Goober Pyle

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Goober Pyle last won the day on August 14 2016

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  1. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows what type of impact reigning NFL sack champ Vic Beasley Jr. can have on a game. Now Quinn just wants to see more of it. Beasley, who had 15.5 sacks last season, enters Sunday's NFC showdown with the Minnesota Vikings with four sacks, tied with rookie Takkarist McKinley and Brooks Reed for second on the team behind Adrian Clayborn's eight. "For sure, they're not," Quinn said of Beasley's sack numbers not being at the same high level. "One of the good parts of Vic's game that he does when he sacks is he gets forced fumbles. He's forever had a knack for that. That part, we really need over the next [five games] of the season, that part of his game to really come through. We totally rely on that." Beasley has one forced fumble through 11 games after leading the team with six last season. The forced fumble he had back in Week 2 against Green Bay was a sack-fumble involving Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and resulted in a 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown by cornerback Desmond Trufant. In all fairness to Beasley, he did miss a couple of games because of a hamstring injury and didn't appear to be 100 percent upon returning to the lineup. Then a knee injury suffered by rookie linebacker Duke Riley forced some shuffling, with De'Vondre Campbell moving back into a primary role at weakside linebacker and Beasley picking up more snaps at strongside linebacker. That meant more setting the edge against the run and more dropping in coverage for Beasley rather than focusing on his primary strength of just rushing the passer. Naturally, Beasley is going to draw added attention from the opposition, which opens opportunities for others such as Clayborn, McKinley, and interior rushers Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe to make plays. That wasn't necessarily the case in last week's win against Tampa Bay, when Beasley was stood up on his share of one-on-one rushes against right tackle Demar Dotson and left tackle Donovan Smith. Beasley was chipped by the running back on one play. And the officials missed holds against tight end Antony Auclair and Smith against Beasley late in the game. Beasley didn't record a tackle, sack, or quarterback hit in the game.
  2. SEATTLE -- Matt Ryan stood on the rain-drenched CenturyLink Field turf and surveyed the opposing defense, detecting a gaping-wide gap in the depleted Legion Of Boom. And then the veteran quarterback's eyes lit up, and he prepared to receive a shotgun snap and air-mail a leather package to the NFL's most imposing pass-catching beast. It was third-and-6 at his own 42-yard-line; it was midway through the fourth quarter of Monday night's game, with the Atlanta Falcons holding a 31-23 lead over the Seattle Seahawks; and it was time for the league's reigning MVP to become Matty Ice. "Those are the plays you have to hit," Ryan told me later. "You've got the safety in the center, and one-on-one bump coverage on the outside, and they've got a couple of guys out in the secondary. So yeah, I'm keeping my eyes to the center to freeze the safety and then throwing it to Julio on the outside and letting him go get it." Standing tall in the pocket as the Seahawks blitzed, Ryan executed the play to perfection, looping a glorious pass that All-Pro receiver Julio Jones hauled in over his shoulder just inside the right sideline for a 29-yard gain. With cornerback Jeremy Lane trailing a foot behind him and safety Bradley McDougald closing fast from the middle of the field, Jones made the crucial catch which gave the Falcons a first down at the Seattle 29. Not insignificant was the reality that Richard Sherman, the star cornerback who typically shadows Jones, watched helplessly from the same sideline as he rested his surgically repaired foot atop a medical knee scooter. "It's all about winning matchups," Jones said afterward. "I'm just trying to beat my man. Matt delivered a great ball." A few minutes later, the Falcons had a 34-23 lead thanks to Matt Bryant's 19-yard field goal. And a few minutes after that -- as Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt fell just short of the crossbar -- Atlanta had survived the Seahawks' frenetic comeback effort and escaped with a 34-31 victory. Suddenly, after a messy first half of the 2017 season, the Falcons (6-4) are back in the NFC playoff chase -- though third in the NFC South, they'd be the sixth seed if the season ended today -- and can harbor non-illusory hopes of defending their conference championship. With consecutive victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks, Atlanta is starting to regain some of the consistency and confidence that seemed missing through the season's first two months. Given that the Falcons have had to contend with perhaps the most agonizing Super Bowl hangover in football history, having blown a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots last February in unfathomable fashion, it's not entirely surprising that they started slowly this season. On Monday, in front of 69,026 revved up fans and a thoroughly entertained television audience, Ryan and his teammates reminded everyone that they've still got some juice. "We're getting our swagger back," said Jones, who caught five passes for 71 yards against a Seahawks secondary that was also missing standout safety Kam Chancellor. "Last year's last year -- but you can't win games off last year, and it can't do anything for this year. We're just trying to get it going and get an identity as the 2017 Falcons." For the first time since late September, when Atlanta completed a 3-0 start at the mercy of NFC North opponents before dropping four of their next five, the 2017 Falcons appear capable of soaring. With five of their six remaining games against NFC South foes, catching the New Orleans Saints (8-2) and Carolina Panthers (7-3) is well within the realm of possibility. "There's a lot in front of us in a short amount of time," Pro Bowl center Alex Mack said. "We totally have the ability to play as well as we want to play. We're as good as we want to be. We showed that the last two games." Before Monday's game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn -- a former Seahawks defensive coordinator -- talked to his players about coming out aggressively and setting a tenacious tone. That had not been the case during the two teams' meeting at CenturyLink during the 2016 regular season, when the Seahawks jumped out to a 17-3 advantage before pulling out a 26-24 victory -- an outcome Atlanta reversed in a 36-20 divisional-round playoff triumph at the Georgia Dome last January. This time, even with Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman sidelined by a concussion, the Falcons were the ones who thrived from the jump. With Sherman (torn Achilles) lost for the season and Chancellor (neck) soon likely to join him on IR, the Seahawks were ill-prepared to endure the head injury that knocked rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin from the game on Monday's second play from scrimmage. Though Ryan (19 of 27, 195 yards) didn't put up overly impressive stats, he went after the diminished Seattle secondary early, drawing a 25-yard pass interception penalty on Lane to set up the Falcons' first touchdown, and throwing a two-yard scoring pass to Mohamed Sanu to give Atlanta a 14-0 lead with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter. "We talked about coming out and going," Mack said. "That was important. We did a pretty good job of that -- coming out hot and keeping the pressure on." Said Ryan: "Tonight was good... starting fast, especially in an environment like that. We had execution from the start and sustained it for four quarters. That's progress." The Seahawks (6-4), as is their custom, willed their way back into the game. Seattle trailed 24-17 at the half, a deficit that could have been smaller were it not for an ill-fated fake field goal call by head coach Pete Carroll 10 seconds before halftime: With Seattle facing fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 17, Walsh came on for an apparent 35-yard attempt, but holder Jon Ryan flipped the ball to fellow Canada native Luke Willson, and the tight end was stuffed by the Falcons' Grady Jarrett for a four-yard loss. It was the most farcical Canadian connection since the heyday of Doug and Bob McKenzie, and plenty of Seahawks fans felt like calling Carroll a hoser during the intermission. In the second half, Russell Wilson (26 of 42, 258 yards, two touchdowns; seven rushes, 86 yards, one TD) threw everything he had at the Falcons' defense, but Ryan answered the challenge. His 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Levine Toilolo, which gave the Falcons a 31-20 lead midway through the third quarter, was a thing of beauty: after sliding to his right and looking toward halfback Tevin Coleman, he lofted a perfect ball to the left side of the end zone. And on that pivotal third-and-6 play, there was no question where Ryan wanted to go. "If I hadn't thrown to Julio," Ryan said, laughing, "I'd have heard about it afterward." Said Mack: "That's definitely a cheat code. They're a special pair." After Seattle nearly made up an 11-point deficit in the final 3:49, with Walsh's potential overtime-forcing field goal falling just short, Ryan felt a little bit better about a season that -- in his eyes -- hasn't been as sloppy as commonly perceived. "I feel like we've been a lot closer than a lot of people give us credit for," Matty Ice said. "But you've gotta do it, period -- that's the bottom line. There's definitely a sense of urgency to get stuff done, but there's no panic. Every inch counts. We saw that tonight. And I believe it's closer to being really, really good than most people think." The 2016 Falcons will always be remembered as the team that came painfully close to winning a championship, only to let it slip away. On Monday night in Seattle, the 2017 Falcons fended off a furious comeback and kept their title aspirations alive -- and their quarterback lived up to his nickname at a very opportune time.
  3. Bedwetter article The play of the secondary was a factor in the Falcons decision to waive former second round pick Jalen Collins on Tuesday, coach Dan Quinn said. “We made the best decision for the team,” Quinn said. “We went through the whole process. We wanted to make sure that we took all the time that we needed.” Upon returning from Seattle, Quinn meet with general manager Thomas Dimitroff over Collins’ status. He was suspended for 10 games for using performance enhancing drugs. He was also suspended for four games at the outset of the 2016 season. “Thomas and I stated back in August that we were going to take all of the time and we certainly did to make that decisions,” Quinn said. “That was in the best interest of the team in this situation and that’s what we decided to do.” The Falcons have five cornerbacks in the roster. “That’s what we decided to do and we knew that we had all the time to do that,” Quinn said. “We thought we’d gather all of the info that we wanted. But at the end of the day we always want to do what’s right for the team. At this point, that was the best decision for us.” Starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are playing well along with nickel back Brian Poole. Fourth cornerback C.J. Goodwin is starting to play in some dime situations and they also have Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who’s been inactive for six games. Goodwin played 13 snaps (18 percent) of the defensive snaps against Seattle. “For us, we didn’t feel that it was necessary for us to make any additional moves in that regard,” Quinn said. “We are happy with the guys in terms on how they are competing and battling for it. That’s why we felt it was best interest for the team to keep playing like we are.” Collins was able to return to practice this week after serving a 10-game suspension for his second violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Collins’ suspension was announced during training camp in early August. Before his suspension was announced, when the Falcons knew the upcoming penalty, Collins worked with the third-team defense. Collins, who was suspended without pay, was taken in the second round by the Falcons in the 2015 NFL Draft. He played in 24 games with eight starts over two years. Last season, he recorded two interceptions and 31 total tackles – 28 solo, and 10 passes defensed. With Trufant out he started for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Collins could be claimed off waivers by 4 p.m. or he could clear waivers and be available to other teams as a free agent.
