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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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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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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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Camp Battles 2012: Special Teams

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons will have arguably the most amount of competition for roles on special teams in seemingly a long while this summer. The team is two-deep at all three specialist spots, and both return spots are completely open to competition.

It is likely that the incumbents at all three specialist spots will retain their jobs with Matt Bryant at kicker, Matt Bosher at punter, and Joe Zelenka at long snapper. All three players have given the team little issue to worry about. Bryant is the savvy veteran that has been highly productive and consistent in Atlanta. He’s made 28 of 30 kicks at home, with his two misses being a blocked 55-yarder against Buffalo in 2009 and a missed 41-yarder against the Saints last year. But Bryant isn’t getting any younger, and one of the issues that often comes with age as a kicker is leg strength. So far, Bryant hasn’t shown any significant drop-off from long range, but it’s not a coincidence that the player they brought in to push him is known for his leg strength. Undrafted rookie Erik Folk will push Bryant, and while he’s a longshot to win the job he’ll be given an opportunity to impress the staff if he can showcase a powerful and accurate leg in camp.

At punter, Matt Bosher got off to a very slow start last year. In fact, there was little debate to who was the league’s worst punter over the first 6-8 weeks of the season because it was indeed Bosher. But in the second half of the season, he really began to come on, and his ability to drive kickoffs into the endzone with consistency as well as get good placement on his punts saw a huge boost to the production of the Falcons special teams unit. He’ll be pushed by undrafted rookie Dawson Zimmerman. As is the case with the kicker spot, Zimmerman will have to be extremely good to unseat Bosher, who cannot afford another slow start to this season.

Zelenka might have the most tenuous hold on a roster spot among the three specialists. The team made an extra effort to bring a bunch of snappers this off-season, which could be a referendum on their desire to get younger at the position. In January, they added Corey Adams and Scott Albritton. Neither made it to camp, but they also signed undrafted rookie Josh Harris. It seemed that the team had plans to move on from Zelenka this off-season. He was one of the team’s final free agent re-signings, a move made in late March seemingly at a point when they realized they could afford to bring him back. That gives Harris a better than average chance to actually unseat Zelenka. The fact that Harris was actually a pretty solid snapper at Auburn. Harris probably needs another year or two to add polish, but if he can hit the ground running this summer, it would not be a surprise if he’s the team’s opening day snapper.

But most of the attention paid to special teams this year will be at the returner spots. The team will have open competitions for both kickoff and punt return duties this summer. While the team feels relatively secure at punt returner, as Harry Douglas and Dominique Franks will be pitted against each other. Douglas handled punt returns in the latter half of his rookie season in 2008, and Franks has been productive in limited action in each of the past two summers there. Between the two of them, the team should get a fairly competent replacement for the departed Eric Weems. Douglas appears ahead in the competition, but the positive for both is that losing that competition won’t cost either a roster spot.

The kickoff return duties are a lot less settled. The team will likely give several players looks this summer at the spot, but James Rodgers, Antone Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers appear to be the front-runners. James Rodgers was productive kickoff returner during his days at Oregon State, but will have to show that some of the burst he lost due to a knee injury in 2010 has returned. Smith is considered a dark horse candidate and because of his already established value on special teams coverage might be in prime position to win the job. Given the increased role on offense, the team would probably prefer not to use Quizz as a returner.

Depending on how the competition goes during the early days and weeks of camp, the team could easily throw others into the competition, including Brent Grimes, Franks, Douglas, Robbie Frey, and Marcus Jackson into the mix. It’s also possible that depending on how the competition goes the team could look elsewhere for an established returner on the waiver wire come August.

While the new rules around kickoffs lessen the impact that having a good kickoff returner can have on the game, it still remains important to have someone effective in that role. With Weems, the Falcons had a player that they were confident could field kicks 5 or so yards deep in the endzone and advance the ball past the 20-yard line on a fairly consistent basis. Not having that player won’t have a hugely negative impact on field position, but it does have still have a negative one. It’s mostly about trust. And if the coaching staff cannot trust the player to get 25 or more yards and the team is forced to kneel for touchbacks, then you’re not really helping the team.

