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Archive for November, 2012

Defense lifts Falcons over Saints

November 30th, 2012 Comments off

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Babineaux celebrates an interception

The Falcons defense stepped up and created a number of turnovers against the New Orleans Saints to pull out the ugly 23-13 victory. The game came down to the wire with a strong defensive effort and lackluster offensive one for the Falcons. The Falcons are now a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday from clinching the NFC South division crown this week with their 11-1 record.

Matt Ryan struggled in this game, completing 18 of 33 for 165 yards and a touchdown. Michael Turner led the team on the ground with 83 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He had a late fourth quarter fumble that gave the Saints one last late game opportunity to try and steal the win. Jacquizz Rodgers had 43 yards on 8 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with 5 grabs for 48 yards. Tony Gonzalez had 4 catches for 58 yards and Ryan’s lone touchdown pass. Jason Snelling caught 4 passes for 28 yards. Roddy White had a quiet night, catching only 1 pass for 20 yards. Matt Bryant really made up for the stalled offense, connecting on 3 field goals of 45, 29, and a 55-yarder that put the team up two scores with over 4 minutes left in the game. Matt Bosher punted 6 times, matching a season-high, averaging 53.2 yards and having 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers returned 1 kickoff for 22 yards and Dominique Franks returned 1 punt for 13 yards. The offense started strong, rushing well on their opening drive, but then stalled out, unable to take advantage of multiple Saints turnovers. They started the game with 101 yards rushing in the first half, but only had 23 yards on 12 carries in the second half. They only managed to score 6 points off the five Saints turnovers. They finished 1 for 11 on third downs, unable to convert their first one until less than 7 minutes were left in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Saints racked up 436 total yards on the day. They also struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Saints to convert 7 of 14 on that down. But they managed to pick off Drew Brees five times, which cut short a number of go-ahead or tying drives for the Saints. The run defense performed better than their last outing against the Saints, limiting them to just 38 yards in the first half. The Saints finished with 101 yards on the day. William Moore led the team with 11 tackles, including 2 for loss, and also picked off Brees twice. His second interception helped seal the Falcons victory after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass deflections); Jonathan Babineaux (1 interception); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 interception); Robert McClain (6 tackles, 2 pass deflections); Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles); Chris Owens (3 tackles, 2 pass deflections); Dunta Robinson (7 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (4 tackles, 1 interception) all had noteworthy games.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 12 Review

November 29th, 2012 Comments off

A solid game for the offense particularly when it came to producing some explosive plays at key moments. Most of those plays came via the legs and speed of Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers had a career high in earnings, collecting as a runner, receiver, blocker, and on special teams. It’s probably about as good a game from him that you might be able to expect from him. The disparity in burst and elusiveness between Quizz and Turner has been noticeable in recent weeks, and it really doesn’t get more apparent than it was this week. The Falcons offense now is predicated on generating big plays and the coaches will be doing themselves a favor by continuing to give Rodgers more snaps, and more carries on the ground.

But I did notice in this game that many of the Turner runs were poorly blocked. It’s almost as if the team’s effort goes down when he’s running the ball. It’s a ridiculous statement to make, yes I know. Or maybe the Bucs effort goes up because they are keying on the run harder. That sounds more plausible, but it’s not any more provable just from watching tape.

Ryan had another solid game, although there were a couple of missed throws he had this week that I’m not sure he would have missed a month or so ago. It’s a very, very minor concern at this point, but it’s something I want to keep my eye on going forward. The last player I want to see getting into a bit of a lull is Ryan.

Julio Jones had another big game. He also had a pair of dropped touchdowns (one of which was negated by his OPI penalty). The actual drop was a bad throw on Ryan’s part, but Jones did an excellent job adjusting to the ball behind him and had a chance to catch it as it sort of bounced off his chest. I’m going to say it right now, I think drops are going to be a regular thing with Julio going forward. His range and ability to get his hands on balls that many, rather most other receivers cannot is going to lead to a lot of drops. Especially when you use the litmus test where if he can get both hands on the ball (which generally I do), then it should be caught. It just might be similar to Terrell Owens (a comparison someone made in the forums), although towards the end of his career it seemed like T.O. dropped a lot of easy passes due to poor concentration. Jones has certainly had his share of lapses in concentration during his short Falcon career, but it wasn’t a problem this week and hasn’t been the past few games from what I can recall. Brandon Marshall is that same way, and all three guys are/were physical specimens which occasionally seems to be a disadvantage (although I welcome that trade-off for all the times when it’s a major advantage).