  4. Most of the Falcons’ star power and approximately 60 percent of the team’s payroll plays on the offense. It follows that the offense gets the most attention and scrutiny and leads to questions like: Can they score more than 500 points again, will Julio Jones stay healthy, and -- the overwhelming favorite in the social-media underworld for 2017 -- how can Steve Sarkisian possibly screw this up? But while the Falcons are defined by their offense, the rest of their season actually may be defined by their defense. “I think that’s an accurate statement,” coach Dan Quinn told me the other day. “I like the chemistry that’s starting to happen on the ’17 team. It’s taken longer than I wanted it to, but I think we’re starting to get there.” They’re 5-4. They’re not there yet. This season has been a mixed bag. But the Falcons are coming off their best overall performance of the season, a 27-7 win over Dallas, and continue this key difficult stretch in Seattle Monday night. Offense should never be considered a given, even with the Falcons’ talent. There were coaches from 31 other teams in the offseason studying what the Falcons accomplished in 2016. They were bound to come up with new ideas about what (or who) to take away from quarterback Matt Ryan’s options. Quinn summarized it nicely: “We knew it wasn’t going to be rinse and repeat.” It also was logical to assume the Falcons would not make it through another season without some injuries on offense, as they did for the most part last season. Sure enough, in addition to Julio Jones’ usual ailments, they lost Mohamed Sanu for one game, and now running back Devonta Freeman is in concussion protocol with his second head injury in four months (he also had a concussion in the preseason). The Falcons scored 27 points against Dallas. It was the most points they scored since Week 3 and only the second time all season they had three offensive touchdowns. Even if the offense is beginning to find its rhythm, this team can’t afford to rely on that the rest of the season. Even in this era of pass-happy spread offenses, defense wins championships. The Falcons reached the Super Bowl because of their offense last season. But they lost that game because of their defense. That’s not dismissing the poor decision-making by Kyle Shanahan, Quinn and Ryan down the stretch of the game, decisions that would’ve changed the game’s outcome. But consider again the result of New England’s final five possessions in the championship game: -- 75 yards, touchdown. -- 72 yards, field goal. -- 25 yards, touchdown (following a sack and Ryan fumble). -- 91 yards, touchdown. -- 75 yards, touchdown. Five drives, 31 points. That’s how you lose games. This season had to be about defensive improvement. The Falcons’ young defense had been ascending last season until that ending and, most, including Quinn, expected it to improve this season. But in the first six games the team took significant steps back in takeaways (as well as turnovers that turn into points), run defense and tackling. It’s only in the past three games that things have started to improve. The Falcons held the New York Jets to 43 rushing yards and 279 overall in a 25-20 win, and last week limited Dallas to 233 yards in total offense, as well as sacking quarterback Dak Prescott eight times (six by Adrian Clayborn). Carolina rushed for 201 yards, but that’s a bit misleading because Cam Newton created many of the yards with his speed on broken plays (including a 34-yarder on third-and-9). The defense has five takeaways (all fumbles) in the past three games. The Falcons had only three takeaways (one fumble) in the first six games. “Last year we kind of came along late in the process,” linebacker Vic Beasley said. “This year we were hoping to get off to a hot start, but the team was kind of up and down. But since the Jets game, we feel like things are meshing together. We’re doing a better job limiting the number of errors were making.” Seven defensive regulars -- Beasley, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Brian Poole, Grady Jarrett, Devondre Campbell and Ricardo Allen -- were all in their first or second seasons last season. Sometimes, it’s easy for young players to forget what it takes to get back there. Former Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who went to nine Super Bowls as a player or coach, said recently, “When you make it, sometimes it’s hard to convince players to give that same effort again. They just assume they’re going back to the Super Bowl, but it doesn’t happen that way.” Quinn didn’t say if that was the case with his team, but he acknowledged a lapse in fundamentals. “That really bothered me early,” he said. “The tackling, the takeaways, the discipline to play and the run defense was not up to the standards. It wasn’t an issue of getting bullied around. It was an issue of not being in your gaps. When you jump out and they go for 15 yards, that’s on you. We had too much of that.” Does he agree defense still wins championships? “I think teams do,” he said. “But it’s hard to do it without a hard-nosed defense.”
  5. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones continued with the one-game-at-a-time mantra, but he knows the stakes are about to get higher. The last thing Jones and the Falcons wanted was to go into their first NFC South game of the season riding a four-game losing streak. They won't have that burden to carry after squeaking by the New York Jets on Sunday. Now at 4-3, the Falcons still find themselves behind the New Orleans Saints (5-2) and the Carolina Panthers (5-3) heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, next Sunday. "You know what? I'm looking forward to playing Carolina because they're the next team we play," Jones said. "I mean, we're going to handle that. Every game is the same for us. We don't need to make things up for it." But doesn't coach Dan Quinn always preach, more than anything, handling business in the division? "Most definitely he does," Jones said. "But we're not going to treat this game differently than we treat other games. You see what I mean?" Jones always is cool and calm in his approach, so no situation or opponent fazes him. But collectively, the Falcons understand they have to turn the intensity up a notch and play sounder football heading into division play. They have yet to play their best game, although the defense certainly elevated its effort against the Jets, particularly against the run. And seeing Jones and Tevin Coleman break loose for 50-plus-yard plays, and having Mohamed Sanu make spectacular catches, is more the type of offensive explosiveness most anticipated from the Falcons coming into the season. Now the challenge is to sustain any momentum from the win over the Jets against a Panthers defense fresh off holding Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to three points. The Panthers, who boasted the league's third-best overall defense going into Week 8, have 27 sacks, 10 more than the Falcons. Julius Peppers, the 37-year-old veteran, has 7.5 sacks. "We'll be ready next week," right tackle Ryan Schraeder said. "It's going to be a fistfight, so I'm excited. I think everybody's got a good attitude right now." Pulling out a win and ending a losing skid will do wonders for morale. "Outside there was a lot of noise, but not inside," Quinn said. "That kind of resiliency and that kind of toughness is what this group stands for. And they support one another like crazy and that's the times you do lean on one another and that's what you want, them leaning on each other when it's not going well. So I wasn't surprised to see them lean on each other, it's what I expected and I admired it." The Falcons started 3-0 against the NFC North and then went 1-3 against the AFC East. The road trip to Carolina is one of two division games in November along with a home matchup with the Buccaneers on Nov. 26. The last four weeks of the season are all division games, with road trips to Tampa and New Orleans sandwiched between a Week 14 Thursday night home game against the Saints. The season finale is on New Year's Eve against the Panthers. The Falcons are 2-3 in their past five games played against the Panthers in Charlotte. "It'll be exciting to get back into the division," Quinn said. "We started within the conference early and then took this trip up to the East, which did not go well for us. So as we're now getting back into our own conference and our own division, we're definitely looking forward to that."