Year-End Superlatives: Special Teams MVP

January 4th, 2012 Comments off

Very little attention is paid to special teams generally speaking. The only time this unit gets much pub is when your fat Polish kicker booms a 60-yard field goal, or some team is foolish enough to kick/punt the ball to your game-breaking returner. The Falcons did not have any of those moments this year.

At the midpoint, Matt Bryant was the pick. Bryant had been solid up to that point, but really he stood out because the other best options: Matt Bosher and Eric Weems had really have undistinguished years.

But that changed in the second half, particularly with Bosher. In the first half of the season, you had to go out of your way to make a case that Bosher was not the worst punter in the league. But in the latter half of the season, he was consistently kicking at a high level. Almost all of his kickoffs went into the endzone, and he was consistently making big 50 yard punts every game and pinning teams deep in their own territory. Early in the year, he was struggling just to kick the ball 40 yards.

Weems had high expectations going into this year because of his Pro Bowl status last year. And while he was solid this year, without the big plays, he just didn’t really have a good enough year to deserve much credit here. Bryant’s second half of the season wasn’t particularly stand-out. He was still his usual solid self, but there weren’t the clutch last minute kicks that we had been so accustomed to seeing earlier this year and in 2010.

So in the end the award goes to Bosher, who went from zero to hero.

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Falcons Highlight of the Week

November 17th, 2011 Comments off

Unfortunately, this little feature has slipped my mind the past two weeks. So we’ll bring it back again. This week’s highlight has to be Jason Snelling’s 24-yard catch and run where he broke several tackles and rumbled through practically all of the Saints defense. He would not be denied.

Snelling Rumbles

Honorable Mentions

Harry Douglas 46-yard catch & run

Ryan threads needle to Gonzo

Bryant’s game-tying FG

 

 

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Falcons Midseason Superlatives

November 10th, 2011 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Corey Peters: up and coming

Here are my picks for the Falcons players most deserving of these superlative awards through the first half of the 2011 season:

Offensive MVP: Tony Gonzalez

This was tough because in recent games, Michael Turner is probably the most valuable player on offense. When Turner runs well, the Falcons tend to win. But I thought Gonzo is deserving because he’s been consistent throughout the entire first half of the season. Turner was pretty average through the first 4 games of the year, although part of that could be blamed on the changes up front. But he just didn’t look like the same Michael Turner that he has been in the past month. He’s now running harder than he was early on, and thus part of his struggles were on him. With that said, Gonzo has been money throughout the year, particularly in the redzone where he is basically our entire redzone offense. Another reason for putting him here, is because I was one of those people that thought after last year, Gonzo was done. Still a solid, productive tight end, but no longer one of the best at his position. Boy, has he shown me I was dead wrong. He still has the best hands in the business, and while his explosiveness isn’t what it once was, he still has made a number of big plays at critical moments in games.

Defensive MVP: Sean Weatherspoon

If you had to pick one Falcon defender that is truly deserving of making the Pro Bowl this year, then it’s definitely Spoon. He’s been playing lights out all year long, making plays vs. the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. He’s been a valuable every down defender. While Spoon hasn’t been perfect, like Gonzalez on offense he has made his presence known in virtually every game. While he flashed this level of ability early on as a rookie, he’s taken things to a brand new level. And if he maintains this level of play in the second half of the season, he should definitely be on his way to Hawaii. If I had to choose a runner-up, it would probably be Brent Grimes. But he’s not having quite the impact he was having a year ago, partially because teams are not throwing at him as often as they did a year ago. But Grimes is staying playing at a fairly high level, just isn’t getting as many opportunities to make those big, game-changing impact players like he was a year ago.

Special Teams MVP: Matt Bryant

Who else would you pick? “Money” Matt Bryant has been everything his nickname indicates he should be.

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Falcons re-sign Clabo and Bryant

July 28th, 2011 Comments off
Icon SMI

Tyson Clabo

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the Falcons have come to terms with free agent offensive tackle Tyson Clabo. Pat Yasinskas of ESPN also reportsthat the team has re-signed fellow free agent kicker Matt Bryant as well.