A quiet game for Roddy White, but he made some nice plays when it counted. I think his low production had more to do with Ryan attacking matchups he liked with the weaker Buc corners. And that often was Julio on whomever. Gonzo was money on third downs, as usual. I did like the flat pass to Douglas working out of trips. I’ve seen the team use that a bit more often in recent weeks, and I think it’s a nice way to manufacture yards on first down via the pass, instead of relying on the ground attack. I hope to see more of that the rest of the season. If you’ve been wondering where Douglas can make an impact on this offense down the stretch it’s potentially there.

This also was one of the better games for the pass protection, who had a nice long run of not doing a great job. A couple of hurries where the Bucs were able to move Ryan off his spot, but nothing grievous outside a pressure given up by Baker, and a hit/hurry given up by Cox on a completion to Jones.

The run blocking still needs work however. The Falcons just really struggle to create any push at the line of scrimmage. Both of those late runs by Turner that went for negative yardage were poorly blocked. Turner made a mistake on the last one, and had he not fought for extra yards, it could have been “just” a loss of two. But I’m not sure I can really blame Turner too much because it’s silly to tell him that he should let Adam Hayward tackle him. The mistake was going deeper in the backfield however, not breaking Hayward’s tackle. But nonetheless, the run was doomed from the start. Again, even if Turner had not backtracked on that play, the best you could have hoped for was a loss of 2 yards, which is a failure on the O-line.

Clabo had both of his key blocks on early Rodgers runs where he pulled and was able to cut a defender. The first was on Quizz’s opening carry for 20 yards, the second on the 5-yard TD run. But Clabo also was credited for missing the block on that -8 yard run by Turner at the end. Other Falcon blockers missed their assignments as well (Konz and Johnson) but it was Gerald McCoy beating Clabo that really blew up that play.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$14$2$0$0$0-$2$14.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$9$2$1$1$0$13.00
Julio Jones$0$1$8$1$0-$1$9.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Falcons miss opportunity with Babin going to Jaguars

November 28th, 2012 Comments off

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Eagles released defensive end Jason Babin, sending small shockwaves around the league. Babin had 18 sacks a year ago, ranking third in the league. He was also currently leading the Eagles with 5.5 sacks. It was a slight disappointment for the Eagles after last year’s monster season. But the Eagles seemingly looking towards their future and wanting to give more reps to young pass rushers like Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, decided to part ways with Babin. And Babin would become subject to the waivers system with his release.

It was a move comparable to that of the Falcons own decision to part ways with Ray Edwards a few weeks ago. That same summer that the Falcons handed a five-year, $27.5 million contract to Edwards, the Eagles gave out a similar deal to Babin. With 5/16ths of his $5.6 million base salary counting towards any team that claimed him, the 32-year old Babin would come at a relative bargain.

But in the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Babin today. The Jaguars, with the league’s second-worst record, had waiver priority over all teams except the Kansas City Chiefs. Due to having the best record, the Falcons were ranked last in waiver priority. Essentially meaning that Babin would need to clear waivers in order with no other team claiming him for the Falcons to get him. Doubtful given the league-wide value on pass rushers. Even if Babin is not the same player he was a year ago, he still would be considered an upgrade on a lot of rosters, including potentially the Falcons.

Today, it was announced that besides the Jaguars, seven other teams put in waiver claims with the Falcons. Separate reports have indicated that the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, along with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins putting a claim on him. Who the last team was is not known, but it’s doubtful that it was the Falcons given last night’s report from D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC that sources indicated that the Falcons had no interest in Babin.

Whether Babin would provide a boost to the Falcons pass rush, it was certainly worth a look by the Falcons to try and claim him. The Falcons pass rush is one of the most glaring weaknesses on their defense. With their run defense making some improvements in recent weeks, the pass rush now may rank as the biggest weakness for the defense. And lacking a good pass rush is a major liability come playoff time, for this 10-1 Falcon team that is attempting to win its first playoff game in the Mike Smith Era.

