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Falcons Super Bowl Window is Small

June 7th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

White hopes his next big celebration includes a Lombardi Trophy

Falcons receiver Roddy White made recent headlines with comments that the time is now for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl. I for one am not a person that typically agrees with many of the public utterings made by White, but in this case he’s 100% correct.

The Falcons do have a small window of opportunity to “get over the hump” and try and win a Super Bowl. While the powers that be in Flowery Branch probably won’t say as much publicly, the truth is in their actions.

And by actions, just look at the team they’ve constructued. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Falcons are “all in” for a Super Bowl in 2013, they certainly are for the next two seasons.

Don’t agree? Well, here’s a thinking exercise… Name the Falcons current ten best players. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

Okay done? Here’s probably the list you came up with, or very close to it…

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 28 “2013 Schedule Breakdown” Parts 1 & 2

May 14th, 2013 1 comment

Allen and I take part in another two-part episode in which we go week by week, breaking down the Falcons 2013 schedule. We look at favorable matchups that the Falcons can exploit along with our thoughts on how good the Falcons 2013 opponents will be this upcoming fall. In the first part, we look at the first half of the season culminating in our analysis of the Falcons Week 10 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. You’ll hear our thoughts on each of the Falcons first nine opponents, as well as insights on how the Falcons defensive line and offensive lines will look in 2013 and odds that the Falcons pick up a veteran free agent such as John Abraham, Richard Seymour, or Karlos Dansby before the summer starts. You’ll also hear our breakdown of how Darrelle Revis stacks up against Julio Jones, and Ron Rivera in comparison to Mike Smith.

In the second part of our schedule breakdown extravanganza, Allen and I take a look at the Falcons final seven opponents beginning in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We talk about how good a year Steven Jackson might have, along with whether or not the Falcons have made enough improvements on defense to handle the New Orleans Saints. You’ll also hear our thoughts on how the division race in the NFC East may shake out as well as some of the other NFC squads that could be wildcard contenders. We cap things off with our insights on how the 2013 season as a whole should play out for the Falcons.

Part 1:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 1 [Download]

Duration: 51 minutes

Part 2:

Ep. 28: 2013 Schedule Breakdown Part 2 [Download]

Duration: 55 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

Takeaways from Last Week – April 22

April 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

Dion Jordan

Last week, I promised that I would go over the Falcons Day 3 draft plans. But of course news and rumors picked up steam that the Falcons were planning on moving up via trade in the draft. I do think the two issues are somewhat related, which I will delve into later. But for now, let’s talk about the Falcons potential third day draft possibilities.

The meat of the Falcons draft lies on the third day of the draft, where rounds four through seven will be selected. The Falcons hold eight of their eleven total picks during this stretch of the draft. The third day of the draft is typically where teams try to build their depth. A few players will emerge as starters, but they are few and far between.

Using previously discussed draft grades, only 14 of the 153 players selected in the final four rounds in 2008 earned C grades or higher (i.e. became solid starters after five seasons). That number is 22 out of 156 players from the 2007 class. In 2008, five of those 14 starters were fourth rounders, while that number was 12 in 2007.

Because the Falcons draft for need, they are going to lean towards targeting players that have a high probability of making the roster. Basically operating under a simple principle that there’s no way you can help the team if you don’t make it. So to determine what areas and positions the Falcons might target on the third day of the draft, you have to take a closer look at the team’s current roster. Here’s a quick breakdown position by position, with the number in parentheses indicating the current number of players at the position that have a strong probability of making the final roster:
Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 24 “Playoff Recap and Offseason Preview”

February 20th, 2013 1 comment

Another episode in which I’m joined by Allen Strk to recap the Atlanta Falcons postseason efforts as well as preview some potential moves the Falcons could make this off-season. Allen and I last spoke at the end of the regular season, and scheduling conflicts prevented us from getting a recap up earlier this month. But we’re back again to go deep into the San Francisco 49ers loss and Seattle Seahawks win, including our thoughts on Michael Turner, Thomas DeCoud, Julio Jones, Stephen Nicholas, Harry Douglas, Richard Sherman, and the offensive line. Both of us give our insights into what are some of the Falcons biggest off-season needs with much of the focus on the defensive line and the secondary. We discuss some potential free agents that could help the team including Cliff Avril, Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett, and even Darrelle Revis. You’ll also hear us discuss the play of Kroy Biermann and the futures of Jonathan Babineaux, Dunta Robinson, and Brent Grimes.