  6. On a lighter note... ATLANTA -- Pro wrestling legend Ric Flair flashed a smile Thursday night when he was asked to recall how he became close to Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones. Flair said he was driving his Formula boat on Lake Lanier two years ago when two guys riding Jet Skis approached, asking if he would like to race one of them. "He blew by me," Flair said. "And I'm like, 'S---, this guy is a nut.'" Former professional wrestler "Nature Boy" Ric Flair says of the Falcons: "They are a great bunch of guys." AP Photo/John Bazemore That "nut" Flair encountered was Jones, as he learned after the race. "I said, 'You're kidding me,'" Flair said. "He came back over, and hence the relationship." It's funny how Flair and Jones forged their relationship at the same place where Jones made headlines for losing his $150,000 earing. "He didn't tell me, but I heard about that," Flair said. Jones extended Flair an open invitation to visit the team. Flair last came out in May, which fired up not only coach Dan Quinn, but the entire team. "I talk to Julio on a regular basis," Flair said. "I'm such a fan. I honestly have done a lot of stuff with sports teams, but the Falcons treat me with more respect than anything. They are a great bunch of guys. Julio is just unbelievable. So is [Devonta] Freeman. Matt Ryan is a **** of a guy." Flair appreciated when Jones and fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu wore cleats to honor him. "That was awesome," Flair said. "That tribute was just awesome." Flair fell ill in August and spent 10 days in a coma. He was given a 20 percent chance to live because of various health complications but survived. Flair had a select few hospital visitors because of his condition, but he appreciated Jones sending text messages of encouragement throughout the ordeal. Jones just wanted to make sure his friend pulled through. "When you care about and someone is a good friend, that's just stuff you do," Jones said. "There's no thinking behind it. It's not like I'm going out of my way to do something that I wouldn't do. I just appreciate him as a friend and his legacy. "Ric, I feel like he hasn't changed up for no one. He's been the same since Day 1, since he was in the limelight as a pro wrestler. Even now, just his mentality and who he is: Find who you are and just be that. He's always being him. That's what I admire the most about Ric Flair." Flair is back to watching football every week now, cheering on Jones and the Falcons. "He's the best receiver in football," Flair said of Jones. "Anybody who doesn't believe that one, watch the catch he made last week. And the thing about him, too, you know he's going to get double coverage. And Sanu is good. Why the **** are they not moving it? I don't know. You get a 17-point lead and don't score in the second half against Miami? "These guys, they've got to turn it around. They're a great bunch of guys. ... I'm confident they're going to turn it around this week."
  7. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen, one of the designated "chiefs" of the team, said there's no need for a players-only meeting in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The 3-3 Falcons took such a measure two seasons ago following a four-game losing streak then proceeded to lose the next two after the meeting and finish 8-8 without making the playoffs. "No, we don't need one because we're grown men and we know what we've got to do," Allen told ESPN. "We understand: We're not winning games. We understand we've got to tighten up. That's point blank, period. It's not like a surprise. We understand what we're messing up. Safety Ricardo Allen on Atlanta's three-game losing streak: "... we made it to the Super Bowl after a 4-3 start. I'm going to take the positive." AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File "It's not like we're just going out there and all s--- is just going bad. It's small things, and those small things come back to haunt you. We've been here before. We've lost games before because of doing that s---. But we also have gotten it right before and started winning. That's all we have to do." The Falcons started 3-0 but then dropped three straight to AFC East opponents: Buffalo and Miami at home, then New England on the road. They play their fourth consecutive game against the AFC East on Sunday at the New York Jets (3-4). Defensively, the Falcons have been like a sieve against the run, getting gashed up the middle while allowing the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots to run for 117, 138, and 162 yards, respectively. The Falcons also wiped away two interceptions with roughing the passer penalties and lead the NFC which three such fouls. Offensively, the Falcons converted just 38 percent on third down against the Bills and only 22 percent against the Patriots. They are 4-of-9 in the red zone during the losing streak. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the "bear is not loose" regarding matters spinning out of control. During "Tell the Truth Monday" the team aired out all issues, as is the case following games. "We always tell the truth," Allen said. "We didn't get in there and it was a brouhaha. It was another meeting that said, 'Get you s--- right, and you know what we have to do.'" Allen is confident this team won't allow the current issues to mount into something like the six-game losing streak that occurred in the first year under Quinn. "And then things went up last year," Allen explained. "If you're going to look back two years, you can also look back one year. If you look at history, we made it to the Super Bowl after a 4-3 start. I'm going to take the positive. I'm going to go off that." The Falcons believe they have leadership in players such as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Allen, and now veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon who just re-signed this week. Allen said he doesn't need to pull anyone aside for a pep talk. "They know," Allen said. "You can look at their faces, and you can tell they know. Just body language, just the sense of urgency around here. You don't see nobody pointing fingers. Everyone knows they have to do it themselves because I'm not perfect. I've got to play better, too. "If I go around him pointing fingers and telling everybody I'm perfect and I'm a god, things are going to start going wrong on me, too. People understand what to do. You're in the league for a reason."
