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Posts tagged with "Falcons"

Falcons fans sound off about the offense, empty seats and wonder what’s causing the injuries

Editor’s note: Today’s edition will be updated later on this afternoon with more questions, so please check back.

Good morning and welcome to Straight from the ’Beek! We’re into the Falcons’ bye week and you’ve got questions. Just remember that all opinions you see in this space are mine, unless otherwise noted.

And we’re off.

Larry from Hampton, GA

If you had success running the football and it’s fourth-and-1, isn’t it a no-brainer to run the football and get the first down? You say that you have to rely or trust the coach’s decision. As you see it didn’t work out in the Super Bowl as well as this game. Still trusting the coach’s decision?

Matt: Yes, I am, Larry. You can’t judge a coach on one play.


Julian from Los Angeles, CA

Hey Matt, love your column and your insights. Thanks for doing this. I do have a question, but first I have a comment. I knew someone was going to come on here on Monday and talk about Julio Jones always being hurt. My Steelers fan friends tell me that’s why Antonio Brown is better than Julio Jones, but he’s not. No. 11 is the best WR in the NFL. Injuries, especially to wide receivers, happen. The Falcons didn’t lose that game because 11 got hurt. Which leads me to my question. Besides turnovers, what else do you think the Falcons need to do better when they come back after their bye to get better? A 3-1 record is good but they could easily be 1-3 or 2-2 right now. They have to start playing better.

Matt: Julian, they have to get healthy. By the end of Sunday’s game, a total of eight players were out because of various injuries. Aside from turning the ball over and creating more turnovers, the Falcons need to start tackling better, too. There were a lot of missed tackles. You might as well throw in catching the ball, too. For whatever reasons, there have been a lot of tipped and deflected balls by the receivers – and some of those have led to turnovers. The good news is that everything I just mentioned is correctable. And the bye week could not be coming at a better time.


Jerry from Cuthbert, GA

Did you notice that Duke Riley is looking confused and missing a lot of tackles? Looks like he’s in over his head. Thanks for the ear.

Matt: Hey, Jerry. You’ve got to remember Duke Riley is a first-year player and every game is on-the-job training for him. The good news is that he has lots of speed, plays fast and puts himself in position to make plays more times than not. Yes, he’s missed some tackles, but like I noted above, that’s correctable – and he’ll only get better in time.


Hayse from Nashville, TN

Hey Beek, I’ve been a fan all my life and a season ticket holder since Vick’s rookie year. I drive down from Nashville for the games and, for years, I flew in from Utah. I say this to establish some fan credibility before I ask this question. So, my question is, what do we have to do to A) Get our fans to the games? B) Get to their seats on time? I’ve never consistently seen so many empty seats over the years and it seems like it takes an NFC championship to get the house packed. It’s just frustrating to me to see the support that Atlanta United is getting and the Falcons (and Braves) games barely seem half full. It’s embarrassing and needs to stop!

Matt: Thanks for the question and the Falcons are lucky to have to loyal fans like you. I’ll be very honest here – I have no idea what’s going on with the fans – and I find it surprising, especially coming into Sunday’s game with a 3-0 mark. But one reader (below) offers at least one reason why, Hayse.


Rob from Canton, GA

I have been following the Falcons for many years, watching players such as Jeff Van Note, Steve Bartkowski, etc., In watching the Falcons I have never noticed a killer instinct with them, like other teams. For example, the Super Bowl last year, it looked like the team and coaches thought to themselves that we had it wrapped up. New England wanted it worse than us. What is it going to take to get this Falcons team with a never-let-down attitude? Also, I can give you one reason why the seats are empty. People like me who had season tickets for over 50 years never saw our Falcons win a Super Bowl, and I will not get season tickets again until they really want to play and never quit, for both the team and coaches. They all need to look at themselves and ask the simple question, am I really playing or coaching to the best of my ability? Just an old man venting!

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Let’s talk about it.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here, we’re at the bye week! Normally I’d bemoan the tediousness of it all, but this time around, I’m just grateful for the chance for Atlanta to take a breather and get healthy.