Ep. 24: Playoff Recap and Offseason Preview [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 20 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

Falcons Needs: Wide Receiver

February 1st, 2013 Comments off

The quarterback, running back, and fullback positions have already been discussed, making it time to move on to the second to last of the offensive skill positions: wide receiver. It would be a tough argument to suggest that the Falcons don’t feature the league’s premier pair of wide receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Both players are coming off spectacular 2012 seasons and both are under contract at least through the 2014 season. So it’s conceivable that the Falcons can boast the premier duo for at least two more seasons.

But the Falcons depth at wide receiver is questionable and may need to be addressed. The team re-signed Harry Douglas last off-season to a four-year deal. While Douglas is a capable reserve that will make plays from time to time, he’s not the caliber of receiver that is a consistent option from week to week. Douglas fills his particularly niche ably, but he doesn’t really possess a skillset that extends outside the niche. That niche consists mainly of a slot receiver that does his best work on the short and intermediate routes. When Douglas is asked to go vertical or play on the outside, he essentially becomes a fairly middling option for the team. It would behoove the Falcons to find a player that is complementary to Douglas that does fit that outside/vertical mold. Such a player could allow the Falcons to make more use of either Jones or White in the slot, something that has proven effective over the past two years. And in the event of an injury to either starter it would still give the team a good explosive option downfield that will prevent the team from resorting to the dink and dunk style that has limited them in the past. Not to mention the likely departure of Tony Gonzalez also means that the Falcons may have to rely on multiple options to fill that void.

The Falcons could opt to find this player in free agency or the draft. Neither avenue seems to be a better option than the other. Free agency probably will cost a bit more, but you certainly are getting a more proven commodity that can contribute immediately. If the Falcons opt to draft someone, the value there is the potential that cheaper player can potentially develop into a starter in 2015 or beyond. Roddy White will be 33 when his contract expires at the end of 2014, and typically receivers of his caliber can produce as starters up to around age 35 or 36. So while he may still have something left in the tank, by 2015 one can expect to see diminishing returns. Thus it behooves the Falcons that if possible, they can start to groom his eventual replacement sooner rather than later. Another benefit of signing a free agent is the potential that player could challenge or surpass Douglas on the depth chart and thus represent a clear and immediate upgrade to the spot. On the other hand with a rookie, you run the risk that the player makes little to no contribution in his first year, and the possibility that he never does.

Kevin Cone, Drew Davis, and Kerry Meier all will also be in camp next summer as all three are signed through 2013. All three players have flashed ability to provide depth for the team, but not to a degree that suggests any are ready to be significant options in the Falcons passing game next year. All three players’ primary value to the Falcons is on special teams, but again due to the potential departure of Gonzalez, there is room for guys to start contributing offensively. Cone possesses a skillset that probably best fits what the Falcons might be looking for in a fourth option due to his size and vertical speed, but he has struggled with consistency and catching the ball in his short time in Atlanta. Davis possesses good quickness suggesting his potential may lie in the slot, but he is still unpolished. Meier is a big target with good hands, but has marginal speed and quickness to suggest he poses much of a threat to NFL defenses. James Rodgers, Tim Toone, and Marcus Jackson will also be in camp next year. And while they have developmental potential, the Falcons probably can’t expect to get anything more out of them that they didn’t get out of Cone, Davis, or Meier this past year.

