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Posts Tagged ‘Umenyiora’

Takeaways from Week 4

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

‘Sad Arthur Blank’ should be a meme somewhere

Last week, I tried to make the compelling case for why the Falcons 1-2 start wasn’t as dire as many believed.

I’ll have a much harder time trying to make the same argument now that the Falcons are 1-3.

Honestly, losing to the Miami Dolphins on the road wasn’t that shocking to me. Losing to the Patriots at home, however was. I just expected the Falcons to play much better than they did on Sunday night.

Their looking out of sync against the Dolphins, I chalked up to the injuries and being on the road. I can still partially blame injuries for their looking out of sync against the Patriots, but they typically look much sharper at home.

My immediate reaction won’t be to write off the Falcons this season. From the research I did (called Pro Football Reference), 109 teams in the “Parity Era” (1995-2012) have started the season 1-3, and only 17 of them went on to make the playoffs, giving the Falcons about a 15.5-percent chance. Given that you have a 37.5-percent chance to begin win that is not promising.

One of those teams that did manage to make the playoffs despite a 1-3 start was the 2002 Falcons. After their 1-3 start, they didn’t lose their next eight games (seven wins, one tie) to get into the playoffs on a wildcard. Two of their three opening losses came against playoff teams.

Currently, all three of the Falcons losses come against teams that I suspect will make the playoffs, as the chances a team that starts the year 4-0 makes the playoffs is 82.6-percent over the Parity Era. And we know at least two of our opponents, depending on the result of the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints game tonight will be 4-0. And it’s loser will still be in the driver’s seat to finish the year strong and be playing in January.

The Falcons definitely have some work to do. And the honest to goodness truth is that this team is not nearly as good as we thought they would be. They still have the capacity to be a good team, but time is running short.

Their offense needs to get in sync, and their defense got exposed thoroughly for the first time against what had been a struggling Patriots offense.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 40 “A Sense of Urgency”

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back to discuss the Falcons disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 as well as preview what we hope to be a rebound win against the New England Patriots in primetime in Week 4 … Questions we try to answer in this episode: 1. Are the Falcons playing with a sense of urgency? 2. Will their schedule in the coming weeks help them get out of this rut? 3. Do the Falcons need to add more pass rush help? 4. Is Stephen Nicholas headed to the bench or the unemployment line? 5. How will Steven Jackson’s injury impact the next few weeks? 6. What is wrong with Thomas DeCoud? We also discuss the play of some of the young players in the secondary, whether veteran players on the defensive line are up to snuff, and whether Matt Ryan deserves criticism for the mistakes made against the Dolphins. We also look around the league at the recent Browns trade rumors, Josh Freeman, and I may be abandoning the Eagles bandwagon.

Ep. 40: A Sense of Urgency [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Dolphins drop Falcons in Comeback Win

September 22nd, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Sims beats Stephen Nicholas for the game-winning touchdown

The Falcons’ record drops to 1-2 with a 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on the road. The Falcons got off to another good start, getting an early 10-0 lead in the first half, but couldn’t finish thanks to a game-winning drive led by Ryan Tannehill in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 23 of 38 passes for 231 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led the Falcons on the ground with 86 yards on 18 carries (4.8 avg). Jason Snelling added 53 yards on 11 carries (4.8 avg) as well. Julio Jones once again led Falcons’ receivers with 9 catches for 115 yards (12.8 avg). Snelling (4 catches, 58 yards), and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 24 yards) also made contributions. Matt Bryant hit on three of four field goal attempts from 52, 20, and 33 yards. But he missed on a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter late in the game. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average of 33 yards, placing none inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned 3 punts for 4 yards, and fumbled once. The Falcons dominated time of possession in the first half of the game with 22:48 versus the Dolphins’ 7:12. Their rushing attack finally got going with a total of 146 yards on 30 carries, but they had their share of struggles in the red zone, only scoring touchdowns on 2 of 5 trips.

