Posts Tagged ‘Turner’

Falcons squeeze past Cowboys on Sunday Night

November 5th, 2012 Comments off

Rodgers runs for a gain

The Falcons won scrappily over the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 19-13 on Sunday Night Football to push their 2012 record to 8-0. The offense got off to a sluggish start, but the Falcons were able to take the lead at the start of the fourth quarter and show their resiliency.

Matt Ryan was sharp, completing 24 of 34 passes for 342 yards. He was held without a touchdown, snapping a 22-game streak in which he threw at least one touchdown pass. Michael Turner led rushers with 102 yards on the ground on 20 carries and the team’s lone touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 7 catches for 118 yards. Julio Jones also had a big game with 129 yards and 5 catches. Jacquizz Rodgers (4 catches, 53 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 36 yards) also contributed in the passing game. Matt Bryant was unusually erratic with his accuracy on the evening, missing two of five attempts. But he managed to connect on field goals of 45, 46, 36, and finally a 32-yarder that sealed the win near the end of regulation. Matt Bosher had a pair of punts for an average of 40 yards, including one inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned a pair of kickoffs for an average of 22.5 yards, while Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for a combined 6 yards. Offensively, the Falcons were sharp on third downs, converting on 7 of their 14 tries with some critical ones down the stretch. The running game really took off in the second half, with 100 of the 123 total rushing yards gained in that half.

Defensively, the Falcons did a good job getting off the field on third downs and keeping the Cowboys out of the endzone on their redzone trips. They forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals on their two redzone trips in the first quarter. And Dallas only converted 3 of 10 third downs the entire game. The run defense was improved, giving up only 65 yards on 18 carries for the game. Jonathan Babineaux and Akeem Dent shared the team lead in tackles with 7 each. Babineaux also added a sack and a pass deflection. Dent too had a pass deflection. Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles); Robert McClain (6 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles); Dunta Robinson (4 tackles); and Asante Samuel (3 tackles) all had notable games.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 8 Review

October 31st, 2012 Comments off

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.

Matt Ryan$15$3$0$0$0$0$18.00
Julio Jones$0$1$10$0$0-$1$10.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$7$1$0$0$0$8.00
Michael Turner$0$7$1$0$0-$1$7.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$4$2$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$3$2$0$0$5.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 6 Review

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

Matt Ryan had his worst game of the season. The interceptions didn’t really bother me. Two were due to pressure. I don’t really get bothered by picks when a QB is being aggressive and taking a shot downfield. That was the second INT to Jones. Ryan felt pressure as Garrett Reynolds did not do a good job picking up Shaughnessy on the trap block. And I think Jones is probably more at fault than Ryan for that pick. Since his hand injury, I haven’t seen Julio attacking the ball as aggressively as I think he should be. A player with his sort of size/athleticism, should win every time the ball is in the air. And if/when he develops that singular trait, where Ryan can throw the ball up and know that either Julio is going to catch it or nobody is going to catch it, will be the point where Julio will have lived up to his draft status and become an elite receiver.

I really can’t even be mad at Ryan in this game. Because the offensive line got straight owned in this game. In recent games, not only have I’ve been counting sacks and pressures, but also hurries. Basically hurries are times when there is pressure, but the QB still manages to complete a pass. Also count instances where there is a semblance of heat in the pocket (like enough to make the QB move off his spot). The Falcons gave up 10 pressures, Ryan was sacked once (although I think he was culpable for that), and I counted 12 hurries. Now some of those pressures/sacks/hurries overlap, as there were multiple guys that gave up pressures/hurries on the same play. But given that Ryan had 38 dropbacks, even factoring in overlap, it’s safe to say that on half of his dropbacks Ryan saw pressure. Clabo and Reynolds really struggled in this game. Clabo gave up 4 pressures and 5 hurries from my count, Reynolds was 3 pressures and 2 hurries.

The ground game started well for this game, with Turner earning $4 on his first 4 carries. But then after that it disappeared. Turner’s post-game comments expressing his frustration over his usage is understandable. He started the game well, but then the Falcons went away from him. Now part of that was because the line couldn’t create any push or space. Part of that was because the Falcons basically stopped running the ball. And a small part of that was because Turner just didn’t run as well. The instance that sticks out in my mind was the goalline run after the Edwards fumble recovery, where he had an opportunity to run it in but he was stonewalled. Now the play was not blocked perfectly, as Baker missed his assignment. But still a running back with Turner’s size and supposed power should have been able to get that ball to cross the plane just by leaning forward.