Now, I doubt this position will be a high priority for the Falcons. They may not consider it a need at all. They certainly did not a year ago. Last year, they brought 11 receivers to training camp, and currently 9 wideouts are under contract for the team. They may just bet that between the half dozen guys not named Sharod, Harold, and Quintorris, competition will be enough to get more from this position group. Personally, I’m not sure if that’s a good bet.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 20 Review

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons offense got off to a roaring start, making the 49ers defense look silly. Frankly, the 49ers never really stopped them. Nearly all of the Falcons shortcomings and failures on offense were self-inflicted wounds.

They just didn’t take advantage of their opportunities in the second half, turning the ball over twice in 49er territory after driving down the field and were likely going to get some points.

Matt Ryan played very well. Besides his fumble on the botched snap, there is really no room to complain. He earned $19 of his total earnings in the first half. His interception was due to Roddy slipping, not because of a poor throw or read. Julio Jones went off in this game, and it’s interesting because you could tell that Jones was a little shaken up on the second series. He still managed to catch 7 more passes for 109 yards and another touchdown after his injury. The 49ers really did not have an answer for the Falcons weapons.

The offensive line did a good job protecting Ryan. Aldon Smith was able to beat Baker a couple of times, but giving up just 1 pressure and 1 hurry represents a solid performance for Baker. Their run blocking was a little mixed, but mostly it was solid relative to their performances for much of the year. I thought McClure had a good game, and if it’s his final game as a Falcon and it probably will be, then I’m glad he went out well.

Overall, a very good offensive performance from the Falcons despite the fact that they were shut out in the second half.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$24$0$0$0$0-$1$23.00
Julio Jones$0$0$15$0$0$0$15.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$0.5$0$0$6.50
Roddy White$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$5-$1$0$1$0$5.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$2$0$0$0$0$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

Defensively, the Falcons did not play well. They looked very good in the first quarter, but after that they really did nothing to stop the 49ers offense. You could see the disparity between a really dominant run blocking line for the 49ers and the Falcons own offensive line. Up front, our D-linemen were getting pushed around quite a bit, and guys were able to get downfield with ease and get after all three linebackers.

There were really no standout performances. I thought Babineaux had a decent game, and Corey Peters also did some very good things early on. Besides that, I can’t say anybody else had a good game. Biermann and Abraham were invisible for the most part. Linebackers had a tough day. Both Dent and Spoon struggled all game taking on and getting off blocks. Many of Nicholas troubles came in coverage, and he may have had his worst game as a Falcon.

Vernon Davis ran amok through the Falcons secondary, and continued to the Falcons problems covering tight ends. Well at least they were consistent right? But they weren’t faring much better against Crabtree and Moss. It did seem like the Falcons blew some coverages because they were overly concerned with the read-option, focusing on Kaepernick and losing sight of their assignments in coverage and against the run.

Overall, no pressure and poor run defense is not a good recipe for success.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Bosher$0$3$0$3.00
William Moore$1$0$0$1.00
Corey Peters$1$0$0$1.00
Vance Walker$1$0$0$1.00
Matt Bryant$0$1$0$1.00
Kroy Biermann$0$0$0$0.00
Thomas DeCoud$0$0$0$0.00
Akeem Dent$0$0$0$0.00
Dunta Robinson$0$0$0$0.00
Asante Samuel$0$0$0$0.00
John Abraham-$1$0$0-$1.00
Robert McClain-$1$0$0-$1.00
Sean Weatherspoon-$1$0$0-$1.00
Jonathan Babineaux-$2$0$0-$2.00
Cliff Matthews-$1$0-$2-$3.00
Stephen Nicholas-$4$0-$2-$6.00

Advanced Stats from Week 20:

Poor Throws (3): Ryan
Drops (1): Rodgers
Key Blocks (4): Clabo (2), McClure (1), Cox (0.5), Gonzalez (0.5)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Missed Blocks (1): Baker
Pressures Allowed (1): Baker

