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Scouting the Seahawks: How Atlanta Matches Up

January 11th, 2013 Comments off

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Marshawn Lynch is the foundation of the Seahawks attack.

I’ve watched quite a bit of Seahawks games on NFL.com’s Game Rewind to prep myself for this preview. I watched how they fared against New England’s and Buffalo’s offenses. I wanted to see how they did against a top quarterback with weapons (something they haven’t seen much of this year) and a dynamic wideout in Stevie Johnson who brings similar tools to the fold as Roddy White. I also looked at their Week 12 loss against the Dolphins, to see how the Dolphins pulled off that victory. I also wanted to see what the New York Jets did in Week 10 to cause Russell Wilson to have one of his worst games of the year. And of course I looked at their matchup last week against the Washington Redskins.

What I discovered was a very good Seahawks team that plays a style that is going to be a difficult matchup for the Falcons.

The key to Seattle’s success is their strong running game helmed by Marshawn Lynch and Tom Cable’s zone-blocking scheme. Lynch is one of the best after contact runners in the league, and the Falcons defense has struggled throughout this year with their tackling. If they aren’t swarming to the ball and Lynch gets too many one on one situations with our linebackers and safeties, the Falcons could be in for a long day.

Lynch’s running is the foundation of their offense. With it, they utilize a lot of play-action and read option with Russell Wilson. The Falcons have been fairly solid against those two, but have had their lapses. They’ve faced Carolina (twice) and Washington, both of whom utilized a lot of read option, so they will be prepared. However neither Carolina nor Washington used much of it in their early matchup. The only time the Falcons have seen a lot of it (and I suspect Seattle will use it quite a bit) was in their Week 14 loss to Carolina. During that game the Falcons did give up a pair of long touchdowns on read option on a Cam Newton run and a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams. But I feel somewhat confident that Mike Nolan may have fixed many of those kinks in the subsequent weeks.

If the Falcons can contain Lynch, it will be difficult for the Seahawks to overcome it because it might force them into playing a way they don’t want to play, which is a dropback passing game. Russell Wilson’s short stature has made it difficult for him to be your typical pocket passer at this level. He likes to get out on the move, using his legs and throwing downfield. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of the Falcons circa 2002 with Michael Vick. It’s what makes Seattle so dangerous since Wilson is prone to breaking some long runs. The key for any defense against them will be to contain him to the pocket and force him to use his arm, not his legs. The former has not quite developed, and he still is prone to making some youthful mistakes against the blitz, similar to Vick.
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Falcons lose in finale against Bucs

December 30th, 2012 Comments off
Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel walks dejectedly off the field.

The Falcons looked sluggish in a season finale loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 22-17. The Falcons opted to play the majority of their starters, but the offense stagnated early. While the Falcons were able to score some points late to make the game interesting, they could not overcome the early lead the Bucs built up. The Falcons finish the 2012 regular season with a 13-3 record, an NFC South title, and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Matt Ryan played the entire game, completing 28 of 44 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons running game did not do much, with Jacquizz Rodgers leading the team with 28 yards on 5 carries. Michael Turner added 18 yards on 6 carries and a touchdown. Rodgers also led receivers with 8 catches for 50 yards. Julio Jones (3 catches, 56 yards), Roddy White (5 catches, 42 yards), and Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 41 yards). The lone passing touchdown was caught by Harry Douglas, who finished the game with 4 catches for 21 yards. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal try from 28 yards out. Matt Bosher punted 6 times for an average of 50.8 yards, with 3 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Bosher had a punt blocked. Rodgers returned 3 kickoffs for 59 yards, while Douglas took over punt return duties from Dominique Franks and had 4 returns for 42 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons gave a decent effort, keeping the Bucs offense in check for most of the day. They allowed 366 total yards, including 144 yards on the ground which made the difference in the second half. The Falcons had held the Bucs to only 37 rushing yards in the first half on 12 carries, but thanks in large part to a 40-yard scoring run by Doug Martin, they could not slow down the Bucs ground attack in the second half. Sean Weatherspoon led defenders with 8 tackles. Thomas DeCoud (6 tackles); Akeem Dent (3 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles); Asante Samuel (2 tackles, 1 interception); and Vance Walker (5 tackles) had notable games.

