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2013 Year-End Superlatives: Most Improved Player

January 17th, 2014 Comments off

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Corey Peters

The Atlanta Falcons’ most improved player in 2013 is defensive tackle Corey Peters, who was my choice at the midway point in the season. Not only did his play continue to merit distinction in the second half of 2013, but no other players really emerged.

There were potentially other options under consideration, including offensive linemen Joe Hawley and Justin Blalock. Hawley entered this year as a utility backup, but exited it arguably as the team’s second-best offensive lineman behind Blalock. Through the previous four seasons of reviewing games, rarely did I ever view Blalock as anything more than a serviceable starter. Blalock is a player that gets the job done competently, but rarely ever stands out on tape. That changed for a long stretch of 2013, where I saw Blalock consistently playing at a relatively high level.

But in the end, Peters is the most deserving because unlike Blalock, I’m not sure Peters had shown this season that he was even a serviceable starter. He was a decent option as a starter, but seemed like a player that would have been a much better fit as a third tackle in the rotation rather than a full-time starter. But Peters improved this past season, and was light years better in 2013 than he had been in any other season previously. His best asset was his ability to plug the run, as the Falcons discovered his ideal role as a one-technique nose tackle in their hybrid defensive scheme. He flashed his pass-rushing skills with five sacks, second most on the team, able to take advantage of weaker centers and guards when he got the opportunities.

Peters is an impending free agent that unfortunately suffered an Achilles tear late in the season. It’s a rough thing to happen to Peters, who was on the verge of really cashing in on the improvement he made. But it might wind up serving as a blessing for the Falcons because there be as many teams trying to sign him away this offseason, thus lowering his potential price tag. If the Falcons are able to retain Peters, there is good reason to believe that once he’s completely healthy again, whether in 2014 or 2015, he’ll pick up right where he left off in 2013 as one of the team’s better defensive players.

Categories: Features Tags: , , ,

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 “2013 Awards Extravaganza!”

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I get together once again to discuss our choices for various awards stemming from the Atlanta Falcons 2013 season. Included are our choices for the team’s most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, most improved player, biggest disappointment, and most underrated and overrated players among several other individual honors. During the course of our discussion, I explain my hatred for Harry Douglas for the umpteenth time, and also where I rank Matt Ryan among the league’s top quarterbacks following his play in 2013. After divvying out our awards, we get into a discussion about the winners and losers from the second round of the playoffs, as well as our expectations for the upcoming conference championship games.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 2013 Awards Extravaganza! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. 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, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Divisional Playoff Round 2013

January 13th, 2014 Comments off
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

A player like Jadeveon Clowney could revitalize the entire Falcons team

If the Atlanta Falcons want to improve their chances of winning games in January, they must improve their defense.

Everyone knows the Falcons sport one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL today. The Falcons have the sixth best winning percentage of any team in the past six seasons (including postseason games) in their home stadium.

It’s then obviously to their advantage if they are able to get a top seed in the playoffs and be able to host opponents in the Georgia Dome come January. But what happens if adversity strikes as it did this past season, and the team is unable to rack up all those regular season wins to get a high seed?

And given an already tough NFC South might have gotten tougher with Lovie Smith becoming the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the chances have increased that the Falcons may have to “settle” for more wildcard playoff berths in future seasons. And thus defense becomes their best asset if the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome are no longer part of the equation.

History Shows Strong Link between Road Playoff Success and Defense

All one has to do is look over the past several years at teams that have managed to win multiple playoff games on the road and you see a commonality among them: good defense.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 53 “Harry Douglas Ruins Dreams”

December 31st, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by another Falcoholic contributor, the ever-optimistic Jeanna Thomas, to discuss the Atlanta Falcons last two games of the year against the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 16 and 17. Topics we hit include the battle between Steven Jackson and Donte Whitner, the problems that plague the offensive line, the refusal to play Antone Smith, and the outlook of some young players: Peter Konz, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford. We also discuss how injury will affect the future of Corey Peters, as well as the possibility that the team’s good intentions sabotaged Tony Gonzalez’s final game. We end the show discussing some of the things we saw around the league in Week 17, as I gloat over Allen about the Eagles win over the Cowboys. We each give our predictions about which teams could emerge in the first round of the playoffs to make a legit run at the Super Bowl in February.

