2012 NFCDG – Falcons beat Seahawks?

Finally… the monkey is off the collective backs of Matt Ryan and Mike Smith with a strong win over arguably the hottest team in the NFC in the Seattle Seahawks.

As the Falcons prepare for the upcoming game against the San Francisco 49ers though, I have more questions about this win than answers. More on that later.

For now, enjoy a montage of gif action, compiled by AF.com and TheScore.

Love this play… The Real Beast was Jacquizz Rodgers on this play running over Earl Thomas

The win was uncharacteristically sloppy in regards to penalties, expect Mike Smith to clean that up before the NFCCG.

One of my favorite sequences was this one, featuring Richard Sherman and Roddy.

This guy has talent, but he’s also got a huge mouth and zero class.

Sherman made a few key plays during the game, especially on the deflection on an early game Roddy White target in the endzone. Matt Ryan delivered the ball late, allowing Sherman to catch up to the play and deflect a sure touchdown.

Sherman let Roddy have it, talking trash the entire way until this play.

notice Sherman “falling down” as ball arrives…

Of course… Roddy being Roddy, made sure to tell Sherman that yes, indeed he had caught the ball.

Love it.. you are down 20-0 just gave up a huge touchdown and you do the golf clap. #dontgetit

Sherman didn’t impress me much, he was abused several times by Roddy White.

The 5 yard touchdown to Snelling. Notice the Julio Jones decoy.

A look at the 5 yard misdirection shovel pass by Ryan… I really do love the fact that DK uses Julio so effectively as a decoy, but maybe it’s time to use him a little more than that?

Gonzalez with the huge touchdown in the 1st quarter. So happy for TG.

Unfortunately, Abraham re-injured his ankle early in the second quarter and did not return. He’ll need to get healthy quick to help a subpar pass rush, although with Colin Kaepernick coming to town, pass rush may not be as important as it is with traditional pocket passers.

containing Kaepernick is crucial

I’ll be back later with more preview of Falcons – Niners, and hopefully the Falcons heading to NO for the Super Bowl.

Rise Up.

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NFL 2012 Week 9 Preview – Cowboys a potential trap game for Falcons

What a difference a week makes huh? Just 2 weeks ago it looked like the Falcons were falling back to earth and perhaps being exposed for being the biggest frauds in the NFL outside of Arizona.

After completely outcoaching, outplaying and destroying the Philadelphia Eagles on the road in Week 8, the Falcons now prepare for a tough home test against the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas looked dysfunctional in their week 8 home 29-24 loss to the New York Giants, and after losing three of their last four games, they are desperate and dangerous as they come in the NFC. Currently tied with the Eagles at 3-4, this game is a must win for Dallas if they want to remain relevant in the NFC.

The Cowboys are hungry and desperate coming into this game with a lot of question marks and the Falcons are on cruise control. Perfect recipe for a trap game if I’ve ever seen one.

It’s hard to get a good read on this team, mostly because their quarterback Tony Romo is so wildly inconsistent from week to week. While I’m no fan of Romo, he is extremely talented but also prone to turning the ball over with fervent aplomb as evidenced by his 10 interceptions over just the last four games.

Much of this can be attributed to the lack of apparent trust between Romo and Dez Bryant, which could be another reason why Witten hauled in 18 passes for 167 yards in the Week 8 loss.

Falcons nickel linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has a low ankle sprain and is listed as probable. They are going to need him if they want to match up well against Witten, but the Cowboys have linebacker issues as well with Sean Lee out for the year. His replacement, Dan Connor who should be familiar to Falcon fans, is also nicked up and may miss the game with nerve damage to his neck.

— Weatherspoon is out against the Cowboys, as per ESPN.

If Connor cannot go for the ‘Boys (did not practice Wednesday) they would be looking at Orie Lemon as his replacement in the base 3-4 alignment. Against a Hall of Famer in Tony Gonzalez, the Cowboys will need to help Lemon if they want to contain the middle of the field.