Tackles For Loss (2): Dent, Walker
QB Sacks (1): Peters
QB Pressures (0)
QB Hits (0)
Passes Defended (3): DeCoud, Moore, Peters
Blown Coverages (7): Nicholas (2), DeCoud (1), McClain (1), Moore (1), Robinson (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (3): Babineaux, DeCoud, Nicholas
Key Blocked (5): Abraham, Dent, Matthews, Nicholas, Peters

DeCoud, Moore to Pro Bowl; Ryan, Gonzalez to sit out

January 24th, 2013 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

DeCoud congratulates Moore

Falcons safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore were added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster in the wake of the San Francisco 49ers going to the Super Bowl. They will be replacing 49er safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner in this Sunday’s all-star game.

Also, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will sit out the game due to a shoulder injury he suffered late in the Falcons loss to the 49ers last Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. Ryan suffered a sprained AC joint in his left non-throwing shoulder. The injury will require up to a month for recovery, but will not require surgery.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez will also not be appearing in this weekend’s Pro Bowl due to personal reasons. He has been replaced by Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. Gonzalez is expected to be mulling over his NFL future as he is finishing his 16th season in the league. Prior to last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, reports indicated that Gonzalez was leaning closer to retirement after indicating at the outset of the year that he was 95 percent certain that 2012 would be his final year. Gonzalez’s contract expired once the Falcons season ended.

Wide receiver Julio Jones is the other Falcon player voted to the Pro Bowl team.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , , ,

49ers end Falcons Super Bowl hopes

January 20th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzalez leaves the field for possibly the final time.

The Falcons season ended with a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. The Falcons got off to a strong start, going up 17-0 at the outset of the game before a 49ers comeback ended their Super Bowl hopes. The Falcons had a last minute opportunity for a game-winning touchdown deep in 49er territory, but were unable to convert on fourth down. The Falcons end their 2012 season with a 14-4 combined regular season and postseason record.

Matt Ryan led the team passing for 396 yards while completing 30 of 42 passes for 3 touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 32 yards on 10 carries. Michael Turner also added 30 yards on 8 carries. Julio Jones had a dominant performance, catching a pair of Ryan’s touchdown passes for 182 yards and 11 receptions. Tony Gonzalez caught 8 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown as well. Roddy White (7 catches, 100 yards) and Harry Douglas (3 catches, 31 yards) also had notable performances in the air. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal try from 35 yards. Matt Bosher had a pair of punts for an average of 45 yards with 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas had three punt returns for a total of 6 yards. The Falcons offense looked sharp in the first half of the game, putting up 297 total yards including 271 in the air. But the offense had much less success in the second half, as only 180 total yards were generated with 125 coming via the passing game.

Defensively, the Falcons got off to a strong start, holding the 49ers to just 160 total yards in the first half. However the team’s inability to get stops in the redzone contributed to their loss, as San Francisco scored touchdowns on 4 of 5 total redzone trips. Their lone stop in the redzone came on a Michael Crabtree fumble at the 1-yard line. The 49ers running game was highly efficient, racking up 149 total yards on the Falcons. Thomas DeCoud and Akeem Dent tied for the team-lead with 8 tackles each. DeCoud also broke up a pass, and Dent had a tackle for loss. Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 pass defended); Stephen Nicholas (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended); Dunta Robinson (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Asante Samuel (4 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (5 tackles) all had noteworthy games.