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Offense struggles again in loss to Panthers

December 9th, 2012 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan is disappointed

The Falcons dropped their second game of the 2012 season with a 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons record goes to 11-2. The Falcons looked lackluster with another poor offensive effort following a 10-day layoff from their last game. They were shut out in the first half, down 16-0, the first time that’s happened to the team since 2009, and the first time it has occurred with Matt Ryan at the helm.

Matt Ryan had a lackluster performance, despite completing 34 of 49 passes for 342 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led the team with 21 yards on 4 carries. Michael Turner added 7 carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 9 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez (8 catches, 61 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 43 yards), and Julio Jones (5 catches, 66 yards, and a TD) also were key contributors. Matt Bryant attempted no field goal tries on the day. Matt Bosher punted 4 times on the Falcons first 4 possessions for an average of 42 yards, with 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 2 kickoffs for 42 yards, and they returned neither of the pair of Brad Nortman punts for the Panthers. Offensively, the team struggled on 3rd down for the second week in a row, converting only 2 of 8 tries. The Falcons could not sustain drives early in the game, only possessing the ball for a total of 6 minutes in the first half.

Defensively, the Falcons could not get off the field on third downs. The Panthers wound up converting 9 of 15 third down tries and produced 475 yards of total offense, including 195 on the ground. The Falcons defense did do a good job in the redzone keeping the Panthers out of the endzone, forcing field goals on both of their redzone entries. But two big plays resulted in the Panthers two second half touchdowns, which helped put the game out of reach for the struggling Falcons offense. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 9 tackles. Kroy Biermann (4 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Akeem Dent (8 tackles); Robert McClain (8 tackles); Chris Owens (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection); Dunta Robinson (8 tackles, 1 pass deflection); Vance Walker (2 tackles, 1 sack); and Sean Weatherspoon (7 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The game began with a long, 11-play, 77-yard drive by the Panthers that consumed over 7 minutes of the first quarter. Cam Newton hit Steve Smith to convert on a quick slant. Three plays later, Newton scrambled up the middle for a 6-yard gain. A reverse to Joe Adams on the next play was stopped by John Abraham a yard shy to set up 3rd & 1. But Mike Tolbert powered through a tackle on the next play for a 7-yard gain to convert the third down. Three plays later, Newton connected with Greg Olsen on a back-shoulder throw for a 25-yard scoring strike over Thomas DeCoud. The Falcons took a 7-0 lead. The Falcons followed up with Gonzalez getting an 8-yard catch on second down to convert for a first down. But Ryan would get sacked on the next play by Frank Kearse. Ryan’s next pass would be an overthrow to Antone Smith on a screen pass. He checked down to D.J. Davis for a 6-yard gain on 3rd & 18 to force Bosher’s first punt. A steady ground attack would get the Panthers in Falcon territory with another long drive to eat away the last 5 minutes of the first quarter. Newton ran up the middle for a 2-yard gain to convert a 4th & 1 to close out the quarter. Three plays later, Corey Peters would get penetration and get Cam Newton in the grasp on the sack, but Newton spun out, made a couple of defenders miss, and managed to run 14 yards for the first down on 3rd & 11. Two plays later, Louis Murphy would catch a Newton pass for 16 yards to put the ball inside the Falcons 10-yard line. Sean Weatherspoon would trip up DeAngelo Williams on the draw play on the next play. Newton would miss to Murphy in the back of the endzone on the next play. Then pressure would get to him as Mike Nolan dialed up a blitz and hwas forced to throw it away on third down. The Panthers would set for a 24-yard field goal from Graham Gano to go up 10-0. All in all, the Panthers had held the ball for over 9 minutes for 17 plays, and 72 yards on that scoring drive. The Falcons next series was a three-and-out as Ryan’s pass to Michael Palmer on 3rd & 5 came up a yard short of the sticks. Newton would hit Steve Smith on a crossing pattern for 20 yards on first down of the next Panthers drive. Smith would then beat Chris Owens on the next play for a 15-yard completion. Two plays later, Newton would get dropped by Vance Walker for the sack, putting hte Panthers at the Falcons 30-yard line. On third down, Newton would overthrow Steve Smith and once again Gano came on the field to convert a 41-yard field goal. The kick was good and the Panthers now had a 13-0 lead with just 5 minutes left in the first half. On the first play of the Falcons next series, Ryan would find Rodgers on a checkdown for 9 yards, breaking a couple of tackles. Three plays later, while trying to escape the pocket, Ryan’s checkdown to Rodgers would fall short. The Panthers blitzed on the next play, and Ryan hit his hot read in Tony Gonzalez, but he is easily stopped by D.J. Campbell for no gain to force the punt. The Panthers took over with 3:35 left in the half at their own 28-yard line. As the two-minute warning hit, Newton scrambled off the right side for a 21-yard gain on 3rd & 6. Louis Murphy would beat Dunta Robinson deep on a double move, but Newton would miss the wide open touchdown pass, overthrowing him. Two plays later, Steve Smith would beat Owens on the deep out for 19 yards. Five plays later with the Panthers having a 1st & 15 at the Falcons 19-yard line, Newton would hit Murphy along the sideline in the endzone. But Murphy was only able to get a single foot down inbounds resulting an incomplete pass. An incomplete pass to Olsen on the next play would set up a 3rd & 15. Newton’s pass to Murphy was stopped for just a 6-yard gain. And Gano would hit his third field goal of the game from 31 yards to close out the first half.