The problem is, their secondary will have their hands full against the trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, who may return after missing Week 8. Cowboys corners Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have done well this season, and their secondary is  third in passing yards allowed (187.7), but they have yet to face an attack as diverse as Atlanta’s this year.

Demarco Murray returned to practice this week for Dallas, and they will need to get him going as Felix Jones has struggled to provide balance for the Dallas offense.

The Falcons run game has been a mix of good and bad this year, mostly bad but with the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta may have a two-headed running back attack thing going. Against a talented front seven in the Cowboys the Falcons will need to maintain balance to prevent Demarcus Ware from teeing off on Matt Ryan.

Things to watch for :

“THE BIG THREE” – No, I’m not talking about Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Jones / Gonzalez. I am talking about the tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker and Peria Jerry, who formed a unique defensive line against the Eagles on running downs.

The Falcons entered the game giving up 143.8 yards rushing per game, but held the Eagles to 92 yards rushing on 24 carries (3.8 yards per carry) in their 30-17 victory. Most of the 92 yards rushing came in garbage time, as the Falcons stuck to prevent defense.

Is this a sign of things to come as the Falcons truly do not have the big nose tackle that Nolan desires in his defense?

“BEER MAN “ Falcons DE/LB Kroy Biermann played a pivotal role against the Eagles, both in “spying” Michael Vick and as a zone dropback defender on Brent Celek. His diverse skillset is being used by Mike Nolan to tremendous success, as ‘Beerman’ had seven tackles and one sack, and limited Vick to 42 yards on the ground

Julio Jones vs…. well anybody : I soundly disliked the draft day trade for Julio Jones, but he is making me eat my words ( happily I might add ) He is a dynamic force for this offense, and his impact is felt even when he doesn’t get the ball as evidenced by the 2 first Atlanta touchdowns in Philly. He also managed to make a very good man cover cornerback look the complete fool last week, as Matt Ryan had a passer rating of 158.3 when targeting Nnamdi Asomugha, according to Pro Football Focus…. yikes

It’s going to be a tough game, but one that should fall right into the Falcons wheelhouse at home.

31-10 Dirty Birds for win number 8

Go Falcons.

NFL 2012 Week 8 Recap – Falcons Trample Eagles

I previewed this game and thought the Falcons would lose a close and physical battle to suffer their first setback of the NFL season.

After all, an impending hurricane, a dome team on the road with a leaky run defense and facing an coach that was undefeated coming off the bye week, all pointed to an ugly game.

So imagine my surprise when the Falcons rolled up the Eagles and beat them like they stole something in Week 8

Falcons Offense vs Eagles Defense Video Review

While some may laud the Falcons for coming right out and shooting out of the gate, to me this game was an indication as to how far the Falcons have come with new coordinators in place.

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had said in the week leading up to the Eagles game, that they were well prepared for the “wide-9” technique that the Eagles employed.

He wasn’t lying.

The Falcons looked as prepared as I have seen from ANY team on ANY Sunday, and the coaching staff clearly outcoached Andy Reid and company. The Eagles defense looked LOST, and didn’t force a punt until the end of the fourth quarter.

All the adjustments Todd Bowles the new defensive coordinator had planned? Didn’t see much in the way of that at all as the Falcons almost looked like they KNEW what was coming next.

The Snelling screen in the video above that made it 14-0 is a perfect playcall against the Wide 9, by the time the Eagles end had taken 3 steps, the touchdown was all but guaranteed.

What a world of difference that Koetter has made for the Falcons, who according to ESPN, set a new record in screens attempted in one NFL game.

Even when the Falcons weren’t running a screen, the mere threat of one created the first score, as four Eagle defenders rushed to attack Julio Jones, leaving rookie Davis wide open in the end zone.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/0ap2000000086148/Matt-Ryan-s-15-yard-touchdown-pass

And when Julio wasn’t burning them on the screen, he was busy running past Nnamdi Asomugha for a crucial TD.

Free releasing a receiver that runs the 40 in 4.3 is bad for your career… mmmkay?

