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Ryan and Quinn need to find their A game for #Falcons to reach #NFLPlayoffs

12 Dec

 

In the roller coaster season for the Atlanta Falcons the only constant has been questionable play of QB Matt Ryan and on field strategy of Head Coach Dan Quinn. These two, with Ryan being the bigger culprit have either cost the Falcons games outright, or made the wins much closer than they should have been. Matt Ryan the MVP of the NFL last year, has regressed. Gone is the maestro orchestrating one of the best offenses in league history. In 2016 -17 he seemed to always make the right throw, at the right time. Ball security was excellent having a 5-1 TD to INT ratio while still throwing enough to have almost 5000 Yards passing.

Dan Quinn was the captain of ship of players after his own heart . Rookies he helped select were making huge contributions on defense.  His hand picked OC Kyle Shanahan went from Atlanta’s most wanted out, to the hottest head coaching prospects and landing the 49er job.

This year there are multiple new coaches including new offensive and defensive coordinators, and QB coach. The defense has improved statistically moving into the top 10 in fewest yards allowed. However the dominant, record setting offense has taken a big step backwards. Quinn also continues to make strange, risky decisions in crucial times, especially clock management.

As for Matt Ryan, all of his key measurables up to this point in 2017 are down in comparison to last year. TD to INT 17/11 vs 38/7. QB rating 92.4 vs 117/1 . 252 yards per game passing vs 309 per in 2016. One of the greatest offenses in NFL history last year has become average and predictable. Scoring per game is down 33% averaging 22 points per game down from 33 per game.

Quinn has been given a pass by most of us in the media due to his upbeat nature and energy. Ryan has been criticized more often, sometimes unfairly especially by fans many who point to him as why the team can’t reach its potential.

The team still has the ability to reach the playoffs in their own hands. Win out, they are definitely in. Take 2 of 3 probably still will make it. The task isn’t easy. All 3 games are against division opponents. New Orleans and Carolina are ahead of them in the standings.

One other thing this years Atlanta Falcons have also been is resilient. If Matt Ryan can play more like the reigning league MVP, and Dan Quinn can make sound Late game decisions this team has the personnel to make some noise in postseason.

But if they don’t at least get there, Ryan and Quinn will face some hard questions this offseason. Explaning why this became such a ‘year of living dangerously ‘m

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#Falcons snatch win from hands of #Saints on #DeionJones end zone INT

9 Dec
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#InBrotherhood

Saints Falcons Football

Debo Time -atlantafalcons.com

The Atlanta Falcons continue their season in the year of living dangerously. Matt Ryan throws 3 interceptions, including 2 in the Red Zone. But in another strange and miraculous finish, the Falcons intercept Drew Brees in the end zone with less than a minute to go to preserve a 20-17 victory in Atlanta.

Falcons star middle linebacker Deion Jones, a Louisiana native, once again stung his home state with a game changing interception. He intercepted a Brees pass 2 years ago in New Orleans in his rookie year to help the Falcons win that game.

The offense was doing what it needed to do…. control the ball to keep it away from Drew Brees and the Saints Offense.  Early on it was the Saints who had  control and held a  2-1 time of possession edge. but it was still a 3-3 tie in the 1st quarter. Atlanta seemed to take charge midway through the 2nd quarter with a beautiful 15 play 90 yard drive lasting  8:17. Austin Hooper had 2 catches to keep the drive alive. Devonta Freeman had 5 carries, 19 yds and caps off long drive with a TD with 4:35 left 2nd quarter.
After score however  it seems like Atlanta’s defense relaxed. First they gave up a big 31 yard kickoff return. Then Brees took Saints on nifty TD drive in just 2:30
When the Falcons get the ball back and the offense moves the ball right back down the field to the Saints 42 yard. Matt Ryan looks at Julio all the way and throws his 1st of 3 interceptions. Saints return it 33 yards and kick FG to take the lead. Or so they thought. Atlanta got it’s first break of the day as a Saints penalty causes a 10 second runoff, negates the field goal, and keeps the game tied at 10.

Ryan threw interception #2 to start the 2nd half, as TE Austin Hooper fumbled the pass right into the hands of the Saints Chris Banjo leading to a short TD drive as New Orleans took the lead 17-10. Atlanta responded by driving to the Saints 5 when Ryan, again staring down Julio Jones throws into triple coverage and interception number three blowing another opportunity to score, and gave the Saints the ball back again.

The Falcons defense was on a mission though and stopped Saints drives twice.  The  second drive stop was highlighted by a key 3rd down sack by Atlanta’s huge interior lineman Dontari Poe. Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense then showed they had some resilience and grit.

