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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Smith’

Takeaways from Last Week – May 13

May 13th, 2013 Comments off
NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

Mike Smith may deserve an extension along with Matt Ryan

I’m not sure if this is my final takeaway from the Falcons 2013 draft, but I the more I look at it, the more I like it. At least if judging on this lone criteria, that being that the Falcons targeted athletes.

My main takeaway from the Falcons loss against the 49ers this past January was that the 49ers were clearly a better team. I had been hopeful that the Falcons could get off to a fast start which could negate that somewhat. Because I knew that over the course of four quarters, the 49ers were just a better team, with more athletes that could dominate the game physically in the trenches as well as at the offensive skill positions.

So when I look at the 2013 draft, I see the Falcons appearing to be targeting more athletes than normal. Players like Robert Alford, Malliciah Goodman, and Levine Toilolo really epitomize that in that all three I would consider players with a lot more athletic upside than polish as of today. One could label all three projects, which is something the Falcons haven’t seemed to target in their previous five drafts under Thomas Dimitroff.

I don’t think those three players or any of the Falcons rookies this year really would slant things in the Falcons favor if they were to meet the 49ers again, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Which leads me to my next point, which is what are the expectations for the Falcons 2013 season. I know there are many within the fanbase that expect the Falcons to get over the hump and into the Super Bowl in 2014. You won’t count me among them.

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Monday Takeaways from Divisional Round

January 14th, 2013 Comments off

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Defense will need Abraham next week vs. 49ers

The Falcons did what they needed to do on Sunday. I just hope they don’t shut it down next week against the 49ers now that they’ve finally won a playoff game. They haven’t reached the summit of the mountaintop, that will occur with a win next week. And even when you get to the top of that peak, you emerge to see a second even taller peak off in the distance that represents winning the Super Bowl. Let’s hope that Mike Smith has the Falcons prepped with a sherpa and some climbing gear.

My initial reaction for how the Falcons match up against the 49ers is not very promising. The 49ers present many of the same challenges as the Seahawks, but only better. They won’t be missing Chris Clemons like Seattle was, as Justin Smith and Aldon Smith will likely be playing and near full strength. They have many more dangerous weapons on offense that require a lot more man coverage. The Falcons looked to be playing a lot of zone against Seattle in order to keep all of their eyes on Wilson and his scrambling ability. That was one of the reasons why guys like Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, and Zach Freakin’ Miller were wide open throughout the day. I don’t think the Falcons can try to get away with what against the likes Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Vernon Davis, etc. Which means that the front line has to be more disciplined and do a better job of trying to contain Kaepernick on the read-option. That appeared to be the Achilles Heel of the Packers on Saturday night, as they did not seem prepared for it or equipped to play it. That won’t be an excuse for the Falcons with a week to prepare and that they have perhaps seen more read-option than any other defense this year. Getting John Abraham back healthy will be key, and if the Falcons plan on winning and containing the 49ers explosive offense, they will need him to play all four quarters.

However, I do like the fact that Kaepernick really struggled against the noise in Seattle in Week 16. Similar to Wilson, it appears Kaepernick is a much different QB on the road. I also like the fact that this will be Harbaugh’s first road playoff game. Will that matter that much? Probably not, but it at least gives me some hope that the 49ers won’t be that sharp, which I think might be necessary if the Falcons are going to pull the upset. And let’s not be naive here, it will be an upset if the Falcons win. The line for that game opened up with the 49ers being a 3-point favorite. The 49ers have the capacity to utterly dominate the Falcons in the trenches. It’s going to be a fun week as I try to dig deep to find flaws that can be exploited by the Falcons in this matchup.

In order for the Falcons to win, I think it has to be similar to yesterday’s game, where the Falcons get an early lead. But unlike against the Seahawks, the Falcons can’t take their foot off the pedal.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 17 Review

January 6th, 2013 Comments off

I must apologize for getting this review up so late. I don’t know what it is about the bye week that makes me very lazy. But I think part of it was the fact that I didn’t really want to watch this game. It was was a throwaway game, and ultimately a throwaway loss.

But I did see some things in this game that give me pause. The Falcons continue to struggle with pressure, and when teams can get pressure on Ryan, the Falcons offense becomes very mediocre. Ryan was hit three times on the opening series. Then on the second series, the drive started out brilliantly, but then Lavonte David hit Ryan on a blitz, and the Falcons wound up settling for a field goal instead of a drive that a few plays earlier seemed like a guaranteed touchdown. This has been a problem throughout the latter half of the regular season. Agains the Lions, the offense stalled in the third quarter when pressure was dialed up. They looked very good against the Giants because there was hardly any pressure.