The Falcons run defense came out and did the job against LeSean McCoy but to be honest, after the Julio bomb, Reid didn’t exactly stick with the run. The Falcons held the Eagles to 5 total yards in the first quarter, and did just enough to keep the Eagles at bay.

Matt Ryan was masterful in the performance, torching the Eagles and making them pay for their mental and at times tenative play. But to me, the game ball has to go to the coordinators, who coached circles around the Eagles.

Eagles fans boo their team plenty, but the “fire Andy chants” can’t be a good sign for Philly.

A good sign was the increase in touches for Jacquizz Rodgers, who looks like he is getting comfortable running the ball. He ripped off a huge run late in the game to help put the nails in the coffin for Philadelphia.

Another game, another win, but this team is beginning to look like it’s absolutely for real and their next test is against the Dallas Cowboys.

More film breakdown and analysis coming, stay tuned.

Go Falcons

NFL 2012 Week 8 Preview – Desperate and Dangerous Eagles Await

Coming off the bye, the Falcons have several question marks surrounding the team from running game to run defense and offensive line. So they figure to be prepared coming into Philadelphia to take on the pesky Eagles.

Problem is, the Eagles are coming off their bye as well, and with a sparkling 13-0 record after the bye since 1999.

Philadelphia has blown 2 consecutive leads in the 4th quarter leading up to the bye, the Eagles have had a lot to address during the bye. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired (thrown under the bus) and replaced by Todd Bowles, who was the secondary coach.

While the Eagles are a uneven 3-3, the Falcons have plenty of work ahead if they want to remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team.

Addressing the leaky run defense is certainly a huge challenge, especially against an explosive runner in LeSean Mccoy.

“I definitely feel refreshed,” All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy said. “It’s a whole week to just relax. I’m feeling better.”

With turnover prone Michael Vick on the hot seat, rain and wind predicted in the forecast, McCoy figures to be a focal point.

The Falcons offense has sputtered in their last 3 meetings, with the offensive line sprining leaks against the Raiders and running game having not shown up all year.

Against a very stingy and talented defense, the Falcons know that they have to keep Matt Ryan clean to keep their chances of winning on the road high.

The Eagles won’t be making wholesale changes or installing a new system, so the Falcons must be ready to adjust on the fly. Tyson Clabo struggled against the Raiders 2 weeks ago, and his job doesn’t get any easier with Jason Babin and Trent Cole looming ahead.

Falcons Offense Video Review from Week 6 vs Raiders

The Eagles defense is ranked 12th in total yards and 11th in points allowed, and Demeco Ryans is making a huge difference for them in the middle. A defense that struggled a year ago at the MIKE position, seems to have found their leader as Ryans is leading them in tackles and making all the plays that a year ago the Eagles seemed to lack.

That’s something that should be familiar to Falcons fans, as the transition from Curtis Lofton to Akeem Dent has been anything but smooth.

Dent has struggled to keep pace at the NFL level, and it’s clear that the young linebacker is just not ready for primetime. The Raiders lack of discipline saved Dent in Week 6, as several penalties wiped out huge gains on the ground and air.

Several of these plays which Dent could not make the play on or got caught up in the wash far too frequently. The Falcons defense is much better in the nickel with Weatherspoon / Stephen Nicolas manning the MIKE, will we see much of the Atlanta base defense?

While the Eagles are not known as a power running team, it will be interesting to see if Nolan is forced out of the nickel and back into the Falcons base defense.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters returned for limited activity in his first practice this season. He is eligible to play this week, but head coach Mike Smith wouldn’t comment on the chances Peters could play after missing the offseason team activities and training camp, plus the first six weeks of the season.

Against the Eagles offense the Falcons will be looking to do one thing, and that’s continue to take the ball away. The Eagles have 17 giveaways, including five inside the red zone, so Asante Samuel and the secondary will be looking to continue this trend.

Despite the sloppy play, the Eagles are still very talented and explosive on offense, ranking 7th in the league in overall offense, but just 30th in scoring.

Samuel will also be making his return to Philly, as the colorful cornerback eluded to in this week’s interview with Atlantafalcons.com

The brash cornerback says he still has “nothing but love” for Eagles fans despite getting traded to Atlanta six months ago.