The Falcons offense roared to a brilliant start, generating a 7-play, 80-yard drive at the outset of the game. Matt Ryan was able to complete 2 of 3 pass attempts for 29 yards to help move the Falcons into 49er territory, before hitting Julio Jones who got behind the defense for a 46-yard score. That gave the Falcons a quick 7-0 lead just three and a half minutes into the game. The Falcons defense stepped up big and forced a 49er three-and-out on their opening possession, limiting their opponent to just 1 yard of offense. Ryan found Jones three times on the next Falcons series for a total of 41 yards. Overall, Ryan completed 6 of 8 passes for 64 yards on a 12-play, 65-yard drive for the Falcons. Ultimately the Falcons settled for a 35-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to go up 10-0, after Navorro Bowman broke up a throw in the flat to Jacquizz Rodgers on 3rd & 4 from the 49ers’ 17-yard line. Again, the Falcons defense held the 49ers without a first down on a three-and-out, where they generated just 3 total yards of offense after Corey Peters sacked Colin Kaepernick on third down to force an Andy Lee punt. The Falcons took over with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter at their own 43-yard line. Michael Turner got a pair of carries for a combined 14 yards before Ryan hit a streaking Roddy White on a deep post for a 23-yard gain on the final play of the quarter. On the very next play to start the second quarter, Ryan found Jones again on a 20-yard scoring grab. Jones was able to make a clean catch over 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown in the back corner of the endzone, tapping his feet in bounds for the score. The Falcons now had a 17-0 lead with 3 quarters left to play. But the 49ers offense finally got into gear on their next drive, as running back Frank Gore started them off with four consecutive carries for a combined 20 yards. Then Kaepernick hit four short passes to get the ball into Falcon territory before a delay of game penalty set them up for a 3rd & 7 at the Falcons 42-yard line. But then Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis, who beat DeCoud for a 27-yard gain. Two plays later, the speedy LaMichael James ran off the right side virtually untouched for a 15-yard scoring run to get the 49ers on the scoreboard for the first time. The Falcons offense followed that up with a four-and-out and Bosher punted for the first time on the day. On the opening play from their own 18-yard line, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis for a 25-yard gain, but it was called back due to a holding call on guard Mike Iupati. But two plays later, Davis would break free again for a 19-yard gain on a Kaepernick pass. Two plays later, Kaepernick would scramble down the left sideline for a 23-yard gain to put the ball in Falcon territory. Davis came up big again two plays later with a 25-yard gain to put the ball at the Falcon 4-yard line. On the next play, Kaepernick hit an open Davis in the flat for the 4-yard scoring pass and catch. The 49ers had now cut the Falcons lead to 17-14 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half. But the Falcons offense would respond with a 7-play, 80-yard drive to go up before the half ended. The drive began with Ryan hitting Roddy White for a 15-yard gain, followed by the team going into their no-huddle attack. Ryan would complete 3 of his next 5 passes for a total of 44 yards to get the ball inside the redzone. Tony Gonzalez would catch a pair of passes to end the drive, including a 10-yard touchdown catch working against double coverage to cap off the drive. The half would end after a LaMichael James 1-yard run, as the Falcons now had a 24-14 lead going into the intermission.