Episode53-Harry Douglas Ruins Dreams [Download]
Duration: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

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, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Peters and Motta headed to injured reserve

December 24th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Peters

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta Falcons will place defensive tackle Corey Peters and rookie safety Zeke Motta on injured reserve. Peters suffered an Achilles injury in Monday night’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The injury will likely limit Peters during the upcoming offseason where he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Motta suffered a fracture in his C1 vertebrae during the preceding week’s win over the Washington Redskins. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks as he recovers from his recent surgery.

For the fifth consecutive season the Falcons have placed a player on injured reserve before the season finale. Last year, it was wide receiver Kevin Cone. In the preceding year, it was linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Kelvin Hayden. In 2010, safety Schann Schillinger found himself going to injured reserve while guard Harvey Dahl and cornerback Chris Houston were sidelined in 2009. Traditionally the Falcons typically elevate player(s) from the practice squad to the active roster for the season finale.

In the absence of Peters, the Falcons moved Peria Jerry to his traditional nose tackle spot against the 49ers. It will likely lead to increased reps for Travian Robertson in the season finale next week against the Carolina Panthers. Robertson has just played a total of 55 defensive snaps this season in four games played. Motta filled in for an injured Thomas DeCoud at free safety against the Redskins in his lone start of the season. But DeCoud returned this past week against the 49ers. Motta’s injury led to fellow rookie Kemal Ishmael receiving three snaps against the 49ers, his first of the season on defense. That will likely continue against the Panthers with Ishmael being the team’s top backup at both safety spots.

Categories: News Tags: , , , , ,

49ers Survive Falcons With Game-Winning Pick-Six

December 24th, 2013 Comments off

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Navorro Bowman returns an interception 89 yards for the game-sealing touchdown

The Atlanta Falcons lost another tough one with a 34-24 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The game marked the final regular season contest played by the 49ers in Candlestick Park. The Falcons got off to an early lead, pulling ahead by a score of 10-3 at halftime. But the 49ers then scored 17 unanswered points before the Falcons got get back on the scoreboard. Ultimately the Falcons were in position to pull ahead, having marched the ball inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line with 1:31 left to go in the game. But Matt Ryan’s pass to Harry Douglas was tipped off 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock into the hands of linebacker Navorro Bowman, who then returned it 89 yards for a touchdown, sealing the game for the 49ers.

Ryan led the way completing 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions. Steven Jackson led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Douglas finished with five catches for 46 yards, while Drew Davis had three catches for 70 yards. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 35 yards out. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 48.8 yards with two kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain averaged 16.5 yards on a pair of punt returns, while Jacquizz Rodgers had 50 yards on two kickoff returns. The Falcons offense was able to generate 402 total yards, mostly coming in the air. They also were able to convert eight of 15 third down attempts and scored touchdowns on half of their four red zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 379 total yards, including 199 yards on the ground. The defense got off to a good start, limiting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to just 69 yards passing in the first half. The 49ers also only had 52 rushing yards and were only able to convert one of five third downs in the first half. But that changed in the second half, as San Francisco generated 266 total yards, including 147 on the ground. They also were able to convert on three of four third down attempts and had no issues moving the ball at will against the struggling Falcons defense. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (1 tackle, 1 sack); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (5 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection); Corey Peters (1 tackle, 1 sack); and Paul Worrilow (5 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 15 Review

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

After reviewing the All-22, no doubt this was an ugly win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Washington Redskins.