Defensively, the Falcons limited the Dolphins to 285 total yards, but could not get stops on any of Miami’s three red zone trips, and allowed them to convert 7 of 12 third downs (58-percent). They did sack Ryan Tannehill five times and force two turnovers. Robert McClain led defenders with six tackles, and he also added a tackle for loss and a sack. Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss); Peria Jerry (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended); Corey Peters (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Asante Samuel (1 tackle, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) had notable performances.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 2 Review

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.

Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.

On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.

It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.

As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.

The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.

The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$21$0$0$0$0$0$21.00
Julio Jones$0$0$11$0$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$5$4$0$0$0$9.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Takeaways from Week 2

September 16th, 2013 Comments off

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Jackson must break loose this season

The Falcons came into Week Two very beat up with six starters questionable for the game. And they emerged from their Week Two win over the St. Louis Rams even more beat up, losing four more players to various injuries. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) re-aggravated their injuries and were forced to exit the game. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had been limited all week with a knee injury, but didn’t play in the second half against St. Louis after injuring his foot. Defensive end Kroy Biermann went down with an ankle injury while running back Steven Jackson (thigh) and fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder) exited on the Falcons’ opening drive with their respective injuries.

That doesn’t include injuries to starting offensive tackle Sam Baker (knee), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee), and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) that caused them each to struggle on Sunday.

The risk of injuries was a major factor in whether the Falcons could repeat their previous success this season. The team has been relatively injury-free in the Mike Smith era, but it seems like things are finally catching up to the team. Having an early bye week may prove very beneficial for the team.

One of the positives that the injuries are creating is that it is giving some young players some opportunities to play. Linebacker Joplo Bartu stepped up in the absence of Weatherspoon, subbing in on the nickel sub-package in the second half rather than Stephen Nicholas. Nicholas held that role last year, but has fallen hard on the Falcons’ depth chart. Akeem Dent has taken the everydown role at middle linebacker opposite Sean Weatherspoon. Bartu is now earning reps on passing downs. And the Falcons appear to be unwilling to pull Kroy Biermann off the field, as he’s been getting work at strongside linebacker. Nicholas did play a few snaps today on defense, but barely. I was happy when the team opted to keep him, but if I knew that they were going to avoid using him this much, then perhaps the team was better served cutting him, saving the $2 million against the cap, and going with a veteran to play special teams.

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Falcons Overcome Rams’ Comeback for First Win of 2013

September 15th, 2013 Comments off
Matt Ryan throws a pass against the St. Louis Rams

Matt Ryan throws a pass against the Rams

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a fast start with a big early lead against the visiting St. Louis Rams. But a fourth quarter comeback made a lot of Falcon fans nervous, but the Falcons put together two good drives at the end to prevail and get their first win of 2013. The Falcons’ record moves to 1-1.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, the Falcons could not get much of anything going as they accumulated a total of 36 rushing yards. Steven Jackson started the game and gained no yards on three carries before exiting with an injury. Jason Snelling led the team with 19 yards on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones led receivers with 11 catches for 182 yards (16.5 avg) and a touchdown. Jackson added the team’s other score on his lone catch for eight yards. Harry Douglas, Snelling, Tony Gonzalez, and Jacquizz Rodgers each caught 4 passes for 43, 41, 33, and 28 yards respectively. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 38 yards. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 53 yards, with two placed inside the 20-yard line. Douglas added a pair of punt returns for four yards, while Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 17 yards. The Falcons’ offense was much more efficient this week than a week ago. They converted seven of 13 (54-percent) third down attempts, and scored touchdowns on two of three red zone trips. They accumulated 393 total yards despite their one-dimensionality on offense. But the offense did grow stagnant in the third quarter as they totaled only 7 total yards on four drives.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Rams were in comeback mode for much of the game. Sam Bradford’s 352 yards contributed to the Rams’ 421-yard total for the game. But they bottled up the Rams’ ground attack, which only gained 69 yards on 18 carries (3.8 avg). The defense even scored a touchdown of its own on a pick six by Osi Umenyiora, the lone turnover the game. Umenyiora returned the interception 68 yards untouched for a score. Umenyiora also added a pair of batted passes and a quarterback hit in the game. Robert McClain led the defense in tackles with 9, and he also added a quarterback hit and a pass defended. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 QB hit); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 QB hit); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had noteworthy performances. The unit got lax at the end, allowing Rams’ touchdowns on each of their three final possessions to put the game’s outcome at risk.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 38 “How Much Money Did They Pay Baker?”