Roddy played well, when Ryan had time to find him. Gonzo had a quiet game, and Julio did some nice things early but then was a non-factor in the second half for the most part.

This game boils down to the offensive line’s struggles. From their two previous matchups, I saw an Oakland Raiders front line that looked mediocre. But apparently during their bye week, Dennis Allen fired up the boys and Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, and Matt Shaughnessy to play excellent football and punk our front five. I hope Mike Smith and Pat HIll can do the same for our front during our bye week. Otherwise, this offense is going to be fairly mediocre.

Roddy White$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Matt Ryan$3$2$0$0$0$0$5.00
Michael Turner$0$5$0$0$0$0$5.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$2.5$0$0$2.50
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1.5$0$0$1.50
Harry Douglas$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
D.J. Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0-$1$1$0$0$0$0.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0-$2-$1.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Tommy Gallarda$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00

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Week 6 Preview: Falcons vs. Raiders

October 12th, 2012 Comments off

Typically these previews consist of two parts, the first detailing how the Falcons upcoming opponent could beat them, and the second consisting of what the Falcons can do to counter that. But this week, I just couldn’t really find enough material to write up how the Oakland Raiders could beat the Falcons this week.

Not to say it’s not possible, but it really is just a repeat of what I’ve said the past two weeks with the potential gameplans of the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins. The Raiders will rely on a ground attack to keep the explosive Falcons offense sidelined, and try to generate some big plays offensively, as well as create turnovers on defense and try to get a boost on special teams. Not exactly a ground-breaking formula, as it’s going to become the norm for most teams that play the Falcons this year.

But as the Panthers, Redskins, and Raiders all try to adopt the same gameplan/formula for beating the Falcons, unfortunately for the Raiders they are the weakest team of the three. And thus, it will be hardest for them to execute such a plan. See, in the cases of both Carolina and Washington, they had a couple of playmakers on either side of the ball that if things went their way they could really challenge the Falcons. And to a certain extent, things did go both teams’ ways, which is why the Falcons had to come from behind in both games to pull out the victory.

But I don’t expect the Raiders to get such luck. While Darren McFadden presents a challenge to the Falcons defense, I don’t think he presents as much as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Alfred Morris did. The Raiders run a zone-blocking scheme similar to what the Redskins have, but they are not quite as good upfront, and McFadden has not quite gotten the hang of the Greg Knapp offense. Outside a 64-yard run against the Steelers in Week 3, McFadden is averaging 2.4 yards on his other 57 carries. That run, and another are the only gains he’s had of the year longer than 10 yards. Morris has been one of the better runners after contact in the league this year, while McFadden is more of a finesse, speed guy. I don’t expect Falcons defenders to have as much trouble getting him down as they did against Morris.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 5 Review

October 10th, 2012 Comments off

This was not Ryan’s best game at least in terms of how he started, as he had 5 poor throws on the first two series. I think the slick conditions could be a culprit, but I noticed the majority of those missed throws were downfield ones. The deep ball to Jones on the first series was almost counted as a drop, but it wasn’t clear that Jones would have come down in bounds, so ultimately it was chalked up by another poor throw by Ryan. But after the pick-six, Ryan seemed to settle in and play at his usually high level this week.

Tony Gonzalez had an excellent game, winding up with 7 of the Falcons 19 passing first downs in this game, which doesn’t include his touchdown. Jones had a nice bounce-back game, although part of it seemed to be that there was a concerted effort by Ryan and Koetter to get him the ball in the first half. 11 of his first 15 targets came before halftime. Roddy White didn’t get a ton of work, but he made the most of his opportunities.

Turner had a nice game on the ground despite a limited workload. The blocking up front was solid given how many times the Falcons dropped back to throw, and there were holes created on the ground. It’s extremely rare in games where Sam Baker stands out as a run blocker, but he did a good job in this game with a pair of key blocks (including a good one on Turner’s TD run). McClure had his trademark struggles in pass protection vs. the 3-4 nose tackle, but he did a fairly solid job run blocking at times. There were really no bad performances by the Falcons blockers up front despite only modest earnings by all except Baker. Giving up only 4 pressures/sacks in 53 dropbacks is rock-solid. There were a couple of times where they gave up some pressure, but Ryan was able to move around the pocket and still find an open receiver. Baker and McClure were usually the culprits on those plays. But for the most part they gave Ryan ample time to find open receivers, and I did notice Ryan took more shots than normal downfield, which is also a testament to added time in the pocket.