As I noted yesterday, the offense was fairly conservative in terms of taking deep shots down the field. It appeared that the Falcons only drew up three plays in which Matt Ryan was looking to throw the ball beyond 15 yards. I noticed how often the Falcons run plays that require the receivers to run to the sticks or a yard shy, and that’s it. There was a play-call on a 3rd-and-21 in the second quarter where it was supposed to be a clear-out for Darius Johnson. I get that with the Falcons backed up inside their 10-yard line, that Dirk Koetter didn’t want to risk Ryan taking a deep drop and increase the potential for a safety. But Johnson got no separation from David Amerson on that play and it was just a three-yard gain. That play sort of epitomizes the sort of conservative approach of the offense.

I thought Ryan did some good things, particularly in terms of his movement within the pocket to avoid pressure. There were about three times where he was able to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver a completion down the field. So much of this season I’ve watched Ryan check it down in the face of pressure, and it was nice to see him using his legs to create space and extend plays.

The only real complaint I have with Ryan in this game was his overthrow on his interception, on one of his few shots downfield at the end of the first half. I like that he was being aggressive, he just needed to make a better throw. This week will go down as one of his lower earnings of the season, but I think that had more to do with play-calling than him playing poorly.

There were problems (as usual) with the pass protection with too many breakdowns. Lamar Holmes struggled to handle Brian Orakpo, with both of his sacks allowed coming against him. Ryan Kerrigan also did good work against Ryan Schraeder on the other side with a sack and a hurry, but also was very effective when matched against our tight ends when they were blocking. I was surprised to see such a big game from defensive end Chris Baker, who got credited with a hurry (against Justin Blalock), hit (against Holmes), and pressure (against Peter Konz). He also mauled Holmes on one of the goal line runs in the second quarter where Steven Jackson got stuffed in the backfield (that was Holmes’ credited missed block). He’s a free agent after this season, so I definitely made a mental note for March.

On the bright side up front, I thought Joe Hawley had another solid game at center, and I was very impressed with Harland Gunn in his limited action on two or three series. He looked much better than Konz did at right guard. I’d say Konz probably had one of his best games of the season, but still struggled too many times. He spent a lot of time on the ground on the opening drive, and for those that don’t know, that’s not a good sign for an offensive linemen. But I’ll give Konz some credit, I think Sunday’s game was the first time he ever hit an assignment on the second level with a nice cut block on a screen pass that Jacquizz Rodgers gained 15 yards on in the third quarter.

But Gunn looked much more violent and physical, playing with better balance and footwork, and doing a better job using his hands. I really liked how quick Gunn was coming off the snap and getting to the second level. He and Hawley are two peas in the same pod, in that what they lack in power and pure strength they make up for with aggressiveness and knowing how to get position against bigger defenders. Despite not having ideal size or strength, Gunn seemed to be the only blocker that was effective at times one-on-one against Baker. That includes Blalock, who probably had his worst game of the season. He wasn’t bad by any means, but got pushed around too much in pass protection, more so than he has to date in 2013.

There isn’t much else that needs to be said about the offense. I thought Steven Jackson ran hard, and his trucking of Josh Wilson will certainly be one of the highlights of the year.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$9-$1$0$0-$2$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$1$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0-$2$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$1$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$2$0-$3-$5.00

Read more…

Takeaways from Week 15

December 16th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Osi Umenyiora is likely to become another expendable veteran player

The Atlanta Falcons offense sunk to new depths of ineptitude and ineffectiveness, despite defeating the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Against the league’s worst scoring defense, the Falcons offense was only able to mount two successful offensive series, and netting just seven points off those two drives.

Thankfully the Redskins turned the ball over seven times, which helped give the Falcons 20 points thanks to short fields and they were able to win the game.

But of course the key point of the game was Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for the win rather than settling for overtime. Shanahan called for a two-point conversion with the Redskins down a point with less than 20 seconds to go. Desmond Trufant broke up the throw to Pierre Garcon, and the Falcons were able to hold onto the lead and eventually gain the win. It was a ballsy, and in many eyes stupid call.

I don’t consider myself one of those people that would call it stupid. I generally don’t fault coaches or players for being aggressive. Obviously there is a thin line between being appropriately aggressive and stupidly aggressive. And I wouldn’t argue against anyone that said Shanahan crossed that line.