September 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap our thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Including our thoughts on the Falcons promising young corners … The play of the front four including how Osi Umenyiora stacks up against John Abraham … Akeem Dent’s coverage abilities … The play of tackles Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker and if/when a change could be made up front … Steven Jackson’s performance in his first game as a Falcon … Harry Douglas’ Ascension to Stardom … Later we switch our attention to the Falcons Week 2 matchup against the St. Louis Rams which include: What Matchup issues Chris Long and Robert Quinn might present to the Falcons OL … How crowd noise can benefit the Falcons at home … Cortland Finnegan and a young Rams secondary’s ability to match up against the Falcons receivers … The Falcons pass rush and how it might affect the game … Whether Asante Samuel is needed to help bottle up the explosive Rams receivers … At the end, we re-hash their opinions on other Week 1 performances including their observations from both Monday Night Football games, as well as Lavonte David, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc.

Ep. 38: How Much Money Did They Pay Baker? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Five Falcons to Watch Sunday vs. Saints

September 6th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant may draw plenty of attention from Saints offense in his NFL debut

Keep an eye on these Falcon players on Sunday, as good (or bad) performances from them should be critical to whether the Falcons win in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints.

LB Akeem Dent – Dent will likely draw several assignments on Jimmy Graham. No easy task in his debut in the Falcons nickel subpackage, as he’s expected to replace Stephen Nicholas as the team’s full-time linebacker next to Sean Weatherspoon, who will likely have his hands full trying to deal with the speedy Darren Sproles. The Falcons have also talked about mixing in Joplo Bartu in their dime subpackage this year, so it will be interesting to see if or how that plays into Sunday’s gameplan.

TE Tony Gonzalez – The Saints inside linebackers aren’t known for their great coverage ability, nor are their safeties. Gonzalez has had big games in the past against the Saints, including a 11-catch, 2-touchdown performance in last year’s road loss. If the Falcons can get Gonzalez going and moving those chains by working the middle of that Saints’ defense, it could mean great things for their offense.

RB Steven Jackson – The Falcons struggled running the ball in short yardage in their loss to the Saints last season. One of the keys to success for the Falcons will be not getting into a shootout, and if the Falcons can control the game on the ground and tempo, then it will be a good indicator for success. They will try to establish Jackson early in the game to help set up manageable third down situations for Matt Ryan and the passing attack.

CB Desmond Trufant – Due to the Falcons focus in coverage on Graham and slot receiver Marques Colston in the middle of the field, Trufant may find himself on an island throughout the game. That will include instances where he’s left alone against Colston, Lance Moore, and others such as Kenny Stills, Nick Toon, and/or Robert Meachem if the Saints choose to play him on Sunday. Expect Drew Brees and Sean Payton to try and exploit the green rookie in his first NFL regular season start.

DE Osi Umenyiora – If the Falcons gameplan against the Saints last time was any indicator, Osi will get plenty of opportunities to rush the quarterback. He’ll be facing primarily Charles Brown, who is relatively green as he’ll be making his ninth start for the Saints, but his first at left tackle. Osi traditionally has taken advantage of weaker tackles, and it will be an important matchup for the Falcons defense to try and exploit.