The Joe Hawley Experiment at fullback/tight end did not really work out in the passing game. But their jumbo package with Hawley and Johnson on the field did seem to be quasi-effective in opening run lanes. I’m sure most people groaned when Hawley dropped those two passes, although I found them humorously inept. Against a better opponent in a tighter game, it might have been more irksome, but for now I can shrug it off as a one-game outlier.

Matt Ryan$14$1$0$0$0-$2$13.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$1$11$0$0-$1$11.00
Michael Turner$0$9-$1$0$0$0$8.00
Julio Jones$0$0$7$0$0$0$7.00
Roddy White$0$0$5-$1$0$0$4.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Harry Douglas$0$1$2-$1$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0-$2$0$0$0-$2.00

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Falcons rally for tough win in Washington

October 7th, 2012 1 comment

Teammates congratulate Jones on a TD

The Falcons managed a come from behind win over the Washington Redskins by a score of 24-17. It’s the second consecutive week in which the Falcons found themselves down early, but managed to pull out a victory. They push their record to 5-0, which is the best start in franchise history.

Matt Ryan was up and down early in the game, but finished completing 34 of 52 passes for 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. His completions and attempts matches career highs in both categories he set last December against the New Orleans Saints. On the ground, Michael Turner led rushers with 67 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones also added a score, catching 10 passes for 94 yards. Roddy White had 4 catches for 68 yards, while Harry Douglas made his name known with a pair of receptions for 34 yards. Matt Bryant made a 53-yard attempt, the longest in his tenure as a Falcon. Matt Bosher punted 6 times for an average of 48.8 yards with one placed inside the 20-yard line. In the return game, Jacquizz Rodgers returned a pair of kickoffs for 36 yards, and Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for only 2 yards total. The Falcons converted 9 of 17 third downs, and totaled 421 yards on offense. They also overwhelmed the Redskins on time of possession with 37 minutes to Washington’s 23, but could not quite finish many of their drives early to put points on the board.

Defensively, the Falcons were tough, limiting the Redskins from converting on only 1 of 9 third down attempts. Most of the Redskins offensive success came on the ground, as they allowed Alfred Morris to rush for 115 yards. But overall, they allowed 316 total yards. The defense was able to force two late interceptions which sealed the win for them. Sean Weatherspoon led defenders with 11 tackles. He also added a sack, and put a hit on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin that knocked him out of the game midway through the third quarter. John Abraham (1 pass defended, 1 quarterback hit); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Kroy Biermann (6 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 interception); William Moore (8 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles); and Dunta Robinson (6 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception) all had notable games.

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Week 5 Preview: How the Falcons Will Beat the Redskins

October 4th, 2012 Comments off

Jones and White could spell trouble for Redskins

The biggest key for the Falcons this week will not be getting off to the slow start they did a week ago. They want to take advantage of their passing attack going against the weak Redskin secondary.

The health of Julio Jones (hand) will be a factor in this game. The team will need him to have a bigger game. He will have that opportunity going up against DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Hall struggled with the size that A.J. Green and Vincent Jackson presented on the outside the past two weeks, and thus the Falcons hope to similarly take advantage with Jones. The last time Roddy White went against Josh Wilson, he had one of his better games in 2010. He wound up catching 12 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner against the Ravens on Thursday Night that year. Tony Gonzalez will also be licking his chops going up against Madieu Williams and DeJon Gomes. He’ll also get some opportunities going up against the Redskin linebackers in London Fletcher and Perry Riley.

Because of the advantages the Falcons feature in this game, even if they get behind early they should still be able to get back into the game. The one worry the Falcons have is their pass protection. Last week, Tyson Clabo really struggled to block Charles Johnson. His job won’t get much easier as he’ll be facing the Redskins top pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is not an elite pass rusher in the class of Brian Orakpo (out for the year), but he has the skills to give Clabo fits with his speed on the edge.

Pat Hill will likely be lighting a fire under the butts of the line, and Dirk Koetter will likely modify the protections and play-calling to try and prevent the breakdowns that occurred last week.

The running game has looked somewhat resurgent in recent weeks, but it’s unlikely that it will do a lot this week vs. Washington. The strength of the Redskins defense is their front seven and in the middle. But that doesn’t mean that the Falcons won’t try to make some plays on the ground. The area where they may try and attack is the edges by trying to get Turner and Rodgers going on some outside runs. If Jones’ hand limits his effectiveness as a receiver, the Falcons may try to get the ball in his hands on reverses, end-arounds, and screens to try and attack those edges as well.

