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  1. Thomas Dimitroff still the Falcons' GM, but for how long? By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com ATLANTA -- The ax fell on general managers and coaches alike, in Chicago with the Bears and in New York with the Jets on Monday. But not every housecleaning happened in pairs. In Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank offered his deepest appreciation for the most successful coach in team history before showing Mike Smith the door. And while Smith hit the unemployment line with 66 wins under his belt and one year left on his contact, Thomas Dimitroff sat in the same room with the title "general manager" still
  2. Wide receiver screen still in Falcons' game plan By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The last time the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers met back in November, there was plenty of talk about how ineffective the Falcons were with their wide receiver screens. The Panthers appeared to know exactly when those screens were coming and shut them down immediately. There was one screen when Julio Jones essentially got tackled by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman even before he caught the ball. Penalty or not, Norman had a read on the play. The Falcons still won the game 19-17. But a f
  3. Matt Ryan: Devonta Freeman vying for more touches By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- One of the many positives to come out of last Sunday's win for the Atlanta Falcons over the New Orleans Saints was the play of rookie running back Devonta Freeman. The fourth-round draft pick from Florida State not only looked exceptional running the ball on a 31-yard touchdown blast, he also looked pretty comfortable splitting out wide as a receiver on a 36-yard reception. [+] EnlargeChuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsRookie running back Devonta Freeman is the Falcons' second-leading rusher with 2
  4. Julio Jones 'stud' in return from injury By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com NEW ORLEANS -- If Julio Jones was in pain, he surely didn't show it. The Atlanta Falcons receiver appeared to be his same old self in Sunday's 30-14 win over the rival New Orleans Saints. Jones played through a strained oblique muscle and finished with a team-leading 107 receiving yards on seven catches. He was targeted eight times. "I felt OK," Jones said. "I know I needed to be out there with my teammates. I missed last week. Before the game, I went out and ran around. I felt pretty good: Not 100 percent, but it was good
  5. Mike Smith still not worried about his future By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith remains unconcerned about his future despite constant rumors saying his days with the organization are numbered. Smith's 6-9 team has a chance to take the NFC South title and a fourth seed in the playoffs with a win over the first-place Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) Sunday at the Georgia Dome. A report by CBS Sports suggested Arthur Blank already made a decision not to bring Smith back, even if the Falcons make the playoffs. Blank told ESPN.com he was bothered by the
  6. Inspired defensive effort keeps Falcons' playoff hopes alive By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com NEW ORLEANS -- It was crazy to think the Atlanta Falcons could rely on the defense in a must-win game on the road against a quarterback the caliber of Drew Brees. Then something unexpected happened Sunday. The Falcons found a way to generate a consistent pass rush. They came up with key third-down stops. They made coming up with turnovers look routine in their 30-14 win. Yes, the league's worst defense in terms of total yards allowed helped the 6-9 Falcons sweep their nemesis, the New Orleans Saints (6
  7. Funeral' talk irks White, Douglas By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com NEW ORLEANS -- Atlanta Falcons receivers Roddy White and Harry Douglas had some choice words for New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis following the Falcons' 30-14 victory on Sunday. It was Lewis who said the Saints would send the Falcons to their "funeral" by eliminating them from the NFC South race. Instead, the Falcons (6-9) eliminated the Saints and now sit in position to win the division title and make the playoffs with a win against Carolina next Sunday at the Georgia Dome. White, who shoved Lewis in the face mask dur
  8. Falcons' Dirk Koetter unconcerned with red zone misses By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons were 2-for-4 in the red zone in last week's 27-20 loss to the Steelers. Settling for those field goals obviously had a significant impact, based on the final margin. Yet offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter wasn't as discouraged about the situation as one might think he would be. His rationale was based on the offense's season-long performance in the red zone. "It seems like we talk about this every week: I mean, you guys think we suck in the red zone," Koetter said.
  9. Playing through pain part of Falcons' game plan By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Roddy White's left knee might never stops hurting. His left ankle kept him from playing against the Cardinals three games ago. And a hamstring injury forced him to miss a Week 3 game against Tampa Bay. But no matter how much White's body throbs with pain, the veteran Atlanta Falcons receiver always approaches every game as if he's going to play -- particularly a late-season game like this Sunday's against the rival Saints, with postseason hopes at stake. "Everybody has little nicks and stuff
  10. Robert McClain on the spot for Falcons By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Sunday would have been a ideal time for Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford to make his return: back in his home state of Louisiana against the hated Saints and their potent receiving corps. Instead, Alford landed on injured reserve this week after undergoing wrist surgery. That puts the onus on another Robert -- McClain -- to bring his best game forward in the most important contest of the season. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan sees weekly progress in McClain's performance. "I think Robert's g
  11. Falcons' Mike Tice works his magic with rebuilt offensive line By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Diligent Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice neglected to get much rest this week. Hours after his rebuilt line executed its best overall performance of the season at Green Bay, Tice was back to work on three hours sleep, game-planning for yet another formidable defensive front in the Steelers. "The first thing we do is try to know your guys and make sure you can put your guys in positions that they can handle, athletically and mentally," Tice said. "Secondly, you id
  12. Explosive Julio Jones the key to Falcons season now more than ever By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julio Jones' every move was deliberate as he hobbled through the locker room, gently sat down by his locker, then struggled to bend over and put his clothes on before addressing the media. The hip injury the Falcons receiver suffered during Monday night's spirited effort against the Packers in a 43-37 defeat obviously drained Jones. But before he exited the game in the final minutes, he left everyone inside Lambeau Field in awe with a breathtaking performance. "He's just playin
  13. Falcons need to pick up the pressure versus Ben Roethlisberger By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Two games ago, the Atlanta Falcons looked like a totally different defense, bringing intense pressure from every direction toward Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton and creating turnovers in a surprising 29-18 victory. Then Monday night at Green Bay, the defense of old showed up in a 43-37 defeat. Of course, it was a much different challenge facing one of the league's best in Aaron Rodgers. Regardless, the Falcons were pretty much passive and missed several opportunities to get
  14. http://m.espn.go.com/general/blogs/blogpost?blogname=atlanta-falcons&id=10679 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Roddy Whiteunderstands the dynamics of his team's situation. The 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, currently in first place in the NFC South, control their own destiny for the playoffs, and they don't even have to win Sunday's game against the Steelers to do so. As long as the Falcons win their final two games against the Saints (5-8) and Panthers (4-8-1), they would would win the division and earn a postseason berth. And they could become the first team in NFL history to go undefeated in the division
  15. If stopping run first priority, Falcons need serious help By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com Kroy Biermann actually fared pretty well, personally, against the run Monday night. But the Falcons outside linebacker/defensive end didn't look at his performance against the Packers from an individual perspective. As a defense, the Falcons struggled to stop anything, including the run. "It's just basic football,'' Biermann said. "You've got to be consistent. Everybody's got to do their job and beat the man across from them. That's what it boils down to. You've got to play as a unit. If you're not playin
  16. Harry Douglas still a key element to Falcons' offensive success By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com AP Photo/David GoldmanThe Falcons will need a big game from Harry Douglas to knock off the Packers on Monday night. Ask Roddy White about the importance of having fellow Falcons receiver Harry Douglas on the field and White will break into a monologue filled with endless superlatives. "I told people a long time ago when we were going through that [losing] streak and Harry wasn’t playing, he is such a crucial point to our offense because he’s so smart," White said. "And he can play. When he’s in ther
  17. Falcons finally find way to generate pressure, even with no sacks By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith often talks about how pressuring opposing quarterbacks isn't always measured in sacks. Well, his team proved his point in