First with about 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Falcons began a 15 play, 69 yard drive that ended with nifty 8 yard TD pass for Ryan to wide open Mohamad Sanu in the end zone to tie the game at 17. On their next drive they moved from their own 28 to the Saints 34 when the drive stalled. Mr. Reliable Matt Bryant came on nailed a 52 yard FG to give Atlanta a 20-17 lead with 3:49 to play. A lot of time for future Hall of Famer Drew Brees to get something done. Brees did not disappoint. He led the Saints quickly downfield from their 20 to the Falcons 34 in just a minute and a half. The final moments left everyone there buzzing. On 3rd and 1, 2 minutes left in the game, the Saints are charged with offensive holding, a 10 yard penalty. This would make it 3rd and 11 and the ball on the Falcons 35. Not so fast. Atlanta head coach starts the chess match. He declines the 1st down. It’s now 4th and 1. Saints head coach passes on the 42 yard FG and elects to go for it on 1st down. New Orleans gets the 1st down on a Drew Brees QB sneak. Brees fires an 11 yard pass to Ted Ginn for a 1st down. But Ginn is injured on the play forcing New Orleans to take a timeout and the clock is stopped at 1:39. Brees throws again this time for no gain and Atlanta takes their 2nd timeout. The Saints are clearly playing for the win on the road as Brees is throwing, even though they are easy FG range. On the next play the strategy backfires. Brees throws towards Josh Hill in the end zone but middle linebacker Deion Jones jumps about 3-4 feet in the air for a spectacular interception to kill the drive.

There was still some drama left though. After a New Orleans timeout, on 2nd down Falcons RB Devonta Freeman fumbles. Atlanta recovers however, and is able to kneel down twice and hang on for a hard fought, but strange 20-17 win. The victory puts Atlanta just one game behind the Saints with 3 games left to play. All the games remaining are in the division, including a rematch with the Saints in New Orleans on Christmas eve. The Falcons have it all in front of them, and control their own playoff chances.

It should be an interesting finish as the Falcons fight to return to playoffs to defend their NFC Championship and head back to the Super Bowl.

#Falcons vs #Seahawks – No room for error in #NFLPlayoff chase

21 Nov

The 2017 Atlanta Falcons have played their way into a precarious position in their quest to return to the postseason.

Winnable games vs the Bills, Dolphins at home, and Panthers on the road have left them in 3rd place in the NFC South. Even after a big home win against a depleted Cowboys team, Atlanta needs to win 5 or 6 of their last 7 games to get back in the playoffs. The good news is all but 2 of those games are against teams that are ahead of them in the standings. The bad news is those teams are playing well.

The Falcons offense looked the best it has since the opening game vs Green Bay. 6 different players caught at least 2 passes from Matt Ryan who looked loose and confident even when forced out of the pocket. Atlanta even ran some hurry up offense a few times (finally)

Once again the Falcons opponent will be missing key players from their roster. All Pro defenders Cam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Cliff Averil are all out due to injury.  The Falcons offense should be able to move the ball against Seattle IF they have the cohesiveness and execution of last Sunday.

On defense for the 3rd week in a row Atlanta has the challenge of stopping a dual threat QB. Against the Panthers the D had huge problems stopping Cam Newton. They fared much better against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys sacking him 8 times.  With Russell Wilson they face their stiffest challenge yet. Not only is he elusive but his ability to make big plays of a scramble is amazing

If the Falcons can contain Wilson and maintain their offensive efficiency from last week. Atlanta will have the same record they had after 10 games last year, 6-4.  They also will find themselves right back in the middle of the playoff hunt.

#Falcons pick of #TakkaristMcKinley – hubris or just following their hunches?

28 Apr

Takkaist McKinley usa_today_10033656.1493351431
Photo from USA Today on BruinsNation.com

The  2017 NFL draft ‘needs list’ for the Falcons wasn’t too much different from 2015 or 2016. Get a good edge rusher, and shore up the offensive line with players who could play right away. In 2015 the pick was fairly obvious. Pundits and fans alike thought Vic Beasley the standout DE from Clemson had shown the speed and quickness to be a good NFL pass rusher.  Even though he was a bit undersized at only 235 pounds, Atlanta drafted him 6th overall.  He has become one of the NFL’s  best pass rushers , leading the league last year in sacks.

In 2016 however the Falcons started with picks that did not seem to address their needs at all.  1st round pick Keanu Neal was a SAFETY, not an edge rusher. 2nd round pick Deion Jones was fast but was a middle linebacker, and like Vic Beasley a little undersized.  Reaves turned out to be a ‘thumper’ who patrolled the Falcons back-end. and dished out punishment to opposing players at will. Deion was a tackling machine and rookie of the year finalist. Another slam dunk for the Falcons.