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Moneyball 2012 – Week 4 Review

October 2nd, 2012 Comments off

This was a pretty ugly win. There were a few instances of outstanding execution on the part of the Falcons, particularly in the final minute. But for the most part the Falcons had a pretty mediocre game, largely because of some mental errors, poor execution, etc. Thankfully for the Falcons, Carolina really lost this game at the end with some really poor execution and bad coaching decision. It’s not the first time the Falcons have benefited from a bad decision from an opposing coach. The Bears gave of ’08, and two games against the Bucs where Raheem Morris made a bad decision at the end resulted in Falcon wins. This is just another notch in the Falcons belt. Mike Smith may not be the world’s greatest game manager, but it does make you appreciate that he certainly is on the upper end of that scale.

Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White really stood out in this game. Really the only issues you have with Ryan is that two of the sacks he had I attributed directly to him holding onto the ball too long. He was a little inaccurate on a couple of throws (particularly the deep ball out of bounds to Jones on the penultimate drive), but other than that he was playing at a very high level. Those are really nitpicks on a handful of plays. And with that lone exception, it’s really good to see Ryan being able to hit on these deep balls. You look at the five deep passes he had in this game, where he completed three of them. The one noted previously to Jones was only off by a few feet, and would have been a touchdown otherwise. And he also missed a near touchdown to Roddy on a back-shoulder throw that Roddy didn’t get his head around quick enough to adjust to. A year ago, very few of his deep passes were catchable. Up until this week, you didn’t really see the Falcons trying to hit on the deep balls very often. But one hopes that after this game, it’s something that is newly acquired in the Falcons repertoire.

I have to take my hat off to Turner in this game as well. He looked like the young Turner due to the fact that he was running hard, breaking tackles, and getting yards after contact. I think my favorite run by Turner in this game was on their second offensive series near the goalline. It was just a simple little 6-yard run, but on it Turner made a nice jump cut to the outside, and pick up another 5 yards to get the ball down to the 4-yard line. I can probably count on one hand how many times over the past few years where I’ve seen Turner make a jump cut like that. The question going forward is going to be whether this is Turner getting some of that old magic back, or whether he was just able to prey upon one of the league’s weakest run defenses.

Roddy once again showed in this game why he is one of the best receivers in the game with this game. On the other side of the field Julio Jones was the polar opposite and largely a non-factor. Part of that was due to pressure. And part of that was because he wasn’t getting open. Several incompletions to Jones were because defenders broke up passes. Which is hard to blame on Jones, but they were situations where he could have done a better job attacking the ball. Gonzo had another solid game.

Up front, the Falcons really struggled to protect Ryan. The crosshairs firmly fall on Clabo for he really struggled in this game against Charles Johnson. But he wasn’t alone. Not strong performances for Todd McClure and Sam Baker as well. Blalock and Reynolds definitely did their jobs. The positive thing for Clabo is that he made up for some of his problems in pass protection by having a fairly solid game run blocking. It was interesting to see the Falcons mix in Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley to help out in pass protection and the ground game. They didn’t fare well in pass protection, but they made some solid contributions in the ground game at times. It’s certainly something that I think the Falcons should continue to do situationally going forward.

Michael Turner$0$14$3$0$0$0$17.00
Matt Ryan$14$0$0$0$0$0$14.00
Roddy White$0$0$12$1$0$0$13.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$4$0$0$0$5.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$1$3$0$0$0$4.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Julio Jones$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Tyson Clabo$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Tommy Gallarda$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Todd McClure$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Mike Johnson$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Falcons take down Panthers in Epic Win

September 30th, 2012 Comments off

White catches 59-yard bomb to set up GW Field Goal.

The Falcons pulled a come from behind squeaker over the Carolina Panthers by a score of 30-28, extending their 2012 record to 4-0. Matt Bryant hit a game-winning 40 yard field goal with 10 seconds left, capping a long drive in the last minute of the game to steal the victory at home.

