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Archive for September, 2012

Falcons take down Panthers in Epic Win

September 30th, 2012 Comments off
Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

White catches 59-yard bomb to set up GW Field Goal.

The Falcons pulled a come from behind squeaker over the Carolina Panthers by a score of 30-28, extending their 2012 record to 4-0. Matt Bryant hit a game-winning 40 yard field goal with 10 seconds left, capping a long drive in the last minute of the game to steal the victory at home.

Matt Ryan had another strong performance despite being sacked 7 times on the day. He finished the game completing 25 of 40 passes for 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. His yardage total was just 4 yards shy of matching his career high. On the ground, Michael Turner had another strong performance for the second consecutive rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 avg), his first 100-yard outing of the 2012 season. Turner also caught 3 passes for 68 yards, including a 60-yard score, the first receiving touchdown of his nine-year NFL career. Roddy White led receivers with 8 grabs for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 51 yards) and Jacquizz Rodgers (4 catches, 40 yards) also contributed. Julio Jones was held in check for the most part, only catching 1 of 8 passes thrown his way, but it was for a big gain of 30 yards. Bryant made three field goal tries, from 41, 33, and 40 yards out. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 47 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 17 yards, and Rodgers returned his lone kickoff for 27 yards. As mentioned earlier, the Falcons offensive line gave up 7 sacks. The Falcons have given up that many sacks in a game since September 2007 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Defensively, the Falcons did not have a strong performance, but were able to make some stops near the end of the game to turn the tide. Carolina put up 404 yards of total offense, the most given up this season. The Falcons also had their first game of the season where they did not intercept a pass, but they did force three fumbles. But they only managed to recover one. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 8 tackles. John Abraham (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Ray Edwards (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (5 tackles); Dunta Robinson (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Vance Walker (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); and Sean Weatherspoon (4 tackles, 1 sack) all had notable games.

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Week 4 Preview: How the Falcons Will Beat the Panthers

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

As mentioned earlier, the Panthers do have some of the tools to potentially beat the Falcons. But I do not think they will.

If the Falcons just have a “normal” game based around what they have done these first three weeks they will beat the Panthers. They simply are a better team. But they cannot take the Panthers lightly, because as mentioned earlier, the Panthers can do a couple of things that can hurt the Falcons.

The main key for the Falcons is going to be able to throw to win. They can throw fairly easily on this Panther secondary. Rookie Josh Norman is likely to be matched up on Julio Jones on the outside for most of the game. Norman is not a bad player, and down the road he might turn into a pretty good starting corner. But he’s not there yet, and I think Julio should be poised to prey on that. The question becomes is Julio’s hand injury more serious than we expect, and will it impact the game?

What is interesting about Roddy White is that you look over the past few seasons, and there is always one game against Carolina where he’s very good, and another where he’s just mediocre. And there’s no real rhyme or reason to which performance he has. Sometimes it is at home, sometimes on the road. But you wonder if Jones is less than 100%, and this is the game that Roddy decides not to show up for, then the Falcons could potentially be in trouble.

I don’t think that will happen, and it’s going to be a cold day in hell when both Roddy and Julio are no shows on this offense. But this is also why the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, to help pick up that slack.

The Panthers run defense is weak, so I suspect Michael Turner and the ground attack could have another strong week. I would be shocked if Blalock and Reynolds have much problems with the Edwardses (Dwan and Ron) and opening lanes for Turner. The Falcons seem poised to give Rodgers a bit more reps on the ground going forward, and he could also have a good day.

Defensively, John Abraham tends to have a field day against the Panthers. I expect the Falcons to be able to get pressure against Newton. Newton has that ability to extend plays and make things happen with his legs, but the Falcons have been fairly competent at containing that. I think the Falcons will try and be aggressive with Newton, attack him with blitzes and challenge him to make accurate throws downfield.

Mike Nolan is probably going to throw a lot of things at Cam, frankly things that I can hardly imagine at this point. But if he can design schemes that can get Peyton Manning off balance, he can certainly do some things that can get Newton’s mind twisted.

Because the Panthers will likely rely on a steady ground attack, like last week, Akeem Dent should get more opportunities to emerge. That should also mean increased reps for Ray Edwards as well.

