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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 23 “2012 Year in Review”

January 4th, 2013 Comments off

I am joined once again by my friend Allen Strk to recap the Falcons 2012 season. We give our thoughts on a plethora of Falcon players and our favorite moments from the season. We discuss the health of players like John Abraham, William Moore, and whether Mike Smith made the right call playing the starters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But quickly our attention turns to the Falcons upcoming playoff matchups, each giving our opinions on the different scenarios the team could see in the second round. We each give our insights on the Redskins, Vikings, Seahawks, 49ers, and Packers as potential obstacles to the Falcons potential journey to the Super Bowl. Eventually we wind up giving our picks for who will make it to the Super Bowl, as well as our thoughts on the many coaching vacancies around the league.

Ep. 23: 2012 Year in Review [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

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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Moneyball 2012 – Week 10 Review

November 15th, 2012 Comments off

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. I know the rest of the world has moved on from this game, and re-hashing why the Falcons lost this game so late in the week is not fun.

I thought offensively the Falcons did a lot of good things, but there was too long a gap (particularly the second and third quarters) where they were unable to put points on the board, which caused them to get in too deep a hole to dig out of. One of the trends I’ve noticed with this year’s team as well as past years’ is that they rarely give you a solid three or four quarters of strong play. I think that is a big reason why they have struggled to win big games, including in the playoffs. That sort of inconsistency is fine if you’re facing Carolina, Minnesota, or Oakland, but simply can’t cut it against teams like New Orleans.

Matt Ryan played well, but he seemed to play with a bit of a sped up clock due to the pressure he was seeing. I think that pressure was a major contributor to the drought in scoring. I did like the fact that the Falcons continue to show the ability to generate explosive plays downfield. That is going to be the key to whether this offense can really rise to the top because that was sorely lacking over the first month or so of the season. Gonzalez continues to play at a high level and he might really be doing himself a disservice by retiring. Even if he’s only 75% the player he is this year from now on, he could easily remain a premier TE in this league for another 4 or 5 years. The Falcons clearly missed Jones, and it’s no coincidence that their struggles to put points on the board were primarily when he was out of the game.

This game exposed many of the masses to really how poor the Falcons running game is this year. In key games, they are essentially one dimensional and if they get into a situation where they need to get a single yard on the ground, they are very likely to fail. I don’t really want to point fingers at Koetter, but I do think his decision to run Turner on that 3rd & 1 at the goal line was not a good decision. Frankly, I bet he called it not because he actually thought the play would work but because he didn’t want the talking heads and second guessers talking about how they threw it 3 straight times from the goal line with Michael Turner in the backfield. Or maybe because of some pipe dream from the coaches that there is some semblance of physicality with this offense. Memo to Koetter and Mike Smith, if you thought there was a physical element to this offense, then you haven’t been watching them this year. I suggest you embrace the fact that you are a finesse team. Not saying you should shoot to throw the ball 50 times a game, but in the do or die situations, keep the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands, your best player, rather than Turner who might now be sixth best on offense due to the ascendancy of Jacquizz Rodgers.

The Falcons just can’t win up front. I noticed many instances where if guys could hold a block for more than a split-second, it could have sprung Turner for longer runs. Turner just lacks the burst to take advantage of those short-lived creases, and the Falcons need to be willing to give Rodgers and Snelling more reps as runners. The ground game will still be terrible, but potentially not as terrible.

I don’t wish to pile on Turner as many have done this week, but the Falcons brass have had an overwhelming sense of denial to how much he had left in the tank this year. I can’t be too harsh on him, because Turner has stepped up in recent weeks. But this game showed that in these bigger games, he’s been at best a non-factor and at worst a liability.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$9$0$0$0$9.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$4$0$0$0$7.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$2$0$1$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tommy Gallarda$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$0-$1 -$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
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Falcons drop one against rival Saints

November 11th, 2012 Comments off
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

Saints defender knocks away pass to Gonzalez

The Falcons suffered their first loss of the 2012 season at the hands of NFC South divisional rival the New Orleans Saints. In a 31-27 loss on the road, the Falcons got off to a quick start, but then struggled to get stops as the Saints were then able to take a lead. But the Falcons got their act together and had two opportunities in the final minutes of the game to pull out the win, but fell short both times. The Falcons record moves to 8-1.

Matt Ryan set a career high with 411 yards passing. He also completed 34 of 52 passes, had 3 touchdown passes, and an interception. On the ground the Falcons got very little. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with 29 yards on 3 carries, most of that coming on an 18-yard run. Michael Turner had only 15 yards on 13 carries with most of that coming on a 9-yard run. Tony Gonzalez had a big day, catching 11 passes for 122 yards and a pair of touchdown catches. He would get his 100th and 101st career touchdown catches in the contest. He passed Steve Largent and Tim Brown with those plays to move up to 6th all-time in career touchdown catches. Roddy White (7 catches, 114 yards), Julio Jones (4 catches, 75 yards), Harry Douglas (4 catches, 49 yards), and Rodgers (4 catches, 33 yards) would also make contributions in the air. Offensive lineman Mike Johnson caught Ryan’s other touchdown pass, on his lone reception for a single yard. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal tries of 37 and 20 yards. Matt Bosher had three punts for an average of 46.7 yards, with one placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 9 total yards, while Douglas had one return for no gain. The Falcons got no opportunities to return kickoffs, as all were touchbacks. Throughout the game, the Falcons really struggled to run the ball in short-yardage situations and near the goalline. They had 6 tries inside the redzone, and scored touchdowns on half of them.