To start the third quarter, the Falcons went into no huddle mode. Ryan hit Roddy White for his first two receptions on the opening two plays for a combined 28 yards. But three plays later, on 3rd & 7, Ryan tried stepping up in the pocket but wound up overthrowing Harry Douglas. And the Falcons fourth possession ended in a punt. On the third play of the Panthers series, Mike Tolbert bust up the middle for a 5-yard gain to convert on 3rd & 1. On the next play, Cam Newton kept the ball and rushed virtually untouched 72 yards down the left side for a touchdown. That quick score put the Panthers up 23-0 with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. A 6-yard handoff to Jacquizz Rodgers started the next Falcons series. Ryan then converted on second down with a 9-yard comeback to Julio Jones. That was followed by a 5-yard run by Rodgers. Ryan hit Gonzalez on the next play for a 16-yard gain to put the ball in Panther territory. White, Gonzalez, and then Rodgers would touch the ball on the next three plays to put the ball inside the Panthers redzone. On second down, Ryan missed Jason Snelling in the flat on an overthrow. Pressure got to Ryan on the next play, and his out pass to Gonzalez on 3rd & 4 fell incomplete. The Falcons opted to go for it on 4th & 4 from the Panthers 13 yard line. Ryan hit Snelling on a shovel pass and he rumbled 5 yards to convert. Two plays later, Ryan hit Roddy on a crossing pattern for the 4-yard touchdown pass. The Falcons got on the board for the first time of the game with 4:50 remaining on the third quarter clock. Steve Smith gained 16 yards on a Newton pass to start the next Panthers series. DeCoud would wrap up DeAngelo Williams in the backfield for a 2-yard loss on the next play. Two plays later, Newton would overthrow Smith on 3rd & 4 and the Panthers would be forced to punt for the first time. The Falcons now took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:38 left in the quarter. Ryan hit Roddy for a 14-yard gain on 2nd & 7 on the third play of that series. Ryan took a deep shot to Roddy, but the receiver stumbled and the ball was overthrown. Two plays later, Ryan would find White again for an 18-yard completion on a deep comeback. To close out the third quarter, Ryan would hit Julio Jones who made an excellent diving grab over the middle for a 21-yard gain. Ryan took another shot at Jones on the next play, but Jones cannot secure the fingertip grab going out of bounds. The Falcons would convert their first third down of the day two plays later with an 11-yard completion to Gonzalez. That put the ball at the Panther 11-yard line, which the Falcons took advantage of with a bubble screen to Julio Jones who scored thanks to a couple of good blocks by Todd McClure, Justin Blalock, and Harry Douglas. The Falcons went for two following the score, hoping to make it a one score game with 14 minutes left. Ryan sprint out on the play and found Roddy White going out of bounds. What looked to be a catch was ruled incomplete due to the ref indicating that White bobbled the ball as he was going to the ground. The play was challenged by Mike Smith, but the refs did not overturn the highly questionable call. And thus the Falcons were still down 10 points, 23-13. The Panthers began to try and run out the clock with 2 runs for 8 yards on their next series. But Newton again would convert on 3rd down with a 7-yard pass to Smith. He would then hit Olsen on the next play for 18 yards on a pass over the middle. Two plays later, Louis Murphy would drop a pass along the sideline near the sticks. But Ron Rivera challenges the ruling, and it’s overturned. Instead, the play is ruled a fumble by Murphy instead of a drop, and the Panthers convert the first down. Chris Owens gets credit with the forced fumble on the play. Two plays later the Panther drive stalls on third down thanks to Dunta Robinson breaking up a pass to Smith. The Panthers punt is fair caught by Dominique Franks at the 10-yard line. Ryan went back to the Roddy well on the next series, hitting him on the two opening plays for a combined 21 yards. Harry Douglas would get into the act with a 19-yard grab on the next play. Turner rushed for 5 yards on the next play. But then on 2nd & 5, Greg Hardy would sack Ryan. Ryan would check down to Rodgers on 3rd & 12 to get 4 yards back to try and set up a makeable 4th down try. Pressure would flush Ryan out of the pocket, and throwing off his back foot, he could not get enough on the ball. That allowed Thomas Davis to step in front of the pass to White for the interception, essentially ending any hopes of a miracle finish for the Falcons with 6:19 to go. The Falcons defense would get a stop on their next series, with a Newton pass to Armanti Edwards going for only 4 yards on 3rd & 9. But Robinson would be called for defensive holding against Edwards, giving the Panthers a first down near midfield with about 5 minutes to go in the game. On the next play, Newton would hit the screen to DeAngelo Williams, who with help from a couple of missed tackles would run 53 yards for a touchdown icing the game. The Panthers took a 30-13 lead with 4 minutes left in the game. Ryan would try and take a deep shot to Jones on first down of the ensuing Falcons series, but it would be overthrown. Jones would extend high in the air to make an excellent grab in traffic for a 17-yard gain on the next play. Ryan would hit Tony Gonzalez on a pair of 6-yard plays, followed by a 10-yard pass to Douglas, and then a 11-yarder to Chase Coffman. Two plays later, a checkdown to Rodgers for 8 yards would give the Falcons another first down with the two-minute warning hitting. Ryan’s pass out of the break was a 17-yarder to White that put the ball at the Panthers 1-yard line. Ryan took a shot to Jones in the endzone, but it was knocked away by Josh Thomas. Ryan’s next pass went over the head of a crossing Kevin Cone. On the third down, Ryan tried a quick slant to Gonzalez that was incomplete, but Captain Munnerlyn was called for pass interference. That gave the Falcons a first down at the 1, and on Turner’s second rush he was able to score the 1-yard plunge. With less than a minute left in the game, Bosher’s onside attempt was easily covered by Jordan Senn. The Panthers opted to kneel on the ball on the last two plays and the game was over.

