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Moneyball 2012 – Week 8 Review

October 31st, 2012 Comments off

Initially from watching the game live, I was very impressed with the Falcons performance. Upon review, I still came away impressed but cannot dismiss that the Eagles did not play well in this game. Most of the positives come on the offensive side of the ball.

Matt Ryan had a strong game. The running game had its moments and you could certainly argue this was the most complete game the offense has played this year. Turner had one of his better performances and Quizz also ran what might be the best game of his career. The blocking was just OK in this game. Relative to recent games, the pass protection held up well. There were some holes in this game, but It was inconsistent. But probably less inconsistent than it has normally been this year.

Sam Baker usually gets destroyed by Trent Cole so only giving up two pressures is relatively a strong performance for him. Clabo continued to have his issues, but had his share of moments as a run blocker. Watching live, I thought Konz played well. Upon further review, I might hold off on that. He did have his moments particularly as a run blocker, but there were two many missed blocks and he had some struggles in pass protection. He had 2 hurries and a pressure on plays that we’re wiped out by penalties. I think he definitely flashed his potential in this game, but still needs to work out the kinks. Reynolds at this point might be more consistent/reliable, but I don’t think he has the upside of Konz, particularly in the ground game. It seemed that Konz had many of his issues trying to block linebackers in the run game, and also struggled versus stunts.

Speaking of blocking, my hat goes off to DJ Davis and Roddy White for their efforts there. Davis had an impressive debut, standing out as a blocker. Both of his catches came when he was wide open thanks to Eagle defenders focusing on the Falcons’ other playmakers, but he did make a nice catch on the TD since it was not a particularly well-thrown ball. Roddy has been an underwhelming blocker so far this year, as I’ve noticed several times this year where he misses an assignment that could have potentially sprung a runner for a big gain. But that was not the case on Sunday.

Julio was very impressive, as his two big plays were a welcome addition to the offense. He absolutely roasted Nnamdi on the touchdown, and if not for an excellent tackle by Kurt Coleman, could have potentially scored on the 37-yard screen pass. The Eagles really had a hard time defending the Falcons screens as well as the shovel passes to Snelling, which essentially doubled as running plays.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$15$3$0$0$0$0$18.00
Julio Jones$0$1$10$0$0-$1$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$7$1$0$0$0$8.00
Michael Turner$0$7$1$0$0-$1$7.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$2$0$0$5.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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Falcons streak past Eagles

October 28th, 2012 1 comment
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Jones runs by defenders for TD

The Falcons extend their record to 7-0 with a 30-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons built an early lead, and pretty much were on cruise control for most of the day as the Eagles struggled to find a rhythm and made a lot of mental errors. Mike Smith pushes his post-bye record to 4-1, and gets revenge for his lone loss suffered against the Eagles in 2008. This win also snaps the Eagles post-bye win streak of 13 games under Andy Reid. Mike Smith has now won 50 games with the Falcons, making him the winningest coach in franchise history, passing Dan Reeves (1997-2003) with 49 wins.

Matt Ryan had another brilliant performance, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 60 yards on 8 carries, including a 43-yard run late in the game. Michael Turner added 58 yards on 24 carries. Julio Jones and Rodgers tied for the team lead with 5 receptions each. Jones had 123 yards and a score, while Rodgers contributed 20 yards in the passing game. Roddy White (3 catches, 38 yards), Tony Gonzalez (3 catches, 29 yards), and Jason Snelling (3 catches, 16 yards, 1 touchdown) also made contributions. D.J. Davis caught his first two passes of his NFL career for 30 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to start the game for the Falcons. Matt Bryant connected on 3 field goal tries of 43, 29, and 30 yards. Matt Bosher was forced to punt only once, not coming until the fourth quarter which went for 52 yards. He had another punt attempt blocked. Rodgers returned a pair of kickoffs for a total of 30 yards, while Dominique Franks had a single punt return for 11 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons limited the Eagles to only 256 yards of total offense and were able to get to Michael Vick 3 times. Thomas DeCoud led defenders with 9 tackles, and he also recorded one of those sacks. John Abraham (3 tackles, 1 sack); Kroy Biermann (7 tackles, 1 sack); Robert McClain (6 tackles); William Moore (3 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles); Chris Owens (2 tackles); Dunta Robinson (2 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (6 tackles) all had noteworthy games.

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Douglas out, Peters activated

October 26th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report earlier today, upon which wide receiver Harry Douglas was declared out for this weekend’s upcoming contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. Douglas missed the entire week of practice after injuring his left knee and ankle during the team’s Week 6 win over the Oakland Raiders. D.J. Davis has thus far received the majority of snaps as the team’s fourth wide receiver so far this season, but the team may also get Kevin Cone into the mix.