We are going to use this time to take stock of the Falcons and the NFL through four games, and so we’ll lead things off with an upbeat, hopefully fun question: Who has been the most impressive Falcon through four games?

There are some truly worthy candidates. Julio Jones has been his usual stellar self, Brooks Reed is having a weird resurgent season, Takk McKinley is putting together one hell of a rookie campaign, and Grady Jarrett is a legitimate beast in the middle of the defensive line.

For all that, though, I guess I’d go with Devonta Freeman. He has been absurdly good yet again, with 70 carries for 285 yards, an NFL-leading five rushing touchdowns, and nine receptions for 70 yards over four games. That’s a combined 355 yards and five TDs in an offense that has needed every hard-fought yard, and Freeman still looks like one of the greatest backs in the league. Steve Sarkisian is obviously willing to lean on Free, and that means he’ll probably be one of Atlanta’s best all season.

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussing his plans before the Lions’ game on Sunday. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com) 

Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood next to head coach Dan Quinn on the field during the National Anthem before Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions.

Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe elected to kneel while holding hands with defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel (standing to the right of Jarrett) and Adrian Clayborn (standing to left of Poe).

Eight members of the Detroit Lions elected to kneel also.

“It’s just a physical and symbolic representation of what I said yesterday,” Blank said before the game about standing with his team.

Blank was fine with whatever the players elected to do.

”What they do is their choice,” Blank said before the game. “I’m supportive of our players. I’m certainly supportive of their rights to express their freedom of speech. I don’t think…the people that fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for way of life, and part of that is reflected in the freedom of speech and the ability to speak up and speak out on issues.

Blank was not pleased with the comments of President Donald Trump about players who have elected to kneel during the National Anthem.

“It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has,” Blank said. “Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing.”

Blank was not one of the seven NFL owners who dontated $1 million to Trump’s campaign. Blank was a strong supporter of  President Barack Obama.

Players around the league have been protesting social and racial injustice in the country.

“The issues that they point to are legitimate issues,” Blank said. “They need to be talked about it. We need to make progress as a country moving forward with them. We don’t do it by creating walls. We don’t build walls. That doesn’t create better listening or better responses or connections.”

Blank noted that the Falcons are one of the busiest teams when it comes to doing community service.

“I think our players love this country,” Blank said. “They not only play this game, but they work their fannies off physically and financially giving back in a variety of ways to our communities throughout the national football league. We are the first to step up and do very significant things. They do it day in and day out. I see it every day with our players.”

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The Falcons dealt with this the whole offseason, and you saw it, because it was impossible to miss it—28–3, 28–3, 28–3. And riding shotgun to all the taunting was the idea that the mother of all Super Bowl hangovers was coming as a result of the mother of all Super Bowl collapses.

Two weeks in, not so much. And the Falcons have handled all of this so well, because they haven’t run from it. As recently as last week, players—all the way up the chain to Matt Ryan—were speaking freely about overcoming the past. There wasn’t a ceremonial burial of a football, or an embargo on talking about 2016. Instead, the players and coaches have hit what they had coming right between the eyes.

And the reason why is simple. They did what few NFL teams have the stomach to when things go sideways—behind the GM they’ve stuck with for a decade and a head coach they’ve invested in, they believed in their course and stuck to it.

You can start, too, with one thing that actually changed. Atlanta handled its biggest offseason defection—Kyle Shanahan leaving to coach the Niners—by asking every candidate they interviewed, “can you run his offense?” In essence, screaming to the players, stay the course. The man Quinn found, Steve Sarkisian, has background with Pete Carroll, another sign of how Atlanta was building on the program, not tearing it down. So while the pilot was different, the script wasn’t and, at least on Sunday, neither was the result. Matt Ryan and company rolled up 257 yards and 24 points in the first half alone against Green Bay.