  8. The very part you quoted is what has been bugging me the last few weeks. KS would run a variety of plays from the same formation, but Sark seems to tip off the D with the formation. There’s no deception at all. It would give credibility to Malcolm Butler’s statement about knowing what was coming based on the formation.
  9. It’s Week 8, and the Fire Steve Sarkisian movement is already gaining steam among Falcons fans. Atlanta hired Sarkisian away from Alabama this offseason to take the reins of the NFL’s top offense after Kyle Shanahan departed to take the head-coaching position in San Francisco. Instead, he’s become the butt of jokes across the Twittersphere—and the Falcons’ 23–7 loss to the Patriots in Foxborough, dropping the 2016 NFC champions to 3–3 and third in the NFC South, only intensified that. Heading into the 2017 season, Atlanta knew there was going to be a drop-off—it would be a near miracle if the Falcons’ offense maintained the level of production from last season—but this one is hard to stomach for fans dreaming of Super Bowl redemption. Atlanta's slip from No. 1 in points scored and No. 2 in offensive yards to No. 16 and No. 7, respectively, through six games is one of if not the biggest NFL storyline as we near the halfway point. The Falcons’ passing game, particularly when throwing deep down the field and in the red zone, has the faithful worried. Through six games in 2016, QB Matt Ryan was 14-of-23 on passes traveling more than 20 yards downfield through six games. This season, he’s 4-of-21. Ryan was unstoppable in the red zone a year ago, completing 62% of his passes with 23 touchdowns and one interception from inside the 20-yard line. This year, he’s completed just half of his passes with four touchdowns and a pick through six games, and all-world receiver Julio Jones entered the game against the Patriots with a single red zone target to his name. Some of that, surely, is on Ryan—a handful of throws in Foxborough immediately come to mind. But a big portion of the blame has to be placed on Sarkisian. This is Sarkisian’s first NFL job since he was quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders over a decade ago. A year after being fired from Southern Cal (following a brief stop at Alabama), he's put in a room with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best receivers in the league, and two running backs who could both start for just about any team. It’s safe to say that there was never going to be much patience outside of the Falcons facility. We can all watch a game on television and see through the fog that something is wrong with this offense, but we outsiders don’t know the difference between growing pains and dysfunction. So I asked two Falcons offensive players I trust. They both used the same word to describe Sarkisian’s approach to the offense: “disorganized.” And we’re not talking about desk clutter. Shanahan had a plan, they said. Every play and every concept employed was an exercise in deception. Set up one expectation in the first half, and then later break that expectation for a big gain in a critical moment. Sarkisian, formerly Alabama’s offensive coordinator and USC’s head coach, doesn’t have that aspect of the pro game in his tool bag, they say. But both players, and two team sources, scoffed at the idea of firing the 43-year-old former CFL quarterback at any point this season, backing up the public vote of confidence offered by coach Dan Quinn this week. Why? “We’ve been through this before,” said one team source. He’s referring to Shanahan’s and Quinn’s first season in Atlanta, in 2015, following the departure of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and the firing of head coach Mike Smith. The offense experienced a similar drop-off, falling from No. 12 in points in ’14 to No. 21 a year later. Ryan had one of his worst years statistically since his rookie season, throwing for only 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. But at Flowery Branch, Quinn had a plan. He moved Raheem Morris from his role as a defensive assistant to the wide receivers room to salve a group that had soured emotionally towards the end of 2015. The team brought in Matt Schaub, who has known Shanahan since 2007 during their time in Houston, to help Ryan and Shanahan transition—essentially, Schaub was the intellectual bridge between coach and star quarterback. And the Falcons became the surprise dominant offense of 2016. I should point out that it’s difficult to compare the 2015 and ’17 seasons side-by-side; the Falcons were transitioning to an entirely new scheme in the former season, whereas Sarkisian was brought in to as a continuation, having had experience with this type of offense. Plus the stakes are higher now. A team that led a Super Bowl by 25 points and somehow lost, returned a year later with the core of its roster intact. Then they made the curious choice to hire an offensive coordinator from the outside rather than promote from within. Matt LaFleur, quarterbacks coach, would have seemed like a reasonable candidate for promotion. Ditto for Mike McDaniel, offensive assistant, or even better, Morris, the wide receivers coach. However, neither McDaniel nor LaFleur were even considered for the position. Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff let McDaniel walk, and he joined Shanahan in San Francisco as his run game coordinator. LaFleur, who at the very least wanted to retain his role as quarterbacks coach, is now offensive coordinator in Los Angeles under playcalling head coach Sean McVay. Lafluer was replaced by Bush Hamdan, the former Boise State quarterback in his first NFL role. The Falcons’ braintrust felt the most important offensive coaches to retain were Morris, and Chris Morgan, the third-year offensive line coach who actually has this run game humming; Atlanta’s backs are averaging 4.9 yards per attempt in 2017. The Falcons brass remains supportive of Sarkisian, and to speed up the adjustment period, the team is adding extra red zone and third down periods in practice this week. And Quinn reminded his team on Monday that he and his coaching staff are not beyond reproach; if players have ideas about how to right the ship, Quinn wants to hear them. Just don’t tell coach you want a new offensive coordinator, because this one isn’t going anywhere soon.