The team also announced that defensive tackle Corey Peters was activated from the NFI to the 53-man active roster today, making him eligible to play this Sunday against the Eagles. Peters returned to practice on Monday, after missing the previous four months due to a foot injury. To make room for Peters on the roster, the team cut cornerback Terrence Johnson.

Also on the Falcons’ injury report was guard Garrett Reynolds (back) as questionable, and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin), tight end Michael Palmer (shoulder), and running back Antone Smith (hamstring) as probable. Palmer and Smith are expected to make their returns to the lineup. Palmer was injured early in the Falcons Week 3 win over the San Diego Chargers, and Smith has been in and out of the lineup over the past month with his hamstring injury. Babineaux has been nursing his groin injury since the Chargers game. Reynolds’ back injury has caused him to be limited in the past two weeks of practices going back prior to the Raider game. Babineaux and Palmer both were limited during Wednesday and Thursday practices, but fully participated in practice today. Smith was a full participant today as well, but was limited on Thursday and missed Wednesday’s practice. Reynolds was limited in all three days of practice this week.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 6 Review

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

Matt Ryan had his worst game of the season. The interceptions didn’t really bother me. Two were due to pressure. I don’t really get bothered by picks when a QB is being aggressive and taking a shot downfield. That was the second INT to Jones. Ryan felt pressure as Garrett Reynolds did not do a good job picking up Shaughnessy on the trap block. And I think Jones is probably more at fault than Ryan for that pick. Since his hand injury, I haven’t seen Julio attacking the ball as aggressively as I think he should be. A player with his sort of size/athleticism, should win every time the ball is in the air. And if/when he develops that singular trait, where Ryan can throw the ball up and know that either Julio is going to catch it or nobody is going to catch it, will be the point where Julio will have lived up to his draft status and become an elite receiver.

I really can’t even be mad at Ryan in this game. Because the offensive line got straight owned in this game. In recent games, not only have I’ve been counting sacks and pressures, but also hurries. Basically hurries are times when there is pressure, but the QB still manages to complete a pass. Also count instances where there is a semblance of heat in the pocket (like enough to make the QB move off his spot). The Falcons gave up 10 pressures, Ryan was sacked once (although I think he was culpable for that), and I counted 12 hurries. Now some of those pressures/sacks/hurries overlap, as there were multiple guys that gave up pressures/hurries on the same play. But given that Ryan had 38 dropbacks, even factoring in overlap, it’s safe to say that on half of his dropbacks Ryan saw pressure. Clabo and Reynolds really struggled in this game. Clabo gave up 4 pressures and 5 hurries from my count, Reynolds was 3 pressures and 2 hurries.

The ground game started well for this game, with Turner earning $4 on his first 4 carries. But then after that it disappeared. Turner’s post-game comments expressing his frustration over his usage is understandable. He started the game well, but then the Falcons went away from him. Now part of that was because the line couldn’t create any push or space. Part of that was because the Falcons basically stopped running the ball. And a small part of that was because Turner just didn’t run as well. The instance that sticks out in my mind was the goalline run after the Edwards fumble recovery, where he had an opportunity to run it in but he was stonewalled. Now the play was not blocked perfectly, as Baker missed his assignment. But still a running back with Turner’s size and supposed power should have been able to get that ball to cross the plane just by leaning forward.

Roddy played well, when Ryan had time to find him. Gonzo had a quiet game, and Julio did some nice things early but then was a non-factor in the second half for the most part.

This game boils down to the offensive line’s struggles. From their two previous matchups, I saw an Oakland Raiders front line that looked mediocre. But apparently during their bye week, Dennis Allen fired up the boys and Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, and Matt Shaughnessy to play excellent football and punk our front five. I hope Mike Smith and Pat HIll can do the same for our front during our bye week. Otherwise, this offense is going to be fairly mediocre.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Roddy White$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Matt Ryan$3$2$0$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$5$0$0$0$0$5.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0-$1$1$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0-$2-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Tommy Gallarda$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00

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Corey Peters could return as early as next week

October 15th, 2012 Comments off

Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com reports that Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters could be activated to the roster as early as next week. Peters spent the first six weeks of the season on the team’s reserve/non-football injury list. Per Pro Football Talk, a three-week window exists in which the team will make a decision on whether or not Peters is able to return to practice. After that point, another three-week window begins in which he will either need to be elevated to the team’s active roster or placed on season-ending injured reserve list.

According to Falcons head coach Mike Smith, the biggest obstacle to Peters’ healthy return is getting back into playing shape after missing the entirety of off-season mini-camps, OTAs, and training camp. Peria Jerry replaced Peters in the starting lineup beside Jonathan Babineaux. In Peters’ absence, Vance Walker has also stepped up to also fill his shoes.