Next week, the Falcons will be hosting the New York Giants. Their last contest against the Giants was a rough one, a 24-2 loss on the road in last year’s playoffs. The Falcons have lost 7 straight home games against the Giants going back to 1981, and three straight in the Georgia Dome. Overall, the Falcons have lost four straight against the Giants. Their last victory was a road win in 2004 by a score of 14-10. Prior to the arrival of Mike Smith, the road team won the Falcons-Giants matchup 12 straight times going back to 1982. Since Smith’s arrival in 2008, the Falcons have lost both contests against New York, both of them coming on the road. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are 8-0 in home games following road losses. They have won 11 straight games following losses of any kind, and are 19-3 overall under Smith under those circumstances.

Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Moneyball 2012 – Week 13 Review

December 4th, 2012 1 comment

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…

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Michael Turner$0$9$0$0$0-$2$7.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$5$0$0$5.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$4$0$0$4.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Todd MCClure$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Matt Ryan$2$0$0$0$0$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Roddy White$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 12 Review

November 29th, 2012 Comments off

A solid game for the offense particularly when it came to producing some explosive plays at key moments. Most of those plays came via the legs and speed of Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers had a career high in earnings, collecting as a runner, receiver, blocker, and on special teams. It’s probably about as good a game from him that you might be able to expect from him. The disparity in burst and elusiveness between Quizz and Turner has been noticeable in recent weeks, and it really doesn’t get more apparent than it was this week. The Falcons offense now is predicated on generating big plays and the coaches will be doing themselves a favor by continuing to give Rodgers more snaps, and more carries on the ground.

But I did notice in this game that many of the Turner runs were poorly blocked. It’s almost as if the team’s effort goes down when he’s running the ball. It’s a ridiculous statement to make, yes I know. Or maybe the Bucs effort goes up because they are keying on the run harder. That sounds more plausible, but it’s not any more provable just from watching tape.

Ryan had another solid game, although there were a couple of missed throws he had this week that I’m not sure he would have missed a month or so ago. It’s a very, very minor concern at this point, but it’s something I want to keep my eye on going forward. The last player I want to see getting into a bit of a lull is Ryan.