The Falcons seemed to be going through the motions in this one. Mike Smith made the right decision to play the starters, but unfortunately those starters just seemed disinterested in this game, looking as if they were hoping to get through this game with just perfunctory and minimal effort as possible. This is the same thing we saw a few weeks ago against the Panthers. The team just lacked an edge. So clearly despite Smitty’s best intentions, his plan did not work. Where I will criticize Smitty is when he opted not to pull the starters at the outset of the fourth quarter. The Falcons were down 12 points at that point, and while it was still a winnable game, there was no need for the Falcons to make the effort to overcome that deficit at this point in the year. It’s tough conceding defeat, and you know a guy like Smitty is a competitor, but that was one of the few times where you just got to know when it’s over, and to count your blessings that no one suffered a major injury. But then of course, Abraham did then suffer an injury. And we’re still waiting to know if he’s going to play next week in the playoff game.

I thought the running game was largely a non-factor, except a few nice runs on the second series. Matt Ryan did not play well. Part of that was because of the pressure and hits he saw early in this game. But he seemed to be staring down reads and just didn’t look comfortable in the pocket all game long. Ryan has not dealt well with pressure throughout the second half of the season, as I’ve noted several times. It’s a glaring weakness of this team, and if this team falls short in the next week or so, I’m absolutely certain it will be because of erratic pass protection.

There isn’t a lot to say about this game. If the Falcons go on to win in the playoffs, this game will be long forgotten. If the Falcons however should lose, then this game is going to stick out as a sore thumb. I really hope that the Falcons make me forget this game. I feel slightly dumber from having watched it.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$4$0$0$0$8.00
Matt Ryan$3$2$0$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$1$0$0$4.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Julio Jones$0$0$3$0$0-$1$2.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2-$1$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$1-$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
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Falcons’ Second Season Begins

December 31st, 2012 Comments off

It is called the postseason or second season in many circles, because the month of January kicks off a brand new season in the NFL. It is one where who or what you were in the regular season is meaningless and trivial, a small footnote. Teams will be tested purely off their own merit, not their regular season achievements. Whether you finished with a 9-7 record or 13-3, you’re all the same when the second season begins: 0-0.

The Falcons have struggled in the second season, as it has been been seven years since they have won a game there. They are winless under the leadership of Mike Smith. What has been disheartening to Falcon fans is that each of those losses have gotten progressively worse. The Falcons intend to turn the tide this year, as they sport the best offense they’ve had in the Mike Smith Era, and a defense that has routinely stepped up in big games.

Having the best regular season record and the No. 1 seed is meaningful only in the sense that it means the Falcons will be playing at home. Two of their three postseason losses have come on the road, where the team has struggled throughout the Mike Smith Era. But that has changed this year. While the Falcons have a better record at home (7-1) than on the road (6-2) this year, the Falcons offense is better by 51.0 total yards per game, 3.4 points per game, and about 0.7 yards per play when traveling. The story is the opposite for the defense, surrendering 24.4 less yards per game, 3.4 less points per game, and about 0.4 less yards per play at home rather than on the road.

In past postseason games, the defense has struggled to get stops, create turnovers, and not surrender big plays to opposing teams. Mike Nolan will have this year’s unit charged to change that.

But the onus will likely rest on the team’s offense to play better at home than it has for much of the year. The offensive line has struggled when asked to play indoors for the most part this year. The lone exception being an outstanding performance against the New York Giants a few weeks back. They have also been able to generate some of their big plays at home, with a total of 25 explosive pass plays (for 20 or more yards) at home, while only 21 on the road.

If the Falcons intend to reverse their fortunes in this year’s second season, it will likely require them to be able to pass protect Ryan effectively in order to generate those big explosive passing plays. While it won’t be a tall order, it is something the Falcons have been inconsistent with during the regular season. But the beauty of the second season is that all gets thrown out the window. The Falcons will have their opportunity to showcase an explosive offense and opportunistic defense in the playoffs. What they did before won’t matter. It is all up to what they do going forward.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 16 “Chocolate and Vanilla”

May 20th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I give our thoughts on the Falcons State of the Franchise address from this past week including debating what may come of the Falcons new stadium, and the buzz it could create among the fanbase and whether or not it matters all that much. We also discuss what changes they can realistically expect with new coordinators, and what level of influence does Mike Smith have on those chances. We discuss Jason Snelling and his potential role with the team as well. Later, we talk about the NBA playoffs, including quite a bit on Ryan’s beloved Indiana Pacers against the Miami Heat. We also talk about wrestling, boxing, and MMA. Ryan professes his love for the women of TNA, while I stick by the old standby in Kim Kardashian. The topic without a doubt turns to stalkers and Vince McMahon’s profound philosophical insights before it’s all said and done.