The reasons why it could be considered stupid is because the Falcons offense really did nothing all game. And thus in overtime, there’s no reason to think that the Falcons can mount a drive to win. The Redskins had marched the ball up and down the field for 476 total yards, and as long as they don’t cough it up, there’s every reason to believe Washington had the advantage if it went into overtime.

You know what I’m going to say. The Falcons didn’t have a single play of 20 or more yards, and it’s not a coincidence in my eyes that their offense really struggled. On those two aforementioned good drives, the Falcons were able to convert five of six third down tries but were zero for eight on their other seven possessions.

People will continue to blame the subpar play of the offensive line for why the Falcons struggle to generate those big plays, but as the win over the Bills showed two weeks ago, having a leaky front doesn’t preclude you from taking shots downfield.

The real problem the Falcons have is that they lack the weapons that can create those plays down the field. Matt Ryan attempted just three deep passes in the entire game, with Roddy White being the lone receiver to reel in one. White had a 19-yard catch on the opening series, the longest play of the day for the Falcons. Again, probably not a coincidence that was the one drive where the Falcons offense managed to move the ball and finish with a touchdown.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 51 “A Weird, Bad Team”

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I discuss the Atlanta Falcons Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as well as preview their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Some of the topics hit this week include: my newfound hatred for Harry Douglas, Mike Smith’s fourth down decision making, Corey Peters’ sack dance, debut of Zeke Motta, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon’s play at linebacker, Jonathan Massaquoi’s improvement, Steven Jackson’s expendability, and Dirk Koetter’s potential departure. As usual, we discuss the rest of the league as well, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury.

Episode 51: A Weird, Bad Team [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. 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, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Moneyball 2013 – Week 14 Review

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

A very disappointing finish to a game with a promising start for the Atlanta Falcons.

The offense never really looked comfortable in the cold of Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons offense reverted back to the conservative, dinking and dunking of previous weeks (as opposed to last week’s win), and there was only one instance where the Falcons took a shot downfield before the fourth quarter. Sure, you can partially blame the cold and wind (although it wasn’t that windy) that limited how much the Falcons could let things fly, but I’ve long said that the link between this offense scoring and generating big plays is significant. And they simply didn’t have many in this game (just two before the final minute), which is why the offense really only had one successful drive. And it’s not a coincidence that both of their big plays came on that drive. It boils down to the fact that the team did not try hard enough to get those big plays.

I don’t think Matt Ryan had a great game. I saw too many throws that were off the mark, but I’ll partially blame the weather for some of that. I also didn’t like that Ryan seemed to be staring down his initial read quite a bit in this game, which was often Roddy White. White had a good game, so for the most part it didn’t hurt Ryan too much. But it did on the final play where he forced a throw to Harry Douglas, when he potentially had Darius Johnson open on the other side. Johnson was singled up in coverage, and had Ryan made a good throw on that play, it potentially could have set up a very long field goal (likely 53-55 yards) that could have won it rather than the pick.

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming Ryan for the loss, but it was a rather nondescript performance from him. I thought he had fairly good protection. The Packers started to use more stunts at the end of the game once they realized that Peter Konz and Ryan Schraeder couldn’t handle them. It was one such stunt that disrupted the throw with 21 seconds left on the play preceding the infamous Douglas drop. I thought Schraeder handled himself relatively well since it was his most extensive playing time. The sack he gave up to Mike Neal was a result of just bad technique and footwork. I don’t see any reason why Trueblood should get his job back at this point.

Peter Konz is simply a liability at right guard. When you’re getting beat by a speed rush from B.J. Raji, it tells me you have no business playing guard. I think it’s time the Falcons gave Harland Gunn a look over these last three games.

Lamar Holmes had his share of struggles against Clay Matthews with all of his hurries coming against him. Joe Hawley had a nice block downfield on the 22-yard run by Steven Jackson, and Justin Blalock was his usual solid, but unspectacular self.

I could say some negative things about Douglas and his drop at the end of the game, but I’d just be repeating myself.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Steven Jackson$0$7-$1$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$4$0$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$1$0$0$5.00
Drew Davis$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

Read more…