The 49ers started the second half with a four-minute, 7-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Kaepernick completed all 3 of his pass attempts on the drive for a combined 58 yards, while Frank Gore pounded the ball for 4 carries and 24 yards. That included a 5-yard scoring run off the right side to cap the drive to cut the Falcons lead back to three points. On the Falcons ensuing drive, Ryan found Gonzalez on his first two passes for 14 yards each. But then as the Falcons had just moved the ball into 49er territory, his pass to Roddy White was intercepted by Chris Culliver after White slipped on the comeback pass allowing the defender to jump the throw. The 49ers took over at their own 44-yard line. On the very next play, Kaepernick hit Davis for a 31-yard gain after he beat linebacker Stephen Nicholas. But after that play, the Falcons defense held a few plays later on 3rd & 5 thanks to a pass breakup by William Moore on a pass from Kaepernick to Chad Hall. David Akers came on the field to attempt a 38-yard field goal, but it hit off the left upright for the miss and the Falcons retained their lead. The Falcons looked to try and establish their ground attack on the next drive. Jacquizz Rodgers carried the ball 3 times for a combined 18 yards while Jason Snelling had a single carry for 12 yards. After the next play, Ryan tried to go for it all on a deep pass to White but Carlos Rogers broke up the pass. Two plays later, Jones was able to convert on 3rd & 10 with a 13-yard grab. After a 1-yard run by Rodgers, Ryan muffed a shotgun snap which Aldon Smith was able to fall on for a second straight Falcon drive ending in a turnover. The Falcons defense looked to hold as Kaepernick’s 3rd & 7 pass to Vernon Davis fell incomplete. But the refs threw a flag on Cliff Matthews for roughing the passer for a blow to the head of Kaepernick giving San Francisco new life and a fresh set of downs at the Falcons 45-yard line. After a 2-yard run by Gore, the fourth quarter began. To start the quarter, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree on a crossing pattern who broke a couple of tackles for a 33-yard gain. That put the ball at the Falcons 10-yard line. Following a 5-yard run by Gore, Kaepernick found Crabtree again on a quick slant, but Dunta Robinson was able to strip the ball before he could reach across the goalline and Stephen Nicholas was able to recover at the 1-yard line. However the Falcons had little success moving the ball out of their own territory and had a three-and-out on their subsequent possession. After a 42-yard punt by Bosher was returned 20 yards by Ted Ginn, the 49ers had very favorable field position to start their next drive, beginning at the Falcons 38-yard line. The 49ers ran the ball four straight times for a combined 21 yards to put the ball at the Falcon 17-yard line. Crabtree caught an 8-yard pass to get inside the 10, which was followed by a 9-yard run by Gore for another score. That gave teh 49ers their first lead of the game, 28-24 with 8:23 left in the game. On the third play of the next Falcon series, Ryan looked for Jones deep but the pass was broken up by Tarell Brown. Ryan would complete his next three passes for a combined 16 yards to get the ball to midfield. Then Ryan found a wide open Harry Douglas down the right sideline for 22 yards, however Douglas slipped on the turf on what might have been a possible scoring play had he managed to keep his feet. The 49ers challenged the catch on the play, but the call was upheld upon review. The Falcons had 1st down at the 49er 28-yard line with under 4 minutes left. After a pair of Rodgers runs for 10 yards and another Ryan pass to Douglas for 3 yards, the two-minute warning hit. The Falcons now had the ball at the 49er 15-yard line on 2nd & 9. Pressure forced Ryan to check down to Jason Snelling on second down for a 5-yard gain. On 3rd & 4, Ryan’s pass to White was broken up by linebacker Ahmad Brooks. On 4th & 4 from the 49ers 10, Ryan’s pass to White fell incomplete. There was contact between White and NaVorro Bowman, but no flag was called on the play and it was a turnover on downs. Now the Falcons needed a quick stop with 1:09 left in the game and only a pair of timeouts. They were able to get it with a three-and-out, but without the third timeout the clock bled down to just 13 seconds when Andy Lee came on the field for his third punt of the game. Douglas lost a yard on his return, leaving just 6 seconds on the clock with the Falcons having the ball at their own 41-yard line. Ryan took a deep shot to Jones which was completed for 24 yards, but 35 yards shy of the endzone as time expired.

The 49ers will face the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, who defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 following the Falcons defeat.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

Pudge’s Picks – Championship Weekend

January 18th, 2013 Comments off

This is the weekend where legends are formed. Every paper and sports blog in America, and many across the globe will run stories about lesser-known players like Stephen Nicholas, Robert McClain, Rob Ninkovich, Bernard Pierce, or Alex Boone over the next two weeks should their teams win on Sunday. When your team is in the Super Bowl, suddenly every aspect of your team becomes interesting. When your team is not, no one cares. Regardless of how much success you’ve had this season up to this point, if you lose this weekend, the storyline becomes about why you weren’t good enough as opposed to being pretty darn good to make it this far in the first place. People tend to become only focused on all the things that are missing for you to taste and experience that glorification that comes from two weeks of Super Bowl coverage.