  10. Thanks PMF! I watch, but know I still miss seeing it the way others see it.....
  11. Goober - I'm just a old time die hard Falcons fan and no @PeytonMannings Forehead by any means. This article popped up on my Twitter feed. I have noticed in watching the games this year that it seems that most of Matt's passes are contested and don't have the huge open windows he enjoyed last year. I know co-ordinators have a full year's worth of film of last year's offense to pick apart, but are we using any of these plays or concepts this year? Illustrating the Falcons' 15 go-to plays Facebook Twitter Facebook Messenger Pinterest Email print comment One of the biggest reasons the Atlanta Falcons improved from an 8-8 season in 2015 to the Super Bowl is offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's ability to mesh his creative playbook with the high-level talent on the roster. Editor's Picks Illustrating the Patriots' 15 go-to plays Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels are one win from their second Super Bowl title together as a QB-coordinator pairing. These are a few of the plays they'll rely on versus the Falcons on Super Sunday. The Falcons led the league in scoring during the regular season (33.8 points per game) and put up a combined 80 points in their two playoff wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. Let's break down Shanahan's go-to plays: 15 concepts you can look for on Sunday, when the Falcons face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Cross-Country Dagger The Falcons led the NFL in multiple categories when running play-action during the regular season, such as passes thrown (133), yards per attempt (11.8) and total passing yards (1,531). That's what we see here on the cross-country dagger out of a standard pro I slot formation with wide receivers Julio Jones (Z) and Mohamed Sanu (X) stacked outside. This is a deep clear-out concept, with quarterback Matt Ryan (Q) using the weakside play-action to running back Devonta Freeman (H) to bring the second-level defenders to the line of scrimmage. That opens up an inside throwing window to hit Jones on the 15-yard dig-route (square-in) while Sanu bends the seam to run off the top of the secondary. It's a high-percentage throw for Ryan (inside breaking route) with Jones working to the vacated area of the field. Outside Zone The Falcons ranked fifth overall during the regular season with 120.5 rushing yards per game, and the outside zone (or stretch) is one of the top calls in Shanahan's playbook. It caters to the athleticism of the Falcons' offensive line and the skill set of both Freeman and Tevin Coleman (footwork, vision, speed through the hole). ADVERTISEMENT With the offensive line taking a "zone step" (step to play side) and chipping to the second-level linebackers, the running backs have options after getting the handoff deep in the backfield. Freeman or Coleman (H) can "bounce" the ball outside of the tight end (Y), hit the "bang" or cut the ball back on the "bend." It's up to the RB to make the correct read based on the blocking up front and the pursuit of the linebackers. This is another reason the vision of the Falcons' running backs is so critical. See the field. Make one cut. And go. Boot Working off the outside zone scheme look, Shanahan will lean on the boot concept. This allows Ryan to set the bait for the linebackers with a play-action fake before rolling away from the initial play side on the boot action. The idea is to take advantage of poor defensive eye discipline (failure to read run-pass keys) while giving Ryan (and his underrated mobility) a two-level read and clean throwing windows outside of the pocket. Sanu (Z) runs the deep out (or comeback), Taylor Gabriel (W) works back on the crossing route and tight end Austin Hooper (Y) releases late to the flat. Ryan's initial read is to the front side of the formation off the play-action, as Jones (X) likely will occupy two defenders downfield on the post. Look for this boot scheme on Sunday, when the Falcons have the ball in the "strike zone" (Patriots' 20-35-yard line) or the red zone. Levels The Falcons love to use levels concepts. These can be packaged into hi-lo reads for Ryan while also creating natural "pick" situations for wide receivers and backs to come clean as underneath options. Here, the Falcons align in an empty set with Freeman (H) removed from the formation. This gives Ryan a "levels" concept to the strong side of the formation with Hooper (Y) running the dig route and both Gabriel (Z) and Jones (W) on the smash routes (5-yard in-cuts). This creates a natural pick for Jones on the inside cut to beat man coverage on a middle-of-the-field throw. To the weakside, Ryan can throw the "VO" concept (vertical-out) with Sanu (X) on the fade and Freeman running the flat route. But Ryan's first read is to the three-WR side of the formation -- and he can throw this concept versus both zone and man coverage. Get the ball out and give your receivers room to run after the catch. That's free money. Follow Route Shanahan is a master at using bunch and stacked looks to create traffic off the snap versus man-coverage teams. And the abilities of Freeman and Coleman as receiving threats add to Shanahan's game plan. With Sanu (Z) and Hooper (Y) in reduced splits, and Freeman (H) aligned on the outside leg of the offensive tackle, the Falcons create a bunch formation (three players close together). This allows Hooper to release upfield on the corner route to generate a mess of bodies as Sanu runs the shallow crosser and Freeman hits the angle route. Freeman beat the Seahawks for a big gain in the divisional round with this concept and scored a TD against the Packers in the red zone. Tough to defend. Power O The Falcons are a zone-based running team, but that doesn't mean Shanahan won't reduce the formation to run power schemes out of two-TE personnel (Y and U). This is the Power O, an old-school concept with the tight end (Y) blocking down on the edge, the fullback, Patrick DiMarco (F), leading to kick out the edge defender, and left guard Andy Levitre pulling through the hole. This creates a lane for Freeman or Coleman (H) to run inside the kickout block and follow the guard to the second level. Look for this when the Falcons are inside the plus 5-yard line or in short-yardage situations. And remember, in the Power O, there is nowhere to hide. Hat on a hat. Put on the big-boy pads and play downhill football. Yankee Route The Yankee route traces back to Shanahan's time in Washington with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. It's a deep play-action concept designed to create an open throwing lane by occupying the top of the defense. Throw in some added window dressing, and this is a tough concept to defend. The Falcons align the wide receivers in reduced splits tight to the core of the formation (false run keys) and use the run action to remove the