If Babin proved to be another Ray Edwards and was a non-factor down the stretch for the Falcons, it would be a worthwhile risk. Unlike with Edwards where the Falcons gave up $11 million guaranteed, Babin would only be guaranteed about $1.6 million left of his base salary. Relatively speaking, he would have been easy to cut ties with in the off-season. If he worked out, then it could have been a significant boost to the pass rush and defense for a stretch run for a Falcon team that has lofty goals this year.

Instead, the Falcons will be reliant on John Abraham stepping up. Abraham has been on a recent lull in his production, but hopefully it is due to Abraham gearing up for the playoff push as opposed to hitting a wall. Biermann has stepped up his play in recent weeks, and the Falcons are hoping that the infusion of youth with Edwards departure might help out.

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Samuel questionable against Saints

November 28th, 2012 Comments off
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Asante Samuel

The Falcons announced their weekly injury report this afternoon, earlier than normal due to the fact that they will host the New Orleans Saints tomorrow on Thursday Night Football. On the report, cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were listed as questionable after sitting out all three days of practice this week. Samuel was nursing a bum shoulder, which he has been limited with in recent weeks. He re-injured the shoulder last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the fourth quarter. Jerry is nursing the same quadricep injury that kept him out of last week’s game. He’s dealt with thigh and knee injuries already this year which have curtailed his reps in recent weeks. Both could get welcome rest after this week’s game, as they will receive an extra three days of rest as they will not play again until December 9. If Samuel is unable to go, then Robert McClain will likely take reps at left cornerback, while Chris Owens plays in the nickel. If Jerry does not play, then Vance Walker and Travian Robertson are likely to see an increase in reps. A week ago, both players saw season-high snaps with 49 and 16, respectively.

Also appearing on the injury report listed as probable were tackle Sam Baker (groin), wide receivers Kevin Cone (groin) and Harry Douglas (ankle), safety Charles Mitchell (calf), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (knee), tight end Michael Palmer (back), cornerback Dunta Robinson, defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs), and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Besides Robinson, all of the players were limited in practice this week due to the short week. Robinson was added to the report on Tuesday, after missing practice due to an illness.

A key injury for the Saints is right tackle Zach Strief, who was listed as questionable with a groin injury. Strief was limited in practice all week after missing three games. If he does not go, then Will Robinson will be expected to start at right tackle. Robinson is the Saints fourth string right tackle, and was only signed to the roster on November 20.

Out this week for the Saints are defensive end Junior Gallette (ankle), wide receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder/ankle), tackle Charles Brown (knee), defensive tackle Tom Johnson (back), and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (concussion). Tight end David Thomas (knee) and cornerback Corey White (knee) are questionable. Cornerback Elbert Mack (concussion) is probable.

Falcons scoot by Bucs

November 25th, 2012 Comments off
Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Jones runs by Leonard Johnson for an 80-yard TD

The Falcons extend their record to 10-1 with a 24-23 win over division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. It was another nail-biter that potentially came down to the final play, as the Bucs had a chance to win with a hail mary as time expired.

Matt Ryan started off strong, as he completed his first 10 passes. He finished the game completing 26 of 32 passes for 353 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 49 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Michael Turner also scored a touchdown, adding 17 yards on 13 carries. In the air, Julio Jones had a strong game despite still recovering from an ankle injury. He led receivers with 6 catches for a career-high 147 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 62 yards), Roddy White (5 catches, 57 yards), Jason Snelling (3 catches, 33 yards), and Rodgers (2 catches, 30 yards) also made big contributions on the day. Matt Bryant hit on only 1 of 3 field goal attempts. He connected on a 31-yarder, but missed from 22 and 48 yards. Matt Bosher punted only once for 45 yards, placing it inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 36.5 yards, while Dominique Franks had a single punt return for 10 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons run defense stepped up big and bottled up Doug Martin. He and the Bucs team was held to just 50 yards on the ground. They did give up 326 total yards and allowed 4 of 10 third down conversions. Stephen Nicholas led the unit with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles, 1 sack); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles); Dunta Robinson (6 tackles, 1 sack); and Sean Weatherspoon (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 11 Review

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

An underwhelming performance for the offense. Granted, the Arizona Cardinals feature probably the best defense the Falcons will see all year long, and the fact that Julio Jones was not healthy all contribute to the poor performance. But the Falcons still managed to have opportunities in this game that they did not take advantage of.