Ep. 16: Chocolate and Vanilla [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 20 minutes

 

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by every week to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

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

Smith attends Georgia Tech pro day

March 6th, 2012 Comments off
Mike Smith/Dean Buchan/Georgia Tech

Mike Smith stands with Bears head coach Lovie Smith

Georgia Tech’s Asst. Director of Media Relations Dean Buchan tweeted a photo indicating that Falcons head coach Mike Smith was on hand to view the pro days of the school’s prospects earlier today. As reported by the AJC yesterday, Smith was also on hand to see the University of Georgia’s prospects. As mentioned this past Friday, the Falcons have consistently sent some of their top representatives to the pro days of the two biggest local schools over the years, and apparently the tradition continues.

The biggest name among Georgia Tech’s prospect is wide receiver Stephen Hill, who was one of the players that emerged during last month’s Combine in Indianapolis after he clocked the second-fastest 40 time at 4.36 seconds officially.

Yesterday at Georgia, the Falcons could have been checking out tight end Orson Charles. Charles did not run a 40-yard dash at the Combine last month, instead waiting for yesterday’s pro day. He did not light it up, running a mediocre 4.75 time.

Other notable pro days today include that of Illinois and Arkansas. There has been no official confirmation that the Falcons sent representatives to either, but it is likely since there are reports that 29 teams showed up in Champaign to see Illini prospects work out, and 27 teams were represented at Arkansas pro day.

For Illinois, the biggest name is likely first round defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation in sacks this past year. Non-Combine participants who hope to improve their draft stock include defensive back Tavon Wilson and running back Jason Ford. At Arkansas, they have a trio of wide receivers in Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs that headline their prospects. Defensive end Jake Bequette and linebacker Jerry Franklin are also prominent names. Franklin was not invited to the Combine.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 13 “Hue Jackson Salad”

January 15th, 2012 Comments off

Ryan and I are back to recap the big coaching changes that have already occurred in this early 2012 off-season, and discuss our thoughts on Mike Mularkey, Brian VanGorder, and the many candidates that could potentially replace them. We also discuss whether or not the Falcons disappointing finish in 2011 rests on the shoulders of the coordinators, or more on those of the head coach. We argue whether or not these changes on the coaching staff can lead to dramatic upswing in the team’s fortunes in 2012. We also break down which Falcons free agents we believe will stay or go, and I go on a heated rant about the rumors surrounding Brent Grimes future in Atlanta. We both talk about potential trades and whether Roddy White and Michael Turner have played their last games in Falcon uniforms. Ryan runs down his free agency and draft day wishlists, and to finish we each share what teams if any we are rooting for in the rest of playoffs.

Ep. 13: Hue Jackson Salad [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 32 minutes

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop Ryan an e-mail at: ryan-valdez@live.com. Don’t forget to drop by on gamedays to hear our live broadcast at: justin.tv/didziojo

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 2011 – Week 18 Review

January 10th, 2012 Comments off

I know I’ve said this a couple of times already this year, but this was really hard game to re-watch. It felt like getting a prostate exam. The Falcons just looked inept on offense in this game, and seemed like some 6-10 team that had won a door prize to get into the playoffs, rather than the 10-6 team we saw most of the year.

Matt Ryan did not play well in this game. He was late on throws and reads, and seemed unwilling to try and challenge downfield. It looked like the Falcons gameplan was to feature a lot of short passing to offset the lack of a running game in the hopes that getting the ball out of his hands quickly would slow down the Giants pass rush. Well it really didn’t work too well. Roddy White did not play very well, with three drops. Julio Jones had a nice day, but the reality is that the Falcons did not really try to feature him. Gonzalez made some nice catches, but he too seemed to be not heavy into their game plan.

Much of their gameplan centered on feeding Michael Turner, which was certainly expected. But the Falcons offensive line struggled to move the pile and Turner was for the most part a non-factor. The Falcons offensive line is probably the real culprit of this loss. THey got their butts kicked by the Giants front, and nothing signifies this more than they two 4th & 1 stuffs on the sneaks where they got no push. But don’t always forget that the Falcons had a 3rd & 2 and 3rd & 1 that the line could not convert either.