How the Falcons Scheme for Jimmy Graham

September 4th, 2013 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Jimmy Graham drags Stephen Nicholas

One of the things that stood out in the Falcons two matchups against the New Orleans Saints last year was how different the two games were in regards to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham’s performances. In the first contest, a loss for the Falcons in the SuperDome, Graham was the best player on the field for the Saints passing attack, finishing with a team-leading 146 yards on 7 catches. He scored a pair of touchdowns and also caught a 46-yard pass that set up what proved to be the Saints’ game-sealing field goal. But in the second game, where the Falcons won in the Georgia Dome, Graham was marginalized. He caught only a single pass in the first half, and was held out of the endzone on a total of 4 catches for 59 yards. Those numbers are even made more impressive by the fact that over the course of the second game, Drew Brees dropped back to pass 18 more times, thus giving Graham much more opportunity to pad his stats. In the first game, Brees targeted Graham on roughly a quarter of his dropbacks (8 targets, 33 dropbacks), but that was more than halved in the second game (6 targets, 51 dropbacks).

What changed? A variety of factors could be considered for why the Falcons were much more effective at covering Graham the second time around. Part of it was venue. While Graham’s numbers home versus away the past two seasons as a starter are similar, with only minor variations in receptions and yards, he has managed to catch nearly twice as many touchdown passes at home (13) than he does on the road (7). The Falcons also got a lot more pressure on Drew Brees in the second game, which had him rattled from his five interceptions. When you’re throwing it so much to the other team, it’s hard to complete passes to your top target. But the biggest takeaway I had was how Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan changed his approach for dealing with Graham.

There’s no doubt that Graham is the centerpiece of the Saints passing attack. While Marques Colston is technically their No. 1 receiver, Graham is such a difficult matchup problem due to his speed, size, and athleticism that defenses must focus the majority of their attention on him or else fear getting burned. If Nolan wasn’t aware of this fact prior to the Falcons first matchup against the Saints last year, he certainly became acquainted with that notion during the game. The Falcons appeared in the second contest to have a much more concerted effort to contain Graham.

Nolan mixed up his looks with how he dealt with Graham. The Falcons rolled a lot of their coverages to Graham in the middle of the field, with both safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore not being far from Graham on most snaps. DeCoud drew a number of one-on-one assignments against Graham in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Falcons switched it up by putting linebacker Stephen Nicholas on him more often than not. But either safety wasn’t far.

This sort of blanket coverage put other Falcon defenders in tougher situations as they couldn’t consistently rely on safety help. Asante Samuel left that game early with an injury, and was replaced by Chris Owens. Owens had one of his best performances in that game. Robert McClain was often matched up against Marques Colston in the slot, and handled him effectively. Sean Weatherspoon was tasked with trying to deal with the explosive Darren Sproles for much of the game, and had his share of struggles there.

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Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons break training camp after a brief practice Sunday morning. The following was the news emerging after Saturday’s practice.

  • Head coach Mike Smith gave injury updates (video) on players after practice yesterday. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to practice on Saturday after suffering an injury to his finger early last week. Running back Jason Snelling is expected to return to practice today. Linebacker Robert James and fullback Bradie Ewing are expected to resume regular practice on Tuesday, since the Falcons will be off on Monday. All four players missed this past Thursday’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Falcons wideout Roddy White will not play in the team’s upcoming preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans next Saturday and thus will not suit up for the remainder of the preseason. Regular starters do not suit up for the  fourth and final preseason, scheduled for August 29 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith indicated that he’s on the same “plan” as the rest of the starters i.e. he won’t play against Jacksonville.
  • In other injury news, linebacker Stephen Nicholas did not finish practice on Saturday. No further information has been made available.
  • Tony Gonzalez is set to return today after a three-week absence from camp.
  • Click here to check out the five things Jay Adams learned about the Falcons on Saturday.
  • Defensive end Osi Umenyiora made the decision to switch his uniform number from 90. He will be taking No. 50 from linebacker Pat Schiller. Schiller’s new number has yet to be determined.