Matt Ryan had another strong performance despite being sacked 7 times on the day. He finished the game completing 25 of 40 passes for 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. His yardage total was just 4 yards shy of matching his career high. On the ground, Michael Turner had another strong performance for the second consecutive rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 avg), his first 100-yard outing of the 2012 season. Turner also caught 3 passes for 68 yards, including a 60-yard score, the first receiving touchdown of his nine-year NFL career. Roddy White led receivers with 8 grabs for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 51 yards) and Jacquizz Rodgers (4 catches, 40 yards) also contributed. Julio Jones was held in check for the most part, only catching 1 of 8 passes thrown his way, but it was for a big gain of 30 yards. Bryant made three field goal tries, from 41, 33, and 40 yards out. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 47 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 17 yards, and Rodgers returned his lone kickoff for 27 yards. As mentioned earlier, the Falcons offensive line gave up 7 sacks. The Falcons have given up that many sacks in a game since September 2007 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Defensively, the Falcons did not have a strong performance, but were able to make some stops near the end of the game to turn the tide. Carolina put up 404 yards of total offense, the most given up this season. The Falcons also had their first game of the season where they did not intercept a pass, but they did force three fumbles. But they only managed to recover one. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 8 tackles. John Abraham (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Ray Edwards (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (5 tackles); Dunta Robinson (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Vance Walker (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); and Sean Weatherspoon (4 tackles, 1 sack) all had notable games.

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Week 4 Preview: How the Falcons Will Beat the Panthers

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

As mentioned earlier, the Panthers do have some of the tools to potentially beat the Falcons. But I do not think they will.

If the Falcons just have a “normal” game based around what they have done these first three weeks they will beat the Panthers. They simply are a better team. But they cannot take the Panthers lightly, because as mentioned earlier, the Panthers can do a couple of things that can hurt the Falcons.

The main key for the Falcons is going to be able to throw to win. They can throw fairly easily on this Panther secondary. Rookie Josh Norman is likely to be matched up on Julio Jones on the outside for most of the game. Norman is not a bad player, and down the road he might turn into a pretty good starting corner. But he’s not there yet, and I think Julio should be poised to prey on that. The question becomes is Julio’s hand injury more serious than we expect, and will it impact the game?

What is interesting about Roddy White is that you look over the past few seasons, and there is always one game against Carolina where he’s very good, and another where he’s just mediocre. And there’s no real rhyme or reason to which performance he has. Sometimes it is at home, sometimes on the road. But you wonder if Jones is less than 100%, and this is the game that Roddy decides not to show up for, then the Falcons could potentially be in trouble.

I don’t think that will happen, and it’s going to be a cold day in hell when both Roddy and Julio are no shows on this offense. But this is also why the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, to help pick up that slack.

The Panthers run defense is weak, so I suspect Michael Turner and the ground attack could have another strong week. I would be shocked if Blalock and Reynolds have much problems with the Edwardses (Dwan and Ron) and opening lanes for Turner. The Falcons seem poised to give Rodgers a bit more reps on the ground going forward, and he could also have a good day.

Defensively, John Abraham tends to have a field day against the Panthers. I expect the Falcons to be able to get pressure against Newton. Newton has that ability to extend plays and make things happen with his legs, but the Falcons have been fairly competent at containing that. I think the Falcons will try and be aggressive with Newton, attack him with blitzes and challenge him to make accurate throws downfield.

Mike Nolan is probably going to throw a lot of things at Cam, frankly things that I can hardly imagine at this point. But if he can design schemes that can get Peyton Manning off balance, he can certainly do some things that can get Newton’s mind twisted.

Because the Panthers will likely rely on a steady ground attack, like last week, Akeem Dent should get more opportunities to emerge. That should also mean increased reps for Ray Edwards as well.

Cam Newton is currently second in the NFL in terms of highest interception rate. And the Falcons right now are the most opportunistic secondary in the league. This is why this should be a good matchup for the Falcons. With Abraham’s pressure and Nolan’s blitzing schemes, they should be able to create a number of turnovers this week. At some point this season, the Falcons defense is probably not going to be able to create multiple turnovers in a game. But I doubt that this week is the time when that occurs.

It’s becoming less and less about the Falcons opponents, at least during this early slate of 2012 games. It’s becoming more about competing with themselves for this Falcon team. Meaning their biggest obstacle is their own complacency. The day they decide to just show up some place, and think they can win with minimal effort, is the day they will get beat.

And what Mike Smith has done a pretty good job instilling in his time in Atlanta, is a hungry mentality week to week that keeps his team motivated and moving forward. And that is why I think they will win this game. It’s a division rival, and it’s an opportunity to really send out a signal to the other teams in the division and conference that this team is as formidable as advertised. It’s their first NFC game, and while they have eleven more that will also affect the season, they cannot really afford to dig themselves in a hole at the outset with an 0-1 record. Especially to a division rival and lesser team like Carolina.

Long gone are the days of Mora where as a fan you weren’t sure what Falcon team would show up in a given week. The Mike Smith Falcons are much more consistent, and rarely lay eggs. I expect that trend to continue and the Falcons extend their record to 4-0 this week.

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