Personally, I really don’t have a major issue with Mike Smith’s decision to go for it on either fourth down instead of kicking the field goal. I tend to favor coaches that are a bit more aggressive on fourth down. What I do have issue with is that the Falcons did not convert. They were asked to “man up” and they got punked. And regardless of whether the Falcons net 6 points on those two series, it still doesn’t change the fact that the Giants were punking them throughout the day. So while it would have made the score closer had the Falcons kicked those field goals, I certainly don’t think it would have really had any impact on the outcome of the game.

The bigger coaching decision I have to question is why the Falcons did not call a timeout at the end of the first half in their two-minute drill after Ryan inept-looking scramble. After that play, 18 seconds ticked off the clock. Why did Smith nor Ryan not call a timeout then? That’s two or three plays that the Falcons could have had at the end of the half to try and put some points on the board.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLOCK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$6$0$0$0$0$6.00
Julio Jones$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6-$2$0$0$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0.5$0$1.50
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Eric Weems$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Michael Palmer$0$0$0$0$0.5$0$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Will Svitek$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Roddy White$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
TEAM OFFENSE$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Falcons-Giants Preview

January 6th, 2012 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Giants Top WR Victor Cruz

There are a few questions that the Falcons must be able to answer on Sunday if they want to win their first playoff game under Mike Smith and beat the New York Giants.

1. Can the Falcons stop Victor Cruz?

The biggest potential mismatch for the Falcons in their secondary is their nickel corner on Victor Cruz. Cruz is the Giants top receiver, leading the team in catches (82), yards (1536), and touchdowns (9). The Falcons will be putting Dominique Franks in the nickel. Franks has had his moments in recent weeks, but has also had his issues working at the nickel. A notable issue was last week against the Bucs, where Franks was beat by Preston Parker for a 48-yard completion while working out of the slot. Plays like that cannot happen this week. The Falcons don’t need Franks to shut down Cruz, but just contain him similar to the Redskins did in Week 15 where he only caught 5 passes for 44 yards, which was one of the weaker performances of Cruz all year long.

2. Can the Falcons slow the Giants pass rush?

The other matchup that could cause potential problems for the Falcons is trying to slow down the Giants pass rushers: Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora. Tuck hasn’t had quite the season he is used to having with 5 sacks, but he’s still a tough matchup for any right tackle, and Tyson Clabo will have his hands full. Last time the Falcons played the Giants, Clabo gave up two pressures to Tuck. But the biggest question probably comes from the Falcons left tackle Will Svitek and whether he can face Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Pierre-Paul led the Gaints with 16.5. Umenyiora managed 9 sacks in 9 games, and came back in Week 17 after missing several games with an ankle injury to get a pair of sacks in a key game against the Cowboys. Svitek started strong when he first subbed in for Sam Baker at midseason, but down the stretch his play tailed off.

The Falcons are probably going to have give each of these guys a bit more help, by playing a few more times in max protection, where tight ends and backs stay in to chip and help slow those guys. Which will put more emphasis on the Falcons receivers to separate and get open.

3. Can the Falcons pound Michael Turner?

One the ways the Falcons can help slow down the Giants pass rush will be if they can effectively run the ball. Turner had a strong performance against the Bucs in Week 17, but the Bucs were one of the league’s worst run defenses. The Giants are better, but not exactly a strong in run defense. So the potential is there for the Falcons to be able to control the clock and tempo with a running game. The issue the Falcons face is that prior to the Bucs game, Turner had five pretty mundane performances, including two road games against Houston and New Orleans, where he was virtually a non-factor. That cannot be the case against the Giants, where the Falcons are going to need Turner to have success early, and be able to carry that through the rest of the game.
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Smith returns to Atlanta after hospitalization

December 12th, 2011 Comments off

Icon SMI

Mike Smith

It was reported after the Falcons win on Sunday afternoon over the Carolina Panthers, that Falcons head coach Mike Smith experienced chest pains before the team was set to get on their charter flight back to Atlanta. Smith was hospitalized, but the team released a statement that he was not experiencing an emergency matter and that he was not experiencing a heart attack. Smith stayed overnight for tests and was released from the hospital earlier Monday morning and returned to Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is expected to be at the team’s facilities today in Flowery Branch and will address the media tonight.

Categories: News Tags: ,