Cam Newton is currently second in the NFL in terms of highest interception rate. And the Falcons right now are the most opportunistic secondary in the league. This is why this should be a good matchup for the Falcons. With Abraham’s pressure and Nolan’s blitzing schemes, they should be able to create a number of turnovers this week. At some point this season, the Falcons defense is probably not going to be able to create multiple turnovers in a game. But I doubt that this week is the time when that occurs.

It’s becoming less and less about the Falcons opponents, at least during this early slate of 2012 games. It’s becoming more about competing with themselves for this Falcon team. Meaning their biggest obstacle is their own complacency. The day they decide to just show up some place, and think they can win with minimal effort, is the day they will get beat.

And what Mike Smith has done a pretty good job instilling in his time in Atlanta, is a hungry mentality week to week that keeps his team motivated and moving forward. And that is why I think they will win this game. It’s a division rival, and it’s an opportunity to really send out a signal to the other teams in the division and conference that this team is as formidable as advertised. It’s their first NFC game, and while they have eleven more that will also affect the season, they cannot really afford to dig themselves in a hole at the outset with an 0-1 record. Especially to a division rival and lesser team like Carolina.

Long gone are the days of Mora where as a fan you weren’t sure what Falcon team would show up in a given week. The Mike Smith Falcons are much more consistent, and rarely lay eggs. I expect that trend to continue and the Falcons extend their record to 4-0 this week.

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Week 4 Preview: How the Panthers Could Beat the Falcons

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

First off, let me say that I do not believe the Falcons will lose to the Panthers. I’ll get into some of those reasons later, but I think our offense will just be too much for their defense. Carolina’s secondary is weak, a glaring weakness on their entire team. If anything surpasses it, that would be their run defense. It was atrocious last year, and this year it has graduated to horrible.

Now granted the Falcons run defense hasn’t been that much better this year, but at least the Falcons’ excuse is that they’ve played a ton of nickel, which has led to some cracks being exploited.

The Falcons shouldn’t have any issues moving the ball against the Panthers defense and ultimately scoring a lot of points. Frankly, if the Falcons cannot put up at least 27 or 28 points in this game, it will be very disappointing.

But after watching this Falcon team over the first three weeks, and see them slap around a number of teams, a target is forming on their backs. They will be a team to beat, and everybody is gunning for No. 1. So you will start to see teams implement strategies and rules to beat the Falcons. I think these strategies will fall under two main blueprints:

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 3 Review

September 26th, 2012 Comments off

Sorry for the late update, I got busy earlier this afternoon and couldn’t check out the All-22 until a few hours ago.

This was about as low-key a blowout as you’re going to find. The Falcons never really broke a sweat in this game. This was what I would call very much a ball-control gameplan via the pass.

The Falcons did have their best game running the ball so far this year. Michael Turner had a couple of nice runs and seemed much more explosive in the second half than he did in the first. Jacquizz Rodgers did some things on the ground, and could have done a bit more had the blocking been better. The Falcons did definitely pick it up in the second half as far as the line goes. They did an excellent job in pass protection. The first sack they allowed I counted as a pressure because Ryan managed to step up in the pocket and was tackled while running rather than passing, so it’s more of a tackle for loss than a true sack according to the Moneyball rules. Justin Blalock earned well because he made some nice key blocks on certain plays, but there were a lot of other players where I think he looked sort of lost. McClure seemed to have his struggles early in the game with taking on the big 3-4 nose tackle. That’s historically been a weakness of his, and it showed up at times in this game. The Falcons problems running the ball going forward may not get fixed this year. They may have a couple of nice games such as this, but it’s not going to be anything they will be able to hang their hats on on a weekly basis. They just don’t really move guys off the ball ever. Which doesn’t help a player like Turner who is more of your plodding runner. And while Quizz is much quicker and runs with more burst, they still don’t create enough spacing to allow his style of running to really work. I did notice that both Mike Johnson and Peter Konz fared well in the fourth quarter as run blockers. That is something that may give this team optimism long-term that they can improve up front.

Matt Ryan played very well for the third straight week. He was being a distributor once again, basically doing his best John Stockton impression. Another cross-sport comparison would be another former Jazz point guard, Deron Williams. That’s how Ryan has played so far this year.