The beauty of this year’s conference championship matchups, is that you’re going to get a fairly compelling Super Bowl matchup no matter what. If it’s Patriots-49ers, then you get that Belichick vs. Harbaugh hype. You also get the connection between Kaepernick and Brady, where Kaepernick’s usurption of an injured Alex Smith’s job in his second season and coming from virtually out of nowhere is so similar to Brady’s beginning back in 2001 with Drew Bledsoe.

If it’s Patriots-Falcons, you can get the Master vs. the Student hype with Belichick and Dimitroff. You also solidify those comparisons that people like myself have made with Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.

If it’s Ravens-49ers, you obviously get the Harbaugh Bros. storyline. You get the Flacco-Kaepernick storyline that centers around the fact that 2 months ago no one would have believed they’d be squaring off in New Orleans.

If it’s Ravens-Falcons, then you get the Flacco vs. Ryan storyline that has been brewing since both emerged as dynamite rookies in 2008, and kicking off this mini-run of successful rookie quarterbacks (and yes, I’m purposefully forgetting Roethlisberger).

I picked the Broncos over the Ravens straight up last week, and should’ve gone with my heart and taken the Ravens. I have an aunt that lives in Baltimore that is a die-hard Ravens fan, so if my picks are right this week, it should make the next two weeks very interesting.

Last week, I went 3-1 both against the spread and straight picks, bringin my playoff record to 6-2 against the spread and 5-3 straight up. I picked the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl in my preseason predictions, and if they do, that will mark two years in a row where I have successfully picked the AFC representative. A trifle, but it makes me feel at least semi-competent in terms of my prognostication skills. But here are my picks:

Ravens over Patriots
Falcons over 49ers

For more detailed analysis of why I picked the teams I did, keep on reading after the jump.

Read more…

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

Bryant’s leg lifts Falcons over Seahawks

January 13th, 2013 2 comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bryant kicks the game winner

The Atlanta Falcons won their first playoff game under head coach Mike Smith in five years with a 30-28 win over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons got off to a strong start, shutting out Seattle in the first half with a 20-0 lead. But the Seahawks battled back and took a 1-point lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. With under 30 seconds left, the Falcons then drove down the field and thanks to a big grab by Tony Gonzalez, set up kicker Matt Bryant for a 49-yard game-winning field goal. The Falcons will host the San Francisco 49ers next week in the NFC Championship, their third trip to that game in franchise history and the first time it will be played in the Georgia Dome.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons with a 250-yard and 3-touchdown passing effort. He completed 24 of 35 passes, and also tossed a pair of interceptions. Michael Turner rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries, and got help from Jacquizz Rodgers who had 10 carries for 64 yards. Julio Jones and Gonzalez tied for the team lead with 6 receptions for 59 and 51 yards, respectively. Gonzalez also had a touchdown reception. Roddy White (5 catches, 76 yards) and Jason Snelling (1 catch, 5 yards) each also had touchdown catches. Matt Bryant hit 3 field goals from 39, 37, and 49 yards out. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average of 42 yards. Rodgers had four kickoff returns for an average of 26.3 yards. The Falcons offense looked strong in the first half, amassing 268 yards of total offense including 133 on the ground and converting 4 of 7 third downs. But they struggled in the second half with only 149 total yards, and generated only 10 points.

Defensively, the Falcons also looked very good in the first half. They held the Seahawks to 193 total yards, bottling up their run game as they only allowed 58 yards on the ground. The Seahawks struggled to convert on third downs, going 1 of 5 in the first half. The defense gave up 491 total yards on the day, much of that coming due to second half passing (233 yards) as the Seahawks tried to come back down by three scores. Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent tied for the team lead with 8 tackles. Weatherspoon also broke up a pass and forced a fumble. Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 pass breakup); Peria Jerry (4 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles); Dunta Robinson (4 tackles); Asante Samuel (5 ackles, 2 pass breakups); and Vance Walker (4 tackles, 1 sack) all had noteworthy games.

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