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Bryant’s legs lifts Falcons over Raiders

October 14th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Bryant and Bosher celebrate win

The Falcons extended their 2012 record to 6-0, the best in franchise history record, with a third consecutive comeback win in the fourth quarter over the Oakland Raiders 23-20. This time the heroics rested on the leg of Matt Bryant for the second time this season. Bryant hit a 55-yard field goal to win the game with a second left on the clock. It marked the longest kick during his stint with the Falcons.

Matt Ryan struggled early in this game, with three first half interceptions. He finished the game completing 24 of 37 passes for 249 yards with a touchdown. It snapped Ryan’s 9-game streak of having more touchdowns than interceptions in a game. On the ground, Michael Turner did not get much going finishing with 33 yards on 11 carries. Roddy White led receivers with 6 catches for 72 yards and Ryan’s only touchdown pass. Julio Jones (4 catches, 63 yards), Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 42 yards), and Harry Douglas (5 catches, 37 yards) also contributed in the air. The Falcons offense struggled throughout the game, only converting 2 of 9 third downs and 286 total yards. Bryant made 3 of 4 field goals on the day. He missed his first attempt of 43 yards, but then made kicks of 41, 20, and finally 55 yards in the second half. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 52.8 yards with 2 inside the 20 yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 29 yards with Dominique Franks unable to return any punts.

Defensively, the Falcons kept the game close for the most part despite a struggling offense. While they did give up 474 yards to the Raiders, they were able to generate 3 turnovers, including a pick six by Asante Samuel which gave the Falcons a 20-13 lead with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game. However, Oakland was able to respond with an 8-play, 80-yard scoring drive to tie it up with less than a minute remaining. Dunta Robinson and Sean Weatherspoon tied for the lead with 9 tackles each. John Abraham (5 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble); Jonathan Babineaux (5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble); Kroy Biermann (3 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Akeem Dent (8 tackles); Ray Edwards (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (6 tackles); and Asante Samuel (4 tackles, 1 interception) had notable games.

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Week 6 Preview: Falcons vs. Raiders

October 12th, 2012 Comments off

Typically these previews consist of two parts, the first detailing how the Falcons upcoming opponent could beat them, and the second consisting of what the Falcons can do to counter that. But this week, I just couldn’t really find enough material to write up how the Oakland Raiders could beat the Falcons this week.

Not to say it’s not possible, but it really is just a repeat of what I’ve said the past two weeks with the potential gameplans of the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins. The Raiders will rely on a ground attack to keep the explosive Falcons offense sidelined, and try to generate some big plays offensively, as well as create turnovers on defense and try to get a boost on special teams. Not exactly a ground-breaking formula, as it’s going to become the norm for most teams that play the Falcons this year.

But as the Panthers, Redskins, and Raiders all try to adopt the same gameplan/formula for beating the Falcons, unfortunately for the Raiders they are the weakest team of the three. And thus, it will be hardest for them to execute such a plan. See, in the cases of both Carolina and Washington, they had a couple of playmakers on either side of the ball that if things went their way they could really challenge the Falcons. And to a certain extent, things did go both teams’ ways, which is why the Falcons had to come from behind in both games to pull out the victory.

But I don’t expect the Raiders to get such luck. While Darren McFadden presents a challenge to the Falcons defense, I don’t think he presents as much as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Alfred Morris did. The Raiders run a zone-blocking scheme similar to what the Redskins have, but they are not quite as good upfront, and McFadden has not quite gotten the hang of the Greg Knapp offense. Outside a 64-yard run against the Steelers in Week 3, McFadden is averaging 2.4 yards on his other 57 carries. That run, and another are the only gains he’s had of the year longer than 10 yards. Morris has been one of the better runners after contact in the league this year, while McFadden is more of a finesse, speed guy. I don’t expect Falcons defenders to have as much trouble getting him down as they did against Morris.

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Palmer and Smith to miss Raider game

October 12th, 2012 Comments off

Today, the Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s home game against the Oakland Raiders. Tight end Michael Palmer (shoulder) and running back Antone Smith (hamstring) were both declared out for the game, as neither player practiced this week. Palmer will miss his third consecutive game after suffering his shoulder injury in the first quarter of the team’s Week 3 win over the San Diego Chargers. Smith missed two games due to his hamstring injury in Weeks 3 and 4, but returned to practice last week and suited up for the Week 5 matchup against the Redskins. But he reaggravated the injury and will also miss his third game of the 2012 season due to injury.

Also on the injury report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (groin) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (ankle) as questionable. Babineaux was limited in all practices this week. Nicholas was limited in Thursday and Friday practices after missing Wednesday. Nicholas suffered his injury late against the Redskins last weekend. He was replaced by Mike Peterson in the lineup. However middle linebacker Akeem Dent took over his role in the team’s nickel defense. If Babineaux does not suit up or has his role reduced, it will likely result in Vance Walker getting a start and/or Travian Robertson seeing increased reps. Robertson has been active for every game thus far this season, but has only garnered playing time late in the team’s Week 3 blowout of the Chargers.