I have to give the line some credit, as pressure was not a major issue in this game. Blalock had a few key blocks, and Turner had some nice runs, showing good power at times. By league standards, it was a mediocre game for the Falcons running the ball. But considering the struggles the Falcons have had this year, it was a good day by their standards. That’s how far things have fallen with the Falcons ground attack over the years.

As for Ryan’s interceptions, at least two came on instances where the Cardinals were able to blitz and get a free rusher to Ryan. I don’t really think you can blame the line for that, since that tends to be under the jurisdiction of the QB to make the proper adjustments. Other than a handful of bad throws, I thought Ryan played well otherwise.

Give the Cards some credit, they covered Gonzalez well. There were times where Ryan was looking for him and he was covered. Jones clearly was hurt and lacked explosion in his cuts. Douglas stepped up in the fourth quarter and made a number of big catches to help this team pull out the victory.

It also looked like McClure’s injury bothered him as he had a bad series on the opening drive of the third quarter (he was injured on the penultimate drive in the second quarter). I don’t know what that will mean for future games, but it certainly tells me that the injury was more severe than probably initially thought when he just managed to miss a single snap.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9-$1$0$0$0$8.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$3$0$0-$1$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$3$0$0-$1$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Matt Ryan$3$0$0$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0-$2$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Julio Jones$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Falcons add Gunn to the roster

November 20th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that they have signed guard Harland Gunn off the New Orleans Saints practice squad to their roster. He will be replacing Joe Hawley, who is currently serving a four-game suspension. Gunn adds depth at guard, and potentially could get looks as a reserve center. During his summer with the Dallas Cowboys, he worked some at center due to injuries sustained along the Cowboys line. Gunn was cut by the Cowboys at the end of training camp, and has been on the Saints practice squad since.

Gunn originally joined the Cowboys this past spring as an undrafted free agent out of Miami. There, he played alongside former Falcon undrafted free agent signee center Tyler Horn. Over his final two seasons at Miami, Gunn started 25 games beside Horn at left guard. He also started 5 games during his sophomore season at right guard.

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Hawley suspended 4 games for PEDs

November 19th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced earlier this afternoon that reserve lineman Joe Hawley would be suspended for the next four games due to a violation of the NFL’s policy against the use of performance enhancers. Players can choose to appeal their suspensions and continue to play until a second ruling is made, however Hawley will elect not to do so and his suspension will begin immediately. He will not be eligible to return to the team until December 17 after their Week 15 matchup against the New York Giants.

Hawley suited up briefly this past Sunday for a single snap at center after Todd McClure left the game with a lower leg injury. Hawley provides depth at both center and guard on gameday. The team may opt to add another center to the roster with the now available roster spot formerly held by Hawley, to shore up depth.

His agent, Kevin Omell, released a statement via the NFLPA:

“In September, Joe Hawley made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill. He did not file the paperwork to apply for an exemption for this medication, and now understands that the NFL/NFLPA drug policies have strict rules.

He is sincerely sorry to his teammates, coaches and Falcons fans for the consequences of this oversight. Joe will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help the team continue the success they’ve achieved thus far this season. He has chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation which is why he will not exercise his appeal rights and will begin serving the suspension immediately.”

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Falcons squeak by Cardinals

November 18th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

White gets past a Cardinals defender

The Falcons had to scrap and claw for an ugly victory over the Arizona Cardinals today by a score of 23-19. The Falcons played from behind until the very end of the game. The offense struggled with 6 turnovers on the day. But the defense held firm with a strong performance, which including a turnover-turned-touchdown on their part.

