Falcons head coach Mike Smith expects that Abraham, Moore, and Owens will also be able to suit up Sunday in the Falcons Divisional playoff matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
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.
Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes
John Manasso of FOX Sports South first tweeted this morning that Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson was cleared to return to practice today. Later, Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com confirmed that Robinson did indeed participate in Friday’s practice. Robinson suffered a head injury early in the Falcons loss last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, missing the rest of the game. But he was cleared to return to practice as part of the league’s concussion protocol (meaning he must be cleared by team doctors through a series of tests) less than a week later. Previously, Robinson had suffered a concussion in 2010, and returned to practice after 15 days.
Alongside defensive John Abraham (ankle) and safety William Moore (hamstring), Robinson had sat out this week of practice. The team will also be without cornerback Asante Samuel, who has returned home to Florida to deal with the death of his mother. His mother passed away earlier this week after a long battle with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Falcons expect all three players to return to practice next Wednesday.
Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com wrote on Sunday about Falcons head coach Mike Smith’s comments following Saturday night’s win against the Detroit Lions. In those comments, Smith talked about the Falcons intention to “play to win” in their Week 17 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith said:
“We’re going to play the game to win. That’s how we’re going to approach it. It’s an important game because it’s a division game. All games, I think, are important. In terms of the importance of it, does it have no bearing? It really does, because we want to win every time we go out and play.”
The Falcons have already locked up the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and thus the result of next Sunday’s season finale is relatively meaningless. Leading many to think the Falcons should rest their starters in order to keep them healthy for their upcoming playoff game in two weeks. The Falcons receive a first-round bye, giving them an extra week of rest. That two-week lay-off certainly will be beneficial to get some players healthy, such as safety William Moore who has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. It also should give players like wideout Roddy White, who has had a lingering knee injury in recent weeks, a greater chance to get closer to 100% health before the playoffs.
While Smith’s comments don’t mean that some key players could still wind up sitting out or playing limited reps, it does mean that the Falcons won’t be treating this as nothing more than a preseason game. The Falcons will be smart to reduce the reps of some key players, and give some of the younger guys more opportunities to show their skills. For example, White has played over 90% of the team’s offensive snaps most weeks. Even with a bum knee, he played in 50 of the team’s 57 snaps against the Lions (88%) per Pro Football Focus. That won’t be necessary this week. The Falcons should be a bit more willing to rotate Drew Davis into the lineup and maybe White only needs to play 35 or so snaps. That certainly would give the Falcons an opportunity to win the game, but also lower the risk that White aggravates that knee injury.
In 2010, when the Falcons similarly had a first round bye and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, they squared off against the Carolina Panthers in the season finale. The Falcons built a 31-3 lead before pulling many of the starters at the outset of the fourth quarter. It seems likely that will be the goal for the Falcons this week. Unfortunately, the Falcons won’t be facing 2-13 Panthers team led by Jimmy Clausen this year. Instead they will be facing a 6-9 Buccaneers team that is coached by Greg Schiano. A year ago the Falcons faced a 4-11 Buccaneers team that had quit on then-coach Raheem Morris, resulting in 45-24 beatdown. That likely won’t be the case with Schiano, who wants his players to blitz on kneel-downs because he believes going all-out for four quarters.
Aaron is back and is joined by Allen Strk and Scott Carasik for a lively conversation on a wide range of Falcons-related topics. You’ll hear their thoughts on many of the current Falcon players and what sort of seasons they are having in 2012 and what they could be expecting in the future. You’ll also hear them opine on some past Falcon players as well. Scott shares many of his thoughts on what the Falcons could be looking at in the draft and this upcoming off-season. They give their insights on what the upcoming playoff picture could look like for the Falcons. This episode does contain EXPLICIT content, so be forewarned.
Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes
Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes
Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk. Scott also writes for Bleacher Report and ScarDraft.com. You can also hear Scott on his weekly radio show: “Kvetching Draftniks Radio.” His twitter handle is: @scar988.
The Falcons practice report issued earlier today listed wide receiver Roddy White as out for the second consecutive day of practice with a knee injury. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that while White made progress since Wednesday’s practice, White likely won’t practice on Friday.
Roddy felt much better today than he did yesterday. We are going to be very cautious with Roddy in terms of getting ready for the ball game. He probably will not do a whole lot on Friday or Saturday and then we will get him out there on Sunday and see where he’s at. But it’s hard to keep Roddy White out of a football game.
Also missing today’s practice was safety William Moore (hamstring). It was Moore’s second consecutive day of missed practice. Moore missed last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers. If he is out this week, it’s likely Chris Hope will start in place for him, as he did vs. Carolina.
Upgraded today was defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ribs). Babineaux participated on a limited basis in today’s practice, after missing Wednesday practice. Also limited were wide receiver Harry Douglas (ribs) and cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder). After being limited yesterday, tackle Sam Baker (hand) and guard Justin Blalock (elbow) fully participated in today’s practice.
This was a very bad game for the offense as the passing game never got into sync. The Falcons went nearly the full game without converting a third down and the lack of big plays was stark. I don’t think Ryan played poorly, but he certainly did not play well. He looked rattled early, as the Saints were effective pressuring him early. It caused him to be off on some throws and reads. Towards the latter part of the game, he seemed less willing to sling it downfield, and was going more for the easy completions in an effort to keep the offense on schedule. They attempted to take some shots early in the game, but they failed. Obviously when this offense is settling on 6 or 7-yard completions on a lot of dumpoffs to the running backs, then it is not potent at all.