If they looked unaffected by all the noise, that makes sense too, because it had been impressed on the players that they’d been through a smaller version of this before. During Dan Quinn’s first season with the Falcons, the team saw a 6–1 start evaporate into an 8–8 finish—and that loomed over the 2016 offseason. The same way 28–3 will come up this year every time Atlanta has a lead, the 2–7 meltdown served as a caveat to every early-season win they had last year. And the Falcons were able to plow through all of that on their way to the Super Bowl.

And then, finally, there’s Quinn himself, a coach who was the king of the 2015 coaching carousel in large part because of his ability to reach players and lead, qualities that equipped him for the aftermath of the letdowns of both the ’15 season, and Super Bowl LI.

We don’t know yet whether or not the Falcons are going to be where they were last year, with a shot to win the franchise’s first world title. But what we should’ve known all along was simple—they most certainly were equipped to handle all that was coming their way.

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Fact: Brian Hill can clap with his eyes closed

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Brian Hill has faded into the background since April’s draft. That has some fans writing him off. Meanwhile, it’s no secret, I’m a big fan of Hill. I believe he can and will adopt a prominent role in the offense once Tevin Coleman bolts in free agency. That means Hill has until the end of the 2018 season to get up to speed.

I had some bullish takes on Hill when I wrote about him in July. I still stand by said hot takes. And now is an ideal time to discuss Hill because he started practicing again this week. To be sure, Hill is technically listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. That doesn’t mean much, because he’s likely to be inactive no matter how his ankle feels. There’s just no need to rush his recovery.

For the Falcons, HIll is a long-term solution to a potential problem. Put differently, barring injury, the Falcons don’t need him … yet. If the Falcons did need him to play a meaningful role in 2017, he’d have the starting offensive line blocking for him, a luxury he wasn’t afforded during the preseason.

So what I’m saying is this: Hill’s best is yet to come. He suffered an unfortunate ankle injury in the preseason. He arguably didn’t make the most of his opportunities in preseason games, but his supporting case wasn’t ideal. He doesn’t need to redeem himself, but he will.

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THE Sunshine Coast Falcons have set up a grand final showdown with the PNG Hunters, after they smashed Redcliffe 40-14 at Dolphin Oval.

Scott Drinkwater scores a try for the Sunshine Coast Falcons against the Redcliffe Dolphins.Source:News Corp Australia

THE Sunshine Coast Falcons have set up a grand final showdown with the PNG Hunters, after they smashed Redcliffe 40-14 at Dolphin Oval.

In a stunning performance, Craig Ingebrigtsen’s side ran riot in the second half to secure their first Intrust Super Cup grand final appearance since 2009.

The Falcons scored four tries to one in the second stanza, with star halfback Ryley Jacks bagging a double.

Former Hunter Justin Olam also claimed two tries for himself, after he scored the first four-pointer of the game in the sixth minute.

The final score from the Sunshine Coast was one that few could have predicted, given Redcliffe’s form this year.

But Ingebrigtsen said his side executed perfectly to leave the Dolphins heartbroken.

“It’s a bit surreal,” he said.

Sunshine Coast Falcons players celebrate their win over the Redcliffe Dolphins.

Sunshine Coast Falcons players celebrate their win over the Redcliffe Dolphins.Source:News Corp Australia

“You start in the middle of November and you think of this as your goal, that you want to play in the grand final. Obviously only two teams go there so I’m really happy and proud of our group.

“We made sure we were clinical about what we did. The boys were outstanding on their execution.

“I can’t wait for next Sunday. I wish it was here now … we’re up for the challenge. Momentum is a wonderful thing.”

The Falcons have only won the competition once in the Queensland Cup-era, after they claimed the trophy in 2009

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Can the Falcons deliver a better offensive performance than Week 1? We’re bullish.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back! Another week, another chance to put your randomly useful ability to project the statistical output of a football team to use.

Here we simply look at the projected team total for points and yardage (and points and yardage allowed) and break out the yardage and scoring outputs on offense, and the big plays on defense. Since we have the Falcons winning again this week, I hope we’re at least somewhatright here.

How’d I do last week? I was off by 8 points and 58 yards on offense, and 3 points and 14 yards on defense. My closest projects were Matt Ryan (who did not have 3 TDs, but did have 321 yards, just one above where I thought he’d be) and Vic Beasley (who did indeed have one sack), but I wasn’t close otherwise because I severely underrated the Bears.