Players that appeared on the injury report but were listed as probable for the Raider game include: wide receivers Kevin Cone (knee) and D.J. Davis (knee); defensive tackle Peria Jerry (thigh), center Todd McClure (pectoral), safety William Moore (hip), guard Garrett Reynolds (back), and cornerback Dunta Robinson (shoulder). All seven players fully participated in Friday’s practice. Cone, Davis, and Robinson also were full participants on Thursday.

Falcons try out a trio of safeties

October 11th, 2012 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday that the Falcons tried out a trio of safeties this week: Sean Baker, David Caldwell, and Brodney Pool. The Falcons likely are kicking the tires on these free agent safeties due to concerns about their depth at the position. William Moore suffered a hip injury during the team’s Week 4 win over the Carolina Panthers and has been limited in every practice since. Currently the Falcons depth at safety includes veteran Chris Hope and rookie Charles Mitchell.

Baker was an undrafted free agent out of Ball State, that signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past May. He was cut at the end of training camp. In the Bucs’ preseason finale against the Washington Redskins, Baker recorded 6 tackles and a pair of interceptions. He was a four-year starter at Ball State, tallying a total of 338 tackles, 18 interceptions, 39 pass deflections, and 6 forced fumbles.

Caldwell started 13 games last season for the Indianapolis Colts as an injury replacement for Melvin Bullitt at strong safety. He finished the season with 67 tackles and 4 passes defended. The 5-11, 212-pound safety was an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 2010 out of William & Mary. He is noted for his ability as a run defender. He was released by the Colts at the end of this past summer’s camp.

Pool is the noted veteran of the three players worked out. He was most recently with the Dallas Cowboys this past summer. He was cut after being a free agent pickup in March. Pool spent five seasons with the Cleveland Browns (2005-09) before joining the New York Jets in 2010. He was originally a second round pick by the Browns out of Oklahoma in 2005. In 2006, he spent time as a starter both at free safety and cornerback due to injuries. He was moved permanently to free safety in 2007 where he started 41 games with the Browns over the next three seasons. During that span, he recorded 9 interceptions, including a career-high 4 in 2009. He signed a free agent deal with the Jets in 2010. He would start 18 games at both safety spots during his two year stint with the Jets. In 2011, he started 6 games replacing an injured Jim Leonhard in the lineup late in the year. He finished with 36 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 1 interception.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 5 Review

October 10th, 2012 Comments off

This was not Ryan’s best game at least in terms of how he started, as he had 5 poor throws on the first two series. I think the slick conditions could be a culprit, but I noticed the majority of those missed throws were downfield ones. The deep ball to Jones on the first series was almost counted as a drop, but it wasn’t clear that Jones would have come down in bounds, so ultimately it was chalked up by another poor throw by Ryan. But after the pick-six, Ryan seemed to settle in and play at his usually high level this week.

Tony Gonzalez had an excellent game, winding up with 7 of the Falcons 19 passing first downs in this game, which doesn’t include his touchdown. Jones had a nice bounce-back game, although part of it seemed to be that there was a concerted effort by Ryan and Koetter to get him the ball in the first half. 11 of his first 15 targets came before halftime. Roddy White didn’t get a ton of work, but he made the most of his opportunities.

Turner had a nice game on the ground despite a limited workload. The blocking up front was solid given how many times the Falcons dropped back to throw, and there were holes created on the ground. It’s extremely rare in games where Sam Baker stands out as a run blocker, but he did a good job in this game with a pair of key blocks (including a good one on Turner’s TD run). McClure had his trademark struggles in pass protection vs. the 3-4 nose tackle, but he did a fairly solid job run blocking at times. There were really no bad performances by the Falcons blockers up front despite only modest earnings by all except Baker. Giving up only 4 pressures/sacks in 53 dropbacks is rock-solid. There were a couple of times where they gave up some pressure, but Ryan was able to move around the pocket and still find an open receiver. Baker and McClure were usually the culprits on those plays. But for the most part they gave Ryan ample time to find open receivers, and I did notice Ryan took more shots than normal downfield, which is also a testament to added time in the pocket.

The Joe Hawley Experiment at fullback/tight end did not really work out in the passing game. But their jumbo package with Hawley and Johnson on the field did seem to be quasi-effective in opening run lanes. I’m sure most people groaned when Hawley dropped those two passes, although I found them humorously inept. Against a better opponent in a tighter game, it might have been more irksome, but for now I can shrug it off as a one-game outlier.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$14$1$0$0$0-$2$13.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$1$11$0$0-$1$11.00
Michael Turner$0$9-$1$0$0$0$8.00
Julio Jones$0$0$7$0$0$0$7.00
Roddy White$0$0$5-$1$0$0$4.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$2-$1$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0-$2$0$0$0-$2.00

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