The running game started strong, and one criticism could be that the team abandoned it during the middle portion of the game where the offense was struggling to move the ball. I don’t really adhere to that criticism. Everyone knows this team offensively is carried by its passing attack. The running game was on point against the Saints, but I don’t think you could believe it would be sustainable throughout the night.
One thing I did notice in terms of the backs was that I think Rodgers could be more potent with Mike Cox blocking for him. Cox has been an upgrade at the fullback position in recent weeks. And while he’s no Ovie, he’s at least competent to good for the most part. Traditionally, the Falcons like to use Cox in conjunction a lot with Turner, but I think Rodgers might be a better match. Turner’s late fumble was partially his fault for fighting for yards, but also it did seem that the refs were fairly lethargic on blowing the whistle for forward progress. But in the end, you still have to secure the football, which Turner did not, and ultimately the blame still falls squarely on him. After recent games, it’s going to be hard for Turner to earn the trust back of the coaching staff in order to finish games. While Turner was superior to Quizz in the early going, it does seem that the Falcons offense seems more effective with Quizz as the closer.
Up front, the line blocked well earning most of their key blocks in the early going. Konz was the weakest of the front, as he along with McClure, Blalock, and Baker all had their troubles blocking Sedrick Ellis. By my count, Ellis had a pressure (vs. McClure), 2 hits (1 vs. Baker, 1 vs. Konz), and a hurry (split by Baker & Blalock). McClure had his ups and downs, missing a couple of blocks (one of which was on a screen), giving up pressure to Ellis and Hicks up the middle. But he also made some very nice blocks in this game, so it also balances out. Clabo had a good game, as it seems like this is the first game in forever that he didn’t give up a pressure/hurry once. But overall, I think the line has been showing some improvement in recent weeks. It’s about time…
Matt Ryan struggled in this game, completing 18 of 33 for 165 yards and a touchdown. Michael Turner led the team on the ground with 83 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He had a late fourth quarter fumble that gave the Saints one last late game opportunity to try and steal the win. Jacquizz Rodgers had 43 yards on 8 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with 5 grabs for 48 yards. Tony Gonzalez had 4 catches for 58 yards and Ryan’s lone touchdown pass. Jason Snelling caught 4 passes for 28 yards. Roddy White had a quiet night, catching only 1 pass for 20 yards. Matt Bryant really made up for the stalled offense, connecting on 3 field goals of 45, 29, and a 55-yarder that put the team up two scores with over 4 minutes left in the game. Matt Bosher punted 6 times, matching a season-high, averaging 53.2 yards and having 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers returned 1 kickoff for 22 yards and Dominique Franks returned 1 punt for 13 yards. The offense started strong, rushing well on their opening drive, but then stalled out, unable to take advantage of multiple Saints turnovers. They started the game with 101 yards rushing in the first half, but only had 23 yards on 12 carries in the second half. They only managed to score 6 points off the five Saints turnovers. They finished 1 for 11 on third downs, unable to convert their first one until less than 7 minutes were left in the game.
Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Saints racked up 436 total yards on the day. They also struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Saints to convert 7 of 14 on that down. But they managed to pick off Drew Brees five times, which cut short a number of go-ahead or tying drives for the Saints. The run defense performed better than their last outing against the Saints, limiting them to just 38 yards in the first half. The Saints finished with 101 yards on the day. William Moore led the team with 11 tackles, including 2 for loss, and also picked off Brees twice. His second interception helped seal the Falcons victory after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass deflections); Jonathan Babineaux (1 interception); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 interception); Robert McClain (6 tackles, 2 pass deflections); Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles); Chris Owens (3 tackles, 2 pass deflections); Dunta Robinson (7 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (4 tackles, 1 interception) all had noteworthy games.
Initially from watching the game live, I was very impressed with the Falcons performance. Upon review, I still came away impressed but cannot dismiss that the Eagles did not play well in this game. Most of the positives come on the offensive side of the ball.
Matt Ryan had a strong game. The running game had its moments and you could certainly argue this was the most complete game the offense has played this year. Turner had one of his better performances and Quizz also ran what might be the best game of his career. The blocking was just OK in this game. Relative to recent games, the pass protection held up well. There were some holes in this game, but It was inconsistent. But probably less inconsistent than it has normally been this year.
Sam Baker usually gets destroyed by Trent Cole so only giving up two pressures is relatively a strong performance for him. Clabo continued to have his issues, but had his share of moments as a run blocker. Watching live, I thought Konz played well. Upon further review, I might hold off on that. He did have his moments particularly as a run blocker, but there were two many missed blocks and he had some struggles in pass protection. He had 2 hurries and a pressure on plays that we’re wiped out by penalties. I think he definitely flashed his potential in this game, but still needs to work out the kinks. Reynolds at this point might be more consistent/reliable, but I don’t think he has the upside of Konz, particularly in the ground game. It seemed that Konz had many of his issues trying to block linebackers in the run game, and also struggled versus stunts.
Speaking of blocking, my hat goes off to DJ Davis and Roddy White for their efforts there. Davis had an impressive debut, standing out as a blocker. Both of his catches came when he was wide open thanks to Eagle defenders focusing on the Falcons’ other playmakers, but he did make a nice catch on the TD since it was not a particularly well-thrown ball. Roddy has been an underwhelming blocker so far this year, as I’ve noticed several times this year where he misses an assignment that could have potentially sprung a runner for a big gain. But that was not the case on Sunday.
Julio was very impressive, as his two big plays were a welcome addition to the offense. He absolutely roasted Nnamdi on the touchdown, and if not for an excellent tackle by Kurt Coleman, could have potentially scored on the 37-yard screen pass. The Eagles really had a hard time defending the Falcons screens as well as the shovel passes to Snelling, which essentially doubled as running plays.
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.