Here’s my projections against the Packers. Share yours in the comments, if you would.

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The first-time NFL coordinators will be tested by a tough Packers teamBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have one win in the books, and the team’s two new coordinators acquitted themselves reasonably well in their first action. Nobody was thrilled with the way Atlanta won in Chicago, mind you, but it was a win, and those remain important.

As D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote yesterday, the Green Bay game provides a stiffer challenge for Marquand Manuel on the defensive side, but it’s not going to be a peachy keen walk in the park or whatever for Steve Sarkisian either.

For Manuel and the defense, the challenge will be stopping Aaron Rodgers, dynamic running back/converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery, and a cast of solid receiving options that includes Jordy NelsonRandall Cobb, and tight end Martellus Bennett.

For Sark and the offense, the challenge is working against the Packers’ so-called Nitro package, which features a lot of defensive backs, and a quietly stout run defense. It’s not likely to hold this potent attack entirely in check, but with questions swirling in the fanbase about Sark’s aggressiveness and creativity after just one week, it could still create some disquieting setbacks.

As it turns out, the Bears did challenge both coordinators, but not in the same way you’d expect the Packers to. Chicago was only able to put up 17 points and got by chiefly on the strength of a strong ground game, while defensively Chicago did an impressive job of shutting down the run but couldn’t quite hold Matt Ryan and company in check. Atlanta’s extremely likely to score more than they did in Chicago against the Packers, but there’s a more opportunistic secondary here and a much better offense to contend with. It doesn’t figure to be easy.

If the Falcons impress here, I expect we’ll all feel better about Sark in particular. May they do so.

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The 2016 Atlanta Falcons were damn near unstoppable offensively. They gained more yards than all but 12 teams in NFL history and scored more points than all but seven. They gained more yards on a per-play basis than all but three teams in the history of football and they actually scored more points per drive than the record-breaking 2013 Broncos (2.90 to 2.83). Along with the 2007 Patriots and the 2011 Saints, they were one of just three teams since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 to score a touchdown or field goal on more than half of their offensive drives.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in two games against a Green Bay Packersdefense that was largely below average for much of the season, the Falcons lit up the scoreboard but good. Atlanta scored 33 points in a last-minute comeback victory in Week 8, then racked up 44 in the NFC Championship Game on the way to clinching a Super Bowl berth. Considering the Falcons averaged 36 points per game in the Georgia Dome, where both of those games were played, again, it was not all that surprising that they hit 38.5 per game against Green Bay.

What was surprising about the two performances is that the Falcons tore up Green Bay’s defense — specifically, their pass defense — in drastically different ways.

Winning by going short

In Week 8, the Falcons attacked almost entirely via the short pass. Matt Ryan threw 35 passes during the game; 27 of them were intended for receivers within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and six of those 27 were screens thrown behind the line, per tracking data from Pro Football Focus.

pff1.png
Pro Football Focus

Many of those passes were thrown to receivers that ran quick-breaking routes after Ryan motioned a running back out of the backfield, leaving the Falcons in an empty set. Doing so forced the defense to declare its coverage, allowing Ryan to identify the man that would come open before the snap of the ball, and then get it to him quickly afterward. He completed all six of his pass attempts when the Falcons motioned into an empty set, gaining 52 yards.

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Atlanta’s got 11 men to add to the squad, and they’ve only added two so far.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s got a final(ish) roster to tinker with, and starting at noon today, they’ll be able to create a eleven person practice squad. The players there may or may not make a difference to these 2017 Falcons, but they’ll be able to learn and grow and hopefully contribute down the line.

It’s safe to assume we know one member of the 2017 practice squad, and that’s Alex Gray, who the team can stash for the year as part of an international player program. The second, per our sources, is safety Marcelis Branch. That leaves nine men to join the team in the next few days, and we’ll hope to know the full list soon.

Practice Squad

TE Alex Gray

FS Marcelis Branch

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