“All y’all fans, all I did for y’all, y’all better cheer for me,” Samuel said. “You know what I mean? Deuce here got nothing but love for you.”

Samuel will be looking to make a statement, but he needs to keep his emotions in check and not bite on a double move.

After all, he intercepted 23 passes in 56 games for the Eagles, but still was dealt to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick.

Matt Ryan and company will have their hands full this week, but will suffer their first loss of the season, 24-21. Tony Gonzalez will be aiming for his 100th TD of his career, hopefully it doesn’t come in a loss.

Here’s to hoping I am wrong.

Go Falcons.

NFL Week 5 2012 : Redskins vs Falcons Preview – Griffin vs the Amoeba?

I really can’t help but admire RG3’s season thus far, his natural talent really jumps out at you, as well as his composure and comfort level. In the rookie signalcaller, the Falcons face a stiff test in not only what Griffin can do with his feet, but the league’s leading rushing attack at 175 a game.

I will be watching for his leaping cut, he seems to favor that move and I can’t believe how badly he is making some NFL linebackers miss. Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas are going to know what is coming, will they be able to do something about it?

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap1000000062727/Griffin-5-yard-TD-run

Love that move.

From every report and article you read, not matter how inconsequential the details the rookie’s maturity level and humility are refreshing in this day and age. With a passer rating of 103.2 he is playing extremely well, and limiting his mistakes with only one interception so far.

It’s early but his season looks every bit as impressive as Cam Newton’s was a year ago, but he has yet to face a defensive coordinator like Mike Nolan.

The defense didn’t do much of the “Amoeba” a week ago against Cam Newton, preferring to play their base defense, will they do it against RG3? They’ve also been lights out so far this season, allowing 19.0 points per game and 207.0 passing yards per contest.

The Redskins defense ( and MeAngelo Hall ) sadly won’t have enough against a Falcons offense that is clicking on all cylinders early.

Yes, this image has not been modified, that’s Michael Jenkins catching the football

Last time I saw Deangelo was his brief stint with the Raiders, and the single most boring NFL game I have ever attended considering it was the first time I saw Matt Ryan in real life. I just couldn’t believe the level of football on the field that day, it looked like the Falcons were scrimmaging against high school players.

Without Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan their suspect secondary will be exposed, giving up 326.3 passing yards per game and 20 passes of 20-plus yards – third-most in the NFL.

Julio Jones is still feeling the effects of his lacerated hand, being held relatively quiet the last 2 weeks but he’s going to get healthy against this Redskin secondary.

So the Redskins will have to control the clock with their dynamic running attack and limit their mistakes.

Which could spell trouble for the Falcons who struggled against the run in their base defense against the Panthers. Akeem Dent clearly is not ready to fill the rather large shoes of the departed Curtis Lofton in the middle and it will be interesting to see what Nolan has planned for Griffin and the Redskins.

Given the nature of the “Amoeba” and the chances of giving up a huge running play, the Redskins will be a tough out.

Fellow rookie Alfred Morris and Griffin will have big games, but the Falcons will win in a shootout, 35-27.

Go Falcons.

2011 Atlanta Falcons – One and Done… again

It’s been 4 days since my Falcons were pulverized by the New York Giants, and it’s taken that long for me to collect my thoughts in a coherent fashion. It’s one thing for me to go off half-cocked but I like my ability to be subjective about the subject matter so it’s taken me a week to stand back and calm down.

Looking back at the season and the disappointing outcome, it’s easy to lose yourself in exactly what the Falcons have accomplished over the last 4 years.

After the Bobby Petrino – Michael Vick debacle of 2007, if someone walked up to me and said “would you take a 43-21 regular season record but a 0-3 in the playoffs for the next 4 years” you’d be hard pressed to find any Falcon fan that wouldn’t leap at that. But that’s not the way the NFL works in it’s “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” and constantly increasing expectations.

So for those fickle fans screaming for Mularkey, Brian Van Gorder, TD or Mike Smith’s head, I think a little bit of proper perspective is needed. The Falcons over the past 4 years have been very successful, it’s transformation into a consistent winner is something that you can’t just discount.