The Triplets as they will now be referred to: Julio, Roddy, and Tony, all had strong performances. Gonzo had the best game of course, and he and Roddy did a lot of chain moving. The Falcons need to get the deep ball better incorporated into their offense going forward. Ryan almost hit that deep pass to Roddy for six, and there were a couple of throws to Julio that did some damage. Those types of plays need to be regular occurrences in each week, and the Falcons pass attack that is operated at around 95% efficiency, could really take that next step to being indefensible.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$0$0$0$0$0$15.00
Michael Turner$0$9$0$0$0$0$9.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$8-$1$0$0$7.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$5$0$0$0$7.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$1$0-$1$4.00
Julio Jones$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$2$0$0-$1$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50

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Falcons add Vaughan to practice squad

September 25th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced the addition of running back Josh Vaughan to their practice squad today. Vaughan replaces safety Mark LeGree, who was released. Vaughan is a former Carolina Panther, a team that the Falcons take on this Sunday.

Vaughn played 10 games over the course of the 2010-11 seasons with the Panthers. During that time, he carried the ball 10 times for 31 yards (3.1 avg) and a touchdown. An undrafted free agent out of Richmond in 2009, he was originally signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being cut at the end of training camp, he finished the 2009 season on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad. He was signed by the Carolina Panthers the following May and briefly earned a spot on their practice squad to start the 2010 season. He would spend time on the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills before rejoining the Panthers. He appeared in 3 games before ending the season on the Panthers practice squad. He also began and ended the 2011 season on the practice squad for Carolina, bookending a 7-game stint on the roster. He was cut by the Panthers this past August before joining the Falcons.

Vaughan is a former collegiate teammate of Falcons defensive end Lawrence Sidbury. Both helped Richmond win a FCS National Championship in 2008. That year, Vaughan rushed for 1,884 yards and 20 touchdowns on 355 carries (5.3 avg). He finished his career with the Spiders sharing the school’s all-time record with rushing touchdowns (34) and was second behind Tim Hightower in career rushing yards (3,393).

LeGree joined the Falcons practice squad at the start of the season after spending time in the training camps of the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears.

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Palmer ruled out against Panthers

September 25th, 2012 Comments off

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that Falcons head coach Mike Smith has already ruled tight end Michael Palmer out for this weekend’s matchup against divisional rival Carolina Panthers. Palmer suffered a shoulder injury early in Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers. He managed a single catch for a yard before he left the game.

Given the quick turnaround on when Palmer was declared out for the game, it’s possible he has a severe enough shoulder injury that he could miss multiple games. Typically that has been the case when players have been ruled out prior to the scheduled release of the injury report on Friday.

In his absence, Tommy Gallarda will assume reps as the No. 2 tight end behind Tony Gonzalez. Chase Coffman is on the practice squad and could possibly be elevated if the Falcons opt to cut another player.

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Abraham arrested for obstruction

September 25th, 2012 Comments off

For the second time in as many weeks, a Falcon player was arrested. This time, defensive end John Abraham was arrested for obstructing police and firefighters on Monday night. Abraham was charged with misdemeanor offenses. Per the AJC, Abraham was asked repeatedly by officers to exit a scene surrounding a woman threatening to jump from a building in midtown Atlanta.

Last week, Falcons running back Michael Turner was arrested for a DUI following the Falcons win against the Denver Broncos.

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Falcons smash Chargers

September 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Weatherspoon and Moore tackle Mathews

The Falcons pushed their record to 3-0 by taking down the undefeated San Diego Chargers with a 27-3 victory on the road. The Falcons got off to a strong start and never looked back, as the Chargers were scoreless through the first half of the game.