Defensively, the Falcons struggled to slow down the Saints offense in the first half. They gave up 440 total yards on the day, with 268 coming in the first half. Akeem Dent led defenders with 9 tackles. Kroy Biermann (3 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (6 tackles), Robert McClain (4 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (6 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (7 tackles, 1 sack); Mike Peterson (5 tackles); Dunta Robinson (7 tackles,  1 pass deflection); Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections); and Vance Walker (4 tackles) had noteworthy games. The defense stepped up in the second half, limiting the Saints to convert on 2 of 7 third down attempts and holding them to 172 total yards. The Saints had 116 rushing yards on 13 carries (8.9 avg) in the first half, but gained just 32 on 16 carries (2.0 avg) in the second half.

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Weatherspoon among others out for Saints game

November 9th, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons released their injury report today for this Sunday’s upcoming contest against the New Orleans Saints. A number of Falcons players were on this week’s injury report, including linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), wide receiver Kevin Cone (groin), and safety Charles Mitchell (calf), all of whom were declared out for the game. All three players missed the entire week of practice.

Also appearing on the report were a number of questionable players including: defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring) and Peria Jerry (knee), and cornerbacks Robert McClain (hip) and Chris Owens (heel). McClain and Owens were added to the injury report today after being limited in today’s practice. Both Babineaux and Jerry were limited throughout the week’s three days of practice.

Defensive end John Abraham (elbow), tackle Sam Baker (ankle), wideout Harry Douglas (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (hip), and running back Jason Snelling (illness) all also appeared on the report, but are listed as probable. Abraham was able to fully participate in all three days of practice. Both Baker and Samuel were limited on Thursday while fully participating on Thursday and Friday. Douglas was limited until fully participating in today’s practice. Snelling missed Wednesday practice, but was full go on Thursday and today.

With Weatherspoon out, Mike Peterson will likely enter the starting lineup in the base defense, with Akeem Dent taking over Spoon’s duties in the nickel. Both Cone and Mitchell will be missed on special teams. Babineaux and Jerry’s injuries leave the team relatively thin at defensive tackle, as Corey Peters is still recovering from a foot injury that kept him out of the first six games of the season. It could mean Vance Walker and Travian Robertson get increased reps on Sunday. McClain and Owens are the team’s top two backups at cornerback, being key components of the team’s nickel and dime packages. That could potentially be tested given the Saints proclivity to use three, four, and five wideouts on the majority of their plays.

Falcons squeeze past Cowboys on Sunday Night

November 5th, 2012 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Rodgers runs for a gain

The Falcons won scrappily over the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 19-13 on Sunday Night Football to push their 2012 record to 8-0. The offense got off to a sluggish start, but the Falcons were able to take the lead at the start of the fourth quarter and show their resiliency.

Matt Ryan was sharp, completing 24 of 34 passes for 342 yards. He was held without a touchdown, snapping a 22-game streak in which he threw at least one touchdown pass. Michael Turner led rushers with 102 yards on the ground on 20 carries and the team’s lone touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 7 catches for 118 yards. Julio Jones also had a big game with 129 yards and 5 catches. Jacquizz Rodgers (4 catches, 53 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 36 yards) also contributed in the passing game. Matt Bryant was unusually erratic with his accuracy on the evening, missing two of five attempts. But he managed to connect on field goals of 45, 46, 36, and finally a 32-yarder that sealed the win near the end of regulation. Matt Bosher had a pair of punts for an average of 40 yards, including one inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned a pair of kickoffs for an average of 22.5 yards, while Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for a combined 6 yards. Offensively, the Falcons were sharp on third downs, converting on 7 of their 14 tries with some critical ones down the stretch. The running game really took off in the second half, with 100 of the 123 total rushing yards gained in that half.

Defensively, the Falcons did a good job getting off the field on third downs and keeping the Cowboys out of the endzone on their redzone trips. They forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals on their two redzone trips in the first quarter. And Dallas only converted 3 of 10 third downs the entire game. The run defense was improved, giving up only 65 yards on 18 carries for the game. Jonathan Babineaux and Akeem Dent shared the team lead in tackles with 7 each. Babineaux also added a sack and a pass deflection. Dent too had a pass deflection. Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles); Robert McClain (6 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles); Dunta Robinson (4 tackles); and Asante Samuel (3 tackles) all had notable games.

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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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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.

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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