But still, the 24-2 dismantling of the Dirty Birds showed that last year’s whipping to the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers was no “aberration” as Mike Smith likes to put it. Simply put, the Falcons have a long way to go before they are ready to compete with the Packers and Saints of the NFC.

As I did with the losses against Green Bay and Arizona, the team once again failed to rise to the occasion and seize the moment. For all the talk of being “explosive” and the aggressive moves to draft Julio Jones, the Falcons were anything but last Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

3 things I took away from Sunday’s loss

1. Michael Turner has fulfilled the Curse of the 360. pretty simple right? The NFL is a meat grinder and running backs have a short shelf life, especially when taking on such huge workloads as Turner has (335+ carries every season). see Shaun Alexander.

  • From 2008-2010, the Falcons converted 33 of 51 4th down conversions for a disgusting 65% success rate.
  • In 2011 this conversion rate fell to 31 % with numerous key 4th down failed conversions against the Giants as well as the Saints (Mike Smith’s infamous overtime failed conversion)
2. The Falcons over-extended their expectations of the offense and Mularkey mismanaged key situations in games
  • 1. They got an offense that scored zero points against a team that surrendered 400 points during the regular season, the most by any playoff team.
  • Caught up in the hype of the passing league and believing the offense was a Julio Jones away from becoming a Saints or Packers like offense led TD to neglect the offensive line.
  • They got zero movement from their offensive line in two key short-yardage situations and lacked the ability to consistently give Matt Ryan time.
  • You are on the road in a hostile environment and your 1300-yard wrecking ball of a running back is standing on the sidelines while your franchise QB attempts not ONE failed 4th and 1, but TWO.
3. The Falcons lost their identity this year.
  • The Falcons pride themselves on playing smart, tough football and being a run first physical team. And the first half of the season was lost as the offense awkwardly bumbled trying to become this high flying passing attack.
  • When Matt Ryan throws the ball more than 40 times, the Falcons are 1-7.
  • Instead of addressing clear issues on defense and the offensive line, the Falcons gambled on draft day moving up to take Julio Jones.
What has that move gotten them in 2011? Take a look :

2010 Record 13-3 – Playoff seed No. 1 – Points scored 414 – Points allowed 288

2011 Record 10-6 – Playoff seed No. 5 – Points scored 402 – Points allowed 350

Winning less games, scored fewer points, gave up more points and fell from the first seed to the fifth. Yes the Falcons underachieved horribly, and the front office knows it.

To be fair, the Falcons have acted quickly and as Dimitroff said in Wednesday’s press conference, that there was not “going to be a minor tweak, like changing the color of socks.” When a team sweeps both coordinators out of the door, it’s clear that there will be change.

But who will replace Mularkey and Brian Van Gorder? Who can make this offense click and operate without targeting Roddy White 200 times in a season? And the real kicker, who can take Matt Ryan to the next level?

Because with the meek showing in NY, Ryan now faces a crossroads for the first time in his career. No longer is he the boy wonder that broke the record for winning as a QB in his first four years, bucking the trend of struggling rookie quarterbacks.

Now the focus and whispers are that Matt Ryan comes up small in big situations, hey it may sting to hear, but that’s the reality of it. If he wants to change this perception, it’s up to him.

And perhaps more importantly who will help transform the defense from a soft zone pudding to an “aggressive, attacking” defense as Dimitroff spoke about on Wednesday. A defense that can get off the field in a 3rd and long situation for once. A defense that doesn’t play the docile bend but don’t break philosophy.

A scheme change is definitely something the Falcons should discuss, but do they have the personnel? I’ll get into that later.

These are all questions that need to be seriously contemplated this off-season, not to mention issues regarding free agents, RB, OL and FS.

But for the meantime, I can still say I am proud to be a Falcons fan, and I’m proud of the way the team fought through the season. I’m not happy with how the season ended, but I’m excited for the future and what moves will bring Atlanta their first Super Bowl Championship.