Matt Ryan had another strong performance, completing 30 of 40 passes for 275 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. On the ground, Michael Turner bounced back from a slow start this season by leading the team with 80 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. Jacquizz Rodgers also added 10 rushes for 32 yards. In the air, Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 9 grabs for 91 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Rodgers each had 5 catches for 67, 55, and 35 yards respectively. Jones and Rodgers both caught Ryan’s other two touchdown passes. Matt Bryant did not attempt a field goal on the day. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 44.6 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks returned a pair of punts for an average of 17 yards. The Falcons offense had little issue moving the ball against the Chargers. They dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for over 36 minutes compared to the Chargers’ 24. In the first half, the Falcons held the ball for over twice as long as the Chargers with nearly 20.5 minutes of possession. The offense finished 8 of 13 on third down conversions and put up 384 total yards.

Defensively, the Falcons were too much for the Chargers offense. The Chargers struggled to convert third downs, particularly in the first half where they were 0 for 3. They wound up finishing the game 5 of 11 on their third down conversion attempts. They were limited to 280 total yards and had four turnovers. Dunta Robinson led defenders with 7 tackles. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery);Dominique Franks (3 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery); Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles); Asante Samuel (6 tackles); Vance Walker (4 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble) all had noteworthy performances.

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Owens and Smith to miss Charger game

September 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Yesterday, the Falcons released their injury report for this weekend’s road game against the San Diego Chargers. Cornerback Chris Owens and running back Antone Smith were declared out for the game. Both players were injured during last Monday’s win against the Denver Broncos, Owens suffering a concussion and Smith injuring his hamstring. Neither player participated in this week’s three days of practice.

Also on the report were tackle Tyson Clabo (hip) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (thigh), both declared as questionable. Defensive end John Abraham (knee), wide receiver Julio Jones (thigh), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh), and wide receiver Roddy White (knee) were all listed as probable. All six players were limited in their participation of Wednesday and Thursday’s practice. All those listed as probable fully participated in Friday’s practice however.

With Owens out of the game, Dominique Franks is expected to fill in at nickel cornerback. Franks was inserted into the Broncos game after Owens left early.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 2 Review

September 19th, 2012 Comments off

This game was won in the first quarter by the Falcons with their ability to generate 4 turnovers, and score 13 points off those turnovers. Because otherwise, the offense was fairly mediocre for the Falcons on most of the night. The offense did generate 14 points of their own volition, but other than those two drives, they really looked lackluster.

First off the Broncos defense should get a ton of credit for that. They are a tough unit and kept their team in the game despite those numerous turnovers early in the game that got them behind. Von Miller is a beast and he showed it several times throughout this game. They had Reynolds help Clabo a ton in this game to keep Miller in check. Any time Gonzalez was put on an island against him as a run blocker, Miller made him look fairly foolish.

The offensive line did a fairly good job against the formidable Broncos pass rush. Miller and Dumervil were held in check. They were able at times to get pressure on Ryan, but it wasn’t an amount that swung the game in the Broncos’ favor. The Falcons gave up 8 pressures, with 3 of them coming from backs and receivers. The run blocking was non-existent and the Falcons ground attack was paltry at best. The Falcons had 15 first down runs in the game, and were successful on only 1 of them, which happened to be the 14th one on the final drive of the game. The Falcons averaged 1.6 yards per carry on first down. That’s the polar opposite of what I was talking about last week about how the running game could be an X-Factor. That’s a success rate of 7% on first down. A poor success rate would be 25%, so 7% is downright pathetic.

Most of the blame for that poor ground attack has to put on the line. But Turner missed holes and did not run with great burst or explosion. Quizz did little with his limited opportunities, but the Falcons have to start giving him and Snelling more opportunities, because Turner is not getting the job done. And in light of his off-field issues, this week against San Diego will be a perfect opportunity to shift towards an offense spear-headed by Quizz/Snelling. I also can’t help but think some of it is missing Ovie Mughelli. Not that Lousaka Polite has played poorly, but he’s an average fullback.

Ryan played well, making some very good throws in this game. Roddy White was excellent, and Tony Gonzalez played very well as well. Julio Jones was a non-entity and that is worrisome given that the whole point of trading for Jones was so that our No. 2 WR (formerly Michael Jenkins) would no longer be a non-entity in games.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$14$1$0$0$0$0$15.00
Roddy White$0$0$9$0$0$0$9.00
Michael Turner$0$5$0$0$0$0$5.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6-$2$0$0$4.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$1.5$0$1.50
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lousaka Polite$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Julio Jones$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00

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