Matt Ryan struggled with 5 interceptions, three of which came off deflected passes. He completed 28 of 46 passes for 301 yards and no touchdowns. On the ground, the Falcons found little success with Michael Turner leading rushers with 46 yards on 15 carries and the Falcons lone offensive touchdown. Roddy White had a good day, catching 8 passes for 123 yards. Harry Douglas (5 catches, 48 yards), and Jacquizz Rodgers (5 catches, 35 yards) also made contributions. Tony Gonzalez had 3 catches for 33 yards, as did Julio Jones who managed to play despite missing the entire week of practice due to an ankle injury. Jones would leave the game late in the third quarter after reaggravating his injury. Matt Bryant was excellent, making all 3 of his field goal attempts from 51, 28, and 48 yards out. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 51.3 yards with 2 placed inside the 20. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 2 kickoffs for 53 yards, while Dominique Franks had 4 punt returns for 44 yards. The Falcons did give up some return yardage to Arizona on special teams, giving up 125 yards on kickoff returns. The Falcons were able to fare fairly well on third downs throughout the game (7 of 16), but turnovers halted and stalled too many drives, preventing them from scoring their first touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, the Falcons were stout against a weak Arizona Cardinals offense, halting them despite favorable field position on many of the turnovers. The Cardinals struggled to convert third downs, converting only 2 of 16 all game. They held the Cardinals passing game to just 41 yards for the game, although they did give up 137 yards on the ground. The defense was also able to generate a touchdown of their own off a sack-strip by John Abraham, which Jonathan Babineaux picked up for a score. Robert McClain led defenders with 7 tackles. Abraham (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble); Babineaux (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown); Kroy Biermann (3 tackles); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles, 1 sack); Chris Owens (4 tackles); and Asante Samuel (3 pass deflections) had noteworthy games.

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Super Bowl or Bust for 2012 Falcons?

November 17th, 2012 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Might be the Best We’ll Ever See of Matt Ryan

This is an idea that has been rattling around my brain for a couple of weeks now, and only now am I really putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) on the subject.

I have been thinking about where this team’s future lies, and it makes me wonder that if this year’s Falcon team doesn’t go deep into the playoffs, and I’m talking like conference championship deep, then they might live to regret it.

I have come to this conclusion because from what I can tell, the league as a whole is down. There is really no great team that everybody points to as saying the path to the Super Bowl goes through them. The team that many have ranked at or near the top throughout the entire season, the Houston Texans doesn’t quite fit our classic definition of a great team. At least no one looks at the Texans and sees them as “scary good,” a team that you’d immediate cross the proverbial street to avoid if seen coming around the corner. How does that compare to some recent years? Back in 2009, you had the Colts and Saints both nearly run the table and go 16-0. The following year you had the Patriots scoring in droves, as well as the Steelers sporting a dominant defense. In 2011, it was again the Packers nearly pushing for perfection, and you now had the 49ers thrown into the mix as the top team with a dominant defense.

Now this year, teams like Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco do sport those caliber of defenses. But all three offensively are primarily running teams. If teams helmed by Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, and/or Alex Smith respectively were playing in the Super Bowl, your first instinct is probably to put your money on the other team. All three quarterbacks have a long way to prove they can win the big games between now and February.

And offensively, the two lone standouts are the Patriots and Broncos. And while this year’s Patriot team is on pace to put up the most points it’s had since the 2007 season, it’s managing to also be on pace to give up more points than they did a year ago. With early season losses to Arizona and Seattle, and some other close shaves, this year’s Patriot team looks a lot more vulnerable than some recent years’ teams.

Maybe it’s because he’s on a different team, or because the Falcons beat them, or some other reason, but it’s hard to really buy the Peyton Manning-led Broncos as an elite team. They are a good team no doubt, but in comparison to past Colt teams and other teams in recent memory, they too look much more flawed.

Old reliables like the Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Packers are also down in comparison to recent years. Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two teams that generally rely on their defenses to make deep runs in the playoffs, now sport old defenses that are nothing special. The Saints and Packers typically exploit high octane offenses to do their damage, but neither unit is really separating itself from the pack this year.

The point I’m slowly working my way towards is that we might look back on this season and see that everything was ripe for the taking. Without a clearly defined strong team that everyone has to go through to get to the Super Bowl, 2012 might represent the Falcons best chance.

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