So here we are in 2017 and again Atlanta surprises us by picking outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley from UCLA.  McKinley appears to be another ‘DQ’ (Dan Quinn) guy. The All Pac 12 DE/OLB is described by NFL.com as “Relentless worker bee on the field” “…and is always charging towards the ball” However on the other side he is considered to be “raw” and a “little stiff in the lower body” He also is coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.  He was slotted by some to be a 2nd round pick. Why did the Falcons traded a 3rd round and 7th rounder to move from 25th to 31st pick to get him. In a draft which is supposed to be one of the deepest in history it seems they could have stayed put and still got him. 1st round picks should be impact players on your team right away. The fact the Falcons selected a raw, injured, player with big potential, means  Falcons leadership is convinced they have the coaching system and team culture that allows them to get the most from the players they bring on board.

The rest of the Falcons draft has yet to unfold. But if McKinley plays the way last year’s draft group did, the Falcons could back in the Super Bowl again and got another rising star in Takkarist McKinley press conference bad language notwithstanding.

By Jonathan Simmons

Is #Washington WR #JohnRoss fastest ever at #NFLCombine ?

4 Mar

Step aside, Chris Johnson. Possibly. Washington receiver John Ross unofficially ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. If that number stands, it becomes the fastest 40 time in the history of the Indianapolis gathering of incoming prospects. Nine years ago, Johnson (who has played running back for the Titans, Jets, and Cardinals) cranked…

Check out this #NFLCombine update from @ProFootballTalk via John Ross sets Combine speed record, unofficially — ProFootballTalk

#Freebird approach needed for #AtlantaFalcons ‘D’ to improve

1 Dec

The #AtlantaFalcons defense needs to be cut loose to flourish. The #Falcons statistically have gone backwards from 2015 when they were 16th overall to 27th. In 2016, Atlanta allows opponents on average almost 400 yards and 28 points per game. The numbers in 2015 were 348 yards and 22 points per game.

The irony is as a fan this years Falcons ‘D’ is much more fun to watch. Sacks are up. They already have 24 vs 19 all of last year. 12 forced fumbles equaling what they had in all of 2015. This team plays best when it is in attack mode. That fits the skills of the players you have.

The Falcons are team that features speed at linebacker, big hitting at defensive back and youth, starting 4 rookies. Those attributes in the primary scheme they run also is the reason why they have problems stopping anybody. Players are at times out of position and seem confused as plays develop.

Coach Dan Quinn and his defensive coaches need to adjust their game plan to take better advantage of the personnel they put in place. Get the DBs up a little closer to line of scrimmage to eliminate some of the short to mid range passes. The defensive backs have enough closing speed if a receiver gets a step on them.  Beasley, Campbell, and Jones are one of the fastest group of linebackers in the NFL. Use more blitzes and stunts to utilize that speed.

During this year’s summer camp the Falcons invited the press to take part in film sessions and hear a little from the coaches regarding the thought concept behind of the defensive scheme. It seemed simple limit explosive plays, decrease yards after contact through sure initial tackling, and force plays to middle of the field. A ‘strike zone’ where hard hits and strip techniques could create turnovers. Seems as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Find the ball and who has it
  2. Attack the area where it is
  3. Deliver a clean blow with greatest force possible

‘Freebird’ was a hit song in the 70’s by Southern Rock band Lynard Skynard.  The song starts as mournful ballad but midway ramps up and turns loose one of the best rock guitar jams ever.

If the Falcons can do a bit better job of putting their players in a position to succeed, the Falcons ‘D’ may be more like the dominant Seahawks defense he led in Seattle. And that would make the Dirty Birds a Super Bowl contender. Turn ’em loose and let them be Freebirds of prey on the NFL.

By Jonathan Simmons

 

 

In battle of the ‘Birds #Falcons resilience shows in win over #Cardinals

28 Nov

In #ARIvsATL #Falcons  RiseUp for 38-19 win over the visiting Arizona Cardinals.  They looked rested and relaxed in front of a late arriving crowd at the Georgia Dome.

This game between Dirty Birds and Desert Birds, pitted Arizona’s top ranked defense vs Atlanta’s top ranked offense. Falcons were good on both.  The defense limited star Cardinals star running back David Johnson to 58 yards rushing. They turned their attention to QB Carson Palmer who was sacked and intercepted as Arizona only scored 6 points in the 2nd half.

