on that later)  Grade:  B

Running :  Michael Turner struggled to find daylight and at times, seemed to hesitate on the rare occasion that there was daylight.  My question here is again on the coaching staff and that’s why didn’t Norwood get more than 2 carries?  If your north/south game isn’t getting it done then why not use your speed element to throw something different at them?  That made no sense to me.  Grade: C

Receiving:  With the limited camera angles, it’s impossible to evaluate route running (unless it’s the player getting the pass or they happen to spot something and show it) but from what I could tell, the receivers did their jobs.  I do think we miss Jenkins more than we realize but it was great to see Douglas back out there.  Grade: B

Offensive line:  In my opinion, this was where the game was lost and if not, it’s second to coaching.  There was very little push in the running game and Ryan was forced to move around and get rid of the ball far more than what I consider to be acceptable.  One thing I noticed is that our linemen were blocking north/south instead of turning their man away from the hole the running back is supposed to go through.  That either indicates that the linemen aren’t strong enough to turn their men away or that they are coached to block north/south.  Either way, that’s a huge concern to me and something I’ll keep an eye on going forward.  The other thing is that Baker and the entire right side of the line struggled mightily.  Baker had a tough assignment with Harrison but if you are going to be the left tackle, you’re supposed to be able to handle the tough assignments.  Dahl and Clabo were pushed backwards and beaten all day long.  The best two blockers in this game were Blalock and McClure.  While not perfect, their performance was solid, if not good.  Grade: D

Defensive line:  Very good job by our defensive front.  There was pressure throughout the game and the run was bottled up until the OT play where not only was  Grimes apparently out of position but Biermann was clearly held as you see Heath Miller’s hands grabbing jersey on the outside and turning Biermann away and then as Mendenhall breaks through the line and Biermann turns to pursue, Miller still has jersey at arm’s length.  While the non-call wasn’t what really lost us the game, it was something that should have been called in my opinion.

Linebackers:  Lofton picked up where he left off and might be even better.  Peterson had a very good game as well.  For his first start Weatherspoon didn’t play bad at all but the review did show several times were he was out of position or broke late on coverage and other rookie mistakes.  Grade: B

Secondary:  When watching the game live, I couldn’t understand how Hines Ward ended up so wide open on two plays in the second half.  Two words:  Erik Coleman.  He missed several tackles, was out of position several times and just flat beaten on others.  Grade: C (If I could play the take away the Coleman plays game it would be an B, maybe even a low A)

Special teams:  A couple of the punts were fair caught that probably shouldn’t have been and Koenen had the horrible punt in OT.  One thing I’ve noticed about Matt Bryant is that if he’s lined up on the left hash, he’s darn near perfect but put him on the right hash and you’d better cross your fingers.  Kickoffs were fine, coverage was fine.  Grade: B-/C+

Coaching:  I’d really love to ask Paul Boudreau about blocking techniques and see what’s being taught.  While I don’t necessarily buy into the hang Mularkey sentiment, I do question why Norwood wasn’t used more, why screen passes weren’t used more and when they were used it looked like we hadn’t practiced them at all (which may be why we didn’t use more) and where were all the slants that we saw in preseason.  Slants and screens would have helped back off some of that pressure that the Steelers were constantly bringing.  Finally, I wish Smitty would have stuck to his guns and gone for it on the late 4th down.  The defense had played so well that if we didn’t get that first down, you had to like your chances of getting the ball back with good field position to try again but with almost 4 minutes to go, I don’t agree with playing for a tie on the road.  Grade: C-

Overall, while it’s definitely a bitter pill to swallow I think there’s a lot to look forward to this season and I’m sure some of the questions we all have will get answered during the season.  On to the first home game and the Arizona Cardinals!

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What to look for this weekend vs. Cardinals

September 18th, 2010 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Babineaux: A Difference Maker in Week 2?

I certainly know a lot of Falcon fans were disappointed with the outcome of last week’s game. I was too, but if you had read my preview of the game then you knew exactly what was coming. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I think I pretty much nailed that matchup. I’m trying for two in a row.

I watched the Cardinals-Rams game from last week to get prepped for my analysis of this game. And after seeing that game, I have to say that the Rams should have won that game. The Cardinals truly got outplayed, but if not for three interceptions by Sam Bradford, they probably would have lost.

That being said, I don’t expect the Cardinals to lay down for the Falcons. But I don’t see them as nearly a formidable matchup as the Steelers were.

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Moneyball – Week 1 Review

September 15th, 2010 Comments off

Another year and another season of Moneyball. Last year was the debut season, and if not for the fact that I procrastinated after a few weeks and didn’t finish until the week before training camp, I think it was a success. This year it’s back with a few tweaks. But if you want to read about the scoring rules then you can check out the thread in the forum that explains it all.

But the basic premise is that for positive plays, players will earn a certain amount of money, and for negative plays they will have money taken away. As I explained last year, the scoring system isn’t perfect. It tends to be biased in favor of running backs, wide receivers, and defensive linemen as they tend to have higher scores. While offensive linemen and defensive backs tend to have lower scores. But overall, I think it’s a good indicator of the players that are making the plays for the Falcons. And the system is largely geared towards the offense’s ability to move the chains (and of course score points) as well as the defense’s ability to prevent the opponent from moving the chains and to create turnovers and other big plays that make it harder for the opponent to convert (e.g. tackles for loss and sacks).

I’m hoping that this year, I’ll do a better job managing my time so that I can post an update in the middle of the week. I’m beginning the season with the mindset that I’ll post it on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, but that may change as my schedule does. But here goes, here is the first Moneyball review of the season.

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Bruggeman makes way for Babineaux

September 14th, 2010 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that the Falcons have cut center/guard Rob Bruggeman in order to clear roster space for defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux. Babineaux is coming off a one-game suspension.

Bruggeman spent all of the 2009 season on the Falcons practice squad after being an undrafted rookie free agent out of Iowa signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He worked primarily as a reserve guard for the Falcons this preseason, and was active but did not play in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Nance signs with Packers

September 14th, 2010 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Dimitri Nance

Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that the Green Bay Packers have signed running back Dimitri Nance off the Falcons practice squad. Nance is expected to add depth at running back for the Packers who lost starter Ryan Grant for the season due to injuries in their season opener versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Nance was an undrafted rookie out of Arizona State for the Falcons this year, and had his moments through the early part of preseason. He eventually lost the competition for the last running back position with Antone Smith. He was part of the final roster cutdowns and signed to the Falcons practice squad on September 5.

The Falcons now have an available spot on their eight-man practice squad.

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