Julio Jones had another big game. He also had a pair of dropped touchdowns (one of which was negated by his OPI penalty). The actual drop was a bad throw on Ryan’s part, but Jones did an excellent job adjusting to the ball behind him and had a chance to catch it as it sort of bounced off his chest. I’m going to say it right now, I think drops are going to be a regular thing with Julio going forward. His range and ability to get his hands on balls that many, rather most other receivers cannot is going to lead to a lot of drops. Especially when you use the litmus test where if he can get both hands on the ball (which generally I do), then it should be caught. It just might be similar to Terrell Owens (a comparison someone made in the forums), although towards the end of his career it seemed like T.O. dropped a lot of easy passes due to poor concentration. Jones has certainly had his share of lapses in concentration during his short Falcon career, but it wasn’t a problem this week and hasn’t been the past few games from what I can recall. Brandon Marshall is that same way, and all three guys are/were physical specimens which occasionally seems to be a disadvantage (although I welcome that trade-off for all the times when it’s a major advantage).

A quiet game for Roddy White, but he made some nice plays when it counted. I think his low production had more to do with Ryan attacking matchups he liked with the weaker Buc corners. And that often was Julio on whomever. Gonzo was money on third downs, as usual. I did like the flat pass to Douglas working out of trips. I’ve seen the team use that a bit more often in recent weeks, and I think it’s a nice way to manufacture yards on first down via the pass, instead of relying on the ground attack. I hope to see more of that the rest of the season. If you’ve been wondering where Douglas can make an impact on this offense down the stretch it’s potentially there.

This also was one of the better games for the pass protection, who had a nice long run of not doing a great job. A couple of hurries where the Bucs were able to move Ryan off his spot, but nothing grievous outside a pressure given up by Baker, and a hit/hurry given up by Cox on a completion to Jones.

The run blocking still needs work however. The Falcons just really struggle to create any push at the line of scrimmage. Both of those late runs by Turner that went for negative yardage were poorly blocked. Turner made a mistake on the last one, and had he not fought for extra yards, it could have been “just” a loss of two. But I’m not sure I can really blame Turner too much because it’s silly to tell him that he should let Adam Hayward tackle him. The mistake was going deeper in the backfield however, not breaking Hayward’s tackle. But nonetheless, the run was doomed from the start. Again, even if Turner had not backtracked on that play, the best you could have hoped for was a loss of 2 yards, which is a failure on the O-line.

Clabo had both of his key blocks on early Rodgers runs where he pulled and was able to cut a defender. The first was on Quizz’s opening carry for 20 yards, the second on the 5-yard TD run. But Clabo also was credited for missing the block on that -8 yard run by Turner at the end. Other Falcon blockers missed their assignments as well (Konz and Johnson) but it was Gerald McCoy beating Clabo that really blew up that play.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$14$2$0$0$0-$2$14.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$9$2$1$1$0$13.00
Julio Jones$0$1$8$1$0-$1$9.00
Roddy White$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Michael Turner$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Mike Cox$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00

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Falcons scoot by Bucs

November 25th, 2012 Comments off
Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Jones runs by Leonard Johnson for an 80-yard TD

The Falcons extend their record to 10-1 with a 24-23 win over division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. It was another nail-biter that potentially came down to the final play, as the Bucs had a chance to win with a hail mary as time expired.

Matt Ryan started off strong, as he completed his first 10 passes. He finished the game completing 26 of 32 passes for 353 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 49 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Michael Turner also scored a touchdown, adding 17 yards on 13 carries. In the air, Julio Jones had a strong game despite still recovering from an ankle injury. He led receivers with 6 catches for a career-high 147 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 62 yards), Roddy White (5 catches, 57 yards), Jason Snelling (3 catches, 33 yards), and Rodgers (2 catches, 30 yards) also made big contributions on the day. Matt Bryant hit on only 1 of 3 field goal attempts. He connected on a 31-yarder, but missed from 22 and 48 yards. Matt Bosher punted only once for 45 yards, placing it inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 36.5 yards, while Dominique Franks had a single punt return for 10 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons run defense stepped up big and bottled up Doug Martin. He and the Bucs team was held to just 50 yards on the ground. They did give up 326 total yards and allowed 4 of 10 third down conversions. Stephen Nicholas led the unit with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles, 1 sack); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles); Dunta Robinson (6 tackles, 1 sack); and Sean Weatherspoon (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Categories: News Tags: , , , , , ,

Jones, Spoon questionable against Cardinals

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

Today, the Falcons released their injury report for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. On it, wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) were listed as questionable. Neither player practiced during the week, and according to head coach Mike Smith will be game-time decisions. Jones suffered his injury during the first half of last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, but later returned to the game in the third quarter. Weatherspoon has missed the past two games with his injury.