Offensively it was more outstanding play. Once again the Falcons used their ‘Pick your Poison’ approach as Matt Ryan spread the ball around to 8 different receivers. Ryan was 26-34, 269 yards 2 TDs 1 INT, and WR Taylor Gabriel racked up 102 total yards and 2 TDs. The biggest key to the win for the Falcons was the resiliency they showed in responding when the momentum started to shift to the Cardinals.

Arizona cut the Falcon lead to 17-13 right before the half getting a last second FG after set up by an interception when Julio Jones bobbled into air a Matt Ryan pass. They then sacked Matt Ryan 3 times in 6 Atlanta plays to force a punt. However Atlanta forced a 3 and out, then had a 13 play 77 yard TD drive to make the score 24-13. They never looked back after that. That kind of toughness was lacking in last years team. The growing confidence in the Quinn/Shanahan scheme and themselves make this team a playoff contender, and a treat to beat any team they face.

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Ryan silences critics with record 500 yard passing performance

3 Oct

falcons-vs-panthers-2016-10-02-194

Matt Ryan has heard the grumbling from fans and the press after last seasons 2nd half collapse. The red zone interceptions. Clear discomfort in Kyle Shanahan’s new offense. The clutch QB play that earned him the nickname ‘Matty Ice’ had been replaced by a hesitant error prone imitation of himself. During his limited work in the 2016 preseason he didn’t look much better.

Ryan stoically handled the criticism as the professional he is and waited to the regular season to unleash the new Matt  Ryan aka  ‘Matticulous’. Ryan has been unstoppable for the 1st quarter of the new season putting up numbers that lead the NFL. He won player of the month for Sept. That was followed up by throwing for a Falcon record 503 yard, 4 TD performance vs the Panthers. He easily won the duel with reigning league MVP Cam Newton who was actually knocked out of the game with a big hit by Deion Jones.

He has been utilizing the many weapons he has at his disposal connecting with 8 or more players in each of the last 2 games. But in yesterday’s game the main thrust of the aerial assault came by ‘Jet’. Julio ‘Jet’ Jones had a career best 300 yards receiving on just 12 receptions. A stunning 25 yards per catch. His last one was a breathtaking  grasp and dash 75 yard TD which sent the Dome into a frenzy. It marked the 1st time in NFL history that a QB threw for 500 or more yards, and a receiver had 300 yards receiving in the same game.

The Falcons offense after 4 games lead the league in scoring, passing yards, and total yards. Ryan also leads QBs in passing, is on a pace to throw for over 5,500 yards and 44 TDs. Of course the season is young, and the NFL unpredictable. But for now Matt Ryan and Falcons can sing to the naysayers – “Turn down for what”

By Minister Jonathan Simmons

Stats from NFL.com

Are the #Falcons too fragile?

18 Sep

 

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It is tough to write articles that are critical or seem negative.The Real Talk Sports show tries to ‘accentuate the positive’. But life and truth often are harsh and tough to deal with. When we look at this Atlanta Falcons team it seems to always be dealing with injuries to the body and psyche.

Let’s look that physical side. It’s only game 2 and you have several key players already banged up. 2 rookie starters LB DeVondre Campbell and S Keanu Neal out.LB/DE Brooks may be out too.  WRs Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and RB Devonta Frreman have leg injuries. Recently acquired Dwight Freeney only can practice twice per week.And Vic Beasley still doesn’t appear to be 100% either Hopefully a combination of rest and treatment will get all of them back to full speed.

The mental side of things is questionable too. Game 1 had costly procedure penalties, missed assignments, and poor tackling. There still is a disconnect between QB Matt Ryan and OC Kyle Shanahan. Matt had good stats, but timing was off on several throws causing him to throw behind receivers in critical moments. 1st round pick Vic Beasley had NO tackles or sacks. The mild mannered young also seems out of sorts at times and is rumored not to take tough coaching critique well.

Atlanta’s pro sports teams are filled with nice guys. As a licensed minister I believe that’s a good thing in life to be. However, sports especially at the professional level requires passion, intensity and toughness.

At some point the Falcons are going to have to find some guys with “a little dog in ’em” to give this team the confidence and winning edge they need to get them back to playoffs. Just saying.

By-Minister Jonathan Simmons

 

#CardonPalmer and #LarryFitzgerald join #Manning in #SuperBowl of Old Men #AZvsCAR

25 Jan

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Cam Newton has been the best in the NFL this year. But Cardinal vets QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald know this could be their last opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. This may be just enough steam to get Arizona past the Panthers and into SB 50.

If they are able to join Denver Broncos Petyon Manning and Demarcus Ware, Super Bowl 50 will certainly be a place for old men.

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