Negotiations with Clabo had been ongoing since teams were allowed to begin to contact free agents on Tuesday. Clabo had been pursued by the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks according to reports, with talks with Buffalo picking up on Wednesday after the Seahawks signed free agent Robert Gallery.

Terms of the deal with either party were undisclosed. It is likely the Falcons reached a long-term deal with Clabo, while settling for a short-term deal with the 36-year old Bryant. Bryant’s re-signing likely ends any possibility that punter Michael Koenen returns to the team. Sixth round pick Matt Bosher, who signed earlier today, pulled double duty as a kicker and punter while at the University of Miami will likely focus solely on punting with Bryant in the fold.

Bryant was perfect on 13 tries in the Georgia Dome last year, and made three game-winning field goals. The Falcons first picked up Bryant late in the 2009 season after struggles with Jason Elam.

UPDATE: NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that Clabo signed a five-year deal worth $25 million, including $11.5 million guaranteed. The deal can max out at $27 million.

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Camp Battles 2011: Special Teams

July 18th, 2011 Comments off

It will be important for the Falcons to settle their issues here in free agency. Both incumbents are impending free agents, although it’s likely only one will be retained.

The likelier of the pair appears to be Matt Bryant who is coming off a resurgent year, hitting three game-winners and being perfect in the Georgia Dome. That likely will leave Michael Koenen out in the cold as the team is ready to move on after an inconsistent season.

The team made plans for this it would seem with the sixth round selection of Matt Bosher. Bosher was a dual threat at the University of Miami, but spent most of his time as a punter. He also served as that team’s kickoff specialist, making him an ideal candidate to replace Koenen in both capacities.

He’ll be pushed by journeyman Ken Parrish, who has a better than average chance due to the lockout and having a bit more professional experience having been with the Eagles the past two off-seasons and working in the United Football League last fall.

It’s Bosher’s job to lose, but it’s definitely a position that the team will keep the best player since field position is very important. This is a position that could be closely scrutinized throughout the summer, as if neither Bosher nor Parrish seem to be pulling their weight, the Falcons could opt to go in a brand new direction.

Long snapper Joe Zelenka is probably safe. The Falcons have brought in undrafted long snappers in recent summers to push him, but it’s probably not necessary this summer since Zelenka has been very consistent for the 21 games he’s served as the team’s snapper.

Eric Weems is unlikely to lose his return job coming off a Pro Bowl year. Although the team may give some opportunities to some of their younger players to see if they can add some value. Jacquizz Rodgers, Andy Strickland, and Dominique Franks could get opportunities. The Falcons may also give top rookie Julio Jones a chance as well. However, the Falcons won’t be looking for someone to replace Weems, instead looking at options in case he goes down with an injury.

Falcons Weekly Round-Up 6/3

June 3rd, 2011 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Georgia Dome

Recapping the headlines and news involving the Falcons from the week of May 29…

Georgia Dome expected to be in red without NFL season

The Georgia World Congress Center approved two budgets this week, based around whether the Falcons play this season or do not. If the Falcons do not play, then the Georgia Dome is expected to lose $1.5 million for the 2012 fiscal year, which ends next June. With an NFL season this year, then the dome is expected to reap $4.6 million in profit. Without an NFL season, the Georgia Dome would see about $25 million in lost revenue, dropping from about $57 million if the Falcons played down to $32 million if they did not. Most of that revenue comes from parking, catering, and rentals. (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)

Kroy Biermann is a father

Kroy Biermann and Kim Zolciak announced via twitter on Tuesday that they have welcomed into the world a son by the name of Kroy Jagger. Zolciak became famous due to her participation on Bravo’s reality television series The Real Housewives of Atlanta. She and Biermann met during a charity event in 2010. (Source: Kim Zolciak, Twitter)

Bryant should return

The Falcons told kicker Matt Bryant prior to the lockout that they would welcome him back. Bryant currently is a free agent, and won’t be able to re-up with the team until the lockout ends. Bryant is coming off a career season where he was perfect on 13 kicks in the Georgia Dome and made 3 game-winners.  (Source: Pat Yasinskas, ESPN)

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