Wideout Kevin Cone (groin) and safety Charles Mitchell (calf) also missed the week of practice nd were listed as out for the Cardinals game. It’s the third consecutive game missed for Cone, while the second for Mitchell.

Also listed as questionable were defensive end John Abraham (back), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (ribs). All three players were limited in practice for all three days of practice this week. Listed as probable on this week’s report were defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (thigh), wide receiver Harry Douglas (ankle), tight end Tony Gonzalez (shoulder), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (groin), and linebacker Mike Peterson (foot). Peterson fully participated in all three days of practice, while Babineaux, Douglas and Gonzalez were full participants on Thursday and Friday. Nicholas was upgraded on Friday and fully participated in practice for the first time all week.

Douglas and Peterson will likely replace Jones and Weatherspoon in the lineup, respectively if the pair sit. The injury to Abraham plus the release of Ray Edwards this week could mean a significant increase in reps for Lawrence Sidbury, Cliff Matthews, and/or Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. Turner’s injury could lead to the team giving increased reps to Jacquizz Rodgers and/or Jason Snelling at running back.

Moneyball 2012 – Week 10 Review

November 15th, 2012 Comments off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saints defender knocks away pass to Gonzalez

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

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

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

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 9 Review

November 8th, 2012 Comments off

Despite scoring only 19 points, I was impressed with how the offense performed against the Cowboys. Breakdowns in pass protection and their inability to run the ball in the early part of this game prevented them from finishing some drives. But for the most part, the Falcons had little issue moving the ball against the Cowboys defense.

Matt Ryan had an excellent game despite not throwing a touchdown. Roddy White and Julio Jones for chunks of this game appeared uncoverable to Dallas defenders. The Cowboys only effective way of slowing down the Falcons passing attack was with pressure, something they got regularly in the first three quarters. But when things counted late the O-line stepped up, protected Ryan, and opened some running lanes for Turner.

I think Turner may have looked the most like his former self in this game, running hard, and breaking a number of tackles. The Falcons goalline and short-yardage blocking has been abysmal this year, so it was nice to see Turner pound it in from 3 yards out for the team’s lone touchdown on the night. In previous efforts, it might have taken the team 3 or more plays to run it in from that distance. Konz got the key block on that play, and had a much improved effort than he did last week. Clabo continues to struggle in pass protection despite not giving up any pressures or sacks. I counted five “hurries” he gave up, which I’ve previously explained are times when pressure happened but did not result in an incompletion, or there was light enough pressure where the QB had to rush a throw or move off his spot. The rest of the line combined for just two hurries. So while Baker’s earnings were less, I think he had the better game among the tackles. Overall, a subpar effort up front which has been a regular occurrence this season.

The team cut Lousaka Polite this week. You might make the case that this was his strongest lead blocking effort of the season, but that isn’t really saying much since he was fairly poor in all other games. The dropped pass, missed assignments, and poor pass protection combined to force the team’s hand. Personally if I was calling the shots in Atlanta, I would just move Snelling to fullback. Cox is largely serviceable, and probably won’t be a Falcon next year (due to Ewing’s return), thus I’d try to find some developmental guy to use his roster spot on. Or perhaps give Matthews or Massaquoi more reps on gameday with the extra spot. But it’s fairly inconsequential. And who knows, maybe Cox actually helps improve the ground game down the stretch.

Rodgers really came through with two critical third down conversions. I really want to see the Falcons do a better job integrating their entire receiver corps with Harry Douglas being largely an afterthought. I have no answers to offer them. I think one of the issues for Douglas in this particular game was the quality of Dallas’ corners, and his continued struggles with beating press and tight man coverage.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$16$1$0$0$0$0$17.00
Michael Turner$0$11-$1$0$0$0$10.00
Roddy White$0$0$9$1$0$0$10.00
Julio Jones$0$2$6$0$0-$1$7.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$0$4-$1$0$0$3.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Michael Palmer$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00
Lousaka Polite$0$0-$1-$1$0$0-$2.00

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