underneath defenders. At the snap, the tight end (Y) comes back across the formation on the arc block, with Freeman (H) on the downhill zone action and Gabriel on the reverse (W). This allows Ryan (Q) to go through two play-action fakes while Jones (X) runs the deep post. That removes the backside cornerback and occupies the safety in the deep middle of the field. With Sanu (Z) working back on the deep crossing route, Ryan can set his feet off the play-action and target the receiver in the now-vacated area of the field. This is a classic "shot zone" play for Shanahan (ball between the 40s), creating an opportunity for the Falcons to flip the field or advance into scoring position. RPO Slant Run-pass options (RPOs) have taken over at the lower levels of the game (high school and college), and we are seeing them more and more in the pros. This is a run concept paired with a passing play that should make the offense right every time, assuming the QB makes the correct pre-snap read. In Atlanta, Shanahan pairs the two-back zone scheme with the backside slant. This allows Ryan to count the number of defenders in the box and read the leverage/alignment of the defensive back versus the slot receiver. Ryan can hand the ball off to Freeman or Coleman (H) in the zone scheme, with DiMarco (F) leading on the edge, if the Falcons have the numbers advantage in the box. Ryan can also immediately throw the quick one-step slant to Sanu (Z) if the QB likes the matchup (and defensive look) in the passing game. Four Verticals The four vertical concept is run throughout the league, but Shanahan does a really good job of dressing it up based on personnel and alignment with an added bonus of an underneath option. With two tight ends and two wide receivers on the field, the Falcons shift Coleman (H) from the backfield out wide. This can create matchup issues for man-coverage teams (linebacker has to remove in coverage) with Coleman pressing downfield on the inside seam. That gives the Falcons four vertical routes, with Coleman and Hooper (Y) running the seam routes and Sanu (Z) and Levine Toilolo (U) on the outside fades. However, don't forget about Jones (X) running the inside smash or shallow crosser. This allows Ryan to use Jones as a checkdown or underneath matchup option. And getting the ball to Jones with space to run after the catch is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Hi-Lo Mesh The "mesh" concept is a common route seen on Saturdays in the college game with spread teams, but it's also a top call for Shanahan due to the hi-lo combination and the option to hit Freeman or Coleman on the quick wheel (or rail) route. With two tight ends and two receivers in the game, aligned in a double-stack look, the Falcons can create pick situations at the release with Toilolo (U) running the corner route and Jones (X) coming on the shallow crosser. That gives Ryan a two-level read inside with Jones underneath (low) and Hooper (Y) on the dig (high). The key, however, is the release and route of the running back (H). This forces the linebacker in coverage to work through the releases and crossing routes to match the back. That's trouble for the defense when Ryan can get the ball out. Get stuck behind the back, and it could mean six on the board for the Falcons. Inside Zone Along with the "duo" scheme (straight downhill run with double-teams at the point of attack), the Falcons will show the inside zone. With the offensive line again taking the "zone step" and Ryan aligned in the shotgun, the running back can find daylight on an inside run off the mesh-point action (quarterback-running back exchange). However, the key to the Falcons' inside zone goes back to the ability of Freeman and Coleman (H). With the end man on the line of scrimmage left unblocked, the running back can "bend" the ball back in the natural cutback lane that is created off the mesh point, hugging the block of the right tackle in this example. Keep an eye on this scheme when the Falcons get inside the plus 5-yard line. And expect Coleman to get the ball. He hits the line like a rocket. Target the quick cutback and get the ball into the end zone for six before the end man can close to the ball. Z-Iso The Falcons will run the standard three-step concepts (slant-flat, curl-flat, stick-outs, etc.) as the rest of NFL offenses do, but I like Shanahan's ability to use deep routes off play-action to target Jones with max protection. Again, Shanahan dresses up this route with a diamond or inverted bone look (three backs in the backfield) and Ryan in the pistol alignment. That puts Hooper (Y) and DiMarco (F) in offset alignments, with Freeman (H) behind the quarterback. This allows the Falcons to use play-action while also giving Ryan added protection off the fake as this route takes some time to develop. In reality, this is nothing more than an isolation route for Jones (Z) with Gabriel (X) running the backside dig. At the snap, Jones releases up the field and stems inside to sell the deep dig or post look. This forces the cornerback to overplay the break while Jones works back on the deep out route. It's a long throw for Ryan (outside of the numbers), but with the extra time to set his feet, Ryan can rip this ball to Jones. This is a great call versus two-man coverage as the cornerback will be sitting inside and the safety playing top-down. Look for it on Sunday and focus on the backfield set. This is where Shanahan likes to attack the matchup with Jones in a one-on-one situation. WR Screen The wide receiver screen is a quick way to get the ball into the hands of Gabriel. He's electric in the open field given his burst and lateral change-of-direction ability. And it's nothing more than a long handoff for Ryan. With three wide receivers on the field, Sanu (X) and Gabriel (W) align in stack tight to the core of the formation. At the snap, the Falcons use quick play-action to hold the linebackers in the box, with Freeman (H) faking a zone-run look. This allows Sanu to block the force defender outside with both the left tackle and left guard releasing to block the first threats. After that, it's up to Gabriel. Read the blocks, find daylight and accelerate up the field. This is the same scheme (out of different formations) that Gabriel scored on versus the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season. And it's also a concept Shanahan will use in the deep red zone with Freeman aligned as a receiver. Don't make it complicated here. Just get the ball to your playmakers with blockers out in front on a super high-percentage throw. Crack Toss The crack toss is a great call from Shanahan versus man-coverage teams because it forces the defensive backs to become edge players with the big guys leading or pulling outside. And it can be almost automatic in the deep red zone, where hesitation from the defense leads to points. With two wide receivers again aligned in stack tight to the core of the formation, Sanu (X) blocks down on the edge (called a "crack" block) and Gabriel (W) blocks the first second-level threat. This allows the Falcons to pull left tackle Jake Matthews while DiMarco (F) leads outside. Off the toss, Coleman (H) can press the ball to the edge or cut up the field based on the leverage of the defenders. The key here: Will the defensive backs assigned to cover Sanu and Gabriel react quickly enough off the blocks (replace on the edge), and are they willing to get downhill to take on both Matthews and DiMarco? If the defensive backs follow the receivers inside or widen versus the blocks, this is a walk-in score -- just as we saw on Coleman's touchdown run in the NFC Championship Game win over the Packers. TE Throwback I saved one of Shanahan's top gadget calls for last because this could be a critical play in Super Bowl LI versus the Patriots' heavy man-coverage schemes. Why does it work? For starters, it combines two of the Falcons' top calls -- outside zone and boot. That's what Shanahan wants to show the defense before sneaking the tight end all the way back across the formation. At the snap, the Falcons use play-action, with Freeman (H) on the zone look, and Ryan rolls away from the play side (boot). This allows the backside tight end (U) to run the shallow crosser with Jones (X) on the post. The idea is to pull the coverage back to the opposite side of the field while the strongside tight end (Y), either Hooper or Toilolo, blocks before releasing downfield. Yes, this concept is on tape. And the Patriots are the most prepared team in the NFL from a defensive perspective. You can bet they will run through this gadget concept in practice. But at game speed? With all the window dressing Shanahan throws into the mix? Maybe the Falcons can get a free one Sunday. Hey, stuff happens. And even the top defenses take the bait from time to time. That's football.
  12. And on this one, it looks like they moved Jake over to the right side of Schraeder with a stacked line. Jake's the one that missed the block, unless they're counting on Julio to block the DE...
  13. PMF...not that it matters at this point, but is Schraeder being held by Suh on this play? The angle is bad, but I did read in one of the threads on here that he had been held, leading to the sack...
  14. So sorry for your loss. Thinking of you this evening and will be in my prayers....
  15. With a quarter of the season in the books, Falcons QB Matt Ryan identifies his team's goals moving forward. FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Naturally, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wants to clean up the turnovers after committing six already. But there's another area of emphasis for Ryan as the team returns to action off the bye. "One, I think we can be better on third downs, myself included," Ryan said. "When we have opportunities to keep drives going, especially in that third-and-6-to-10 range, we can be better than we've been. I can be better than I've been up until this point. That's probably the No. 1 thing of all the things that we look at that can help us win games right away. "So if we can be a little bit better there, if I can be a little bit better in that part of the game, I think that's going to help us." Going into Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins (2-2), the Falcons (3-1) actually rank No. 8 of the 32 teams in third-down offense, converting 43.2 percent, which is one percent better than they finished last season. But on third-and-6 or longer, the Falcons are converting 28 percent, just below the league average of 28.3 percent. Ryan, on third-and-6 or longer, has completed 13-of-21 passes for 154 yards with no touchdowns, an interception, three sacks taken, and a passer rating of 64.4. Four of those third-and-long pass plays have occurred in the red zone, and only one has led to a conversion and touchdown: a third-and-16 to Devonta Freeman for 18 yards against Detroit that resulted in Ryan's four-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu. Of course, success on first and second down can set up shorter third-down situations. The Falcons have converted 70.6 percent of opportunities on third-and-4 or shorter, which ranks seventh. The league average is 58.6 percent. As for the turnovers, Ryan said after a loss to the Buffalo Bills that he planned to clean those up after the bye. Not all were his fault, however, with some tipped and dropped balls. Whatever the case, the Falcons have six giveaways and just two takeaways, giving them a minus-4 turnover ratio that ranks tied for 28th in the league along with NFC South front-runner Carolina. "It's one of those things, sometimes it happens," Ryan said of the turnovers. "That's part of playing the game. Sometimes you have tipped balls. Sometimes you have some plays that don't go your way. But it's about being resilient. "It's about being mentally tough and continuing to stay aggressive; doing the things that we've done to be at our best and trusting that that process and the routine and deal that we have is the right one. And I really believe it is. I think it will start to go our way. We just have to keep working at it." Ryan said the Falcons have to keep working on hitting the deep balls. On passes he's thrown of 30-plus air yards, he has completed 2 of 10 for 127 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a passer rating of 72.9. Last season he was 10 of 22 on such passes for 496 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 131.6. One of those completions was a ball thrown 36 yards to wide-open tight end Austin Hooper, who stiff-armed the rest of the way for an 88-yard touchdown in Chicago. The other completion was thrown 32 yards to running back Tevin Coleman for a 39-yard pickup. Ryan is 0 of 8 when targeting his primary deep threats, Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel, on balls thrown 30-plus yards. Some of that might have to do with not getting a lot of time to work with them leading into the season, as Jones recovering from foot surgery and Gabriel from a lower leg injury. "It's definitely an area we can be better," Ryan said of taking those shots. "We've been close. We just haven't hit them. We've got to keep taking our shots when they're there. And when they're not there, making good decisions with the football." Getting Jones back totally healthy from a hip flexor injury will be key in connecting on those long balls. Ryan hopes the Falcons can find other ways to create explosive plays as well, like giving Jones, Gabriel, Coleman, and Freeman the ball in space to go make plays. Ryan also might have more opportunities to create big plays with better protection, and right tackle Ryan Schraeder is to return to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion. The Falcons certainly will be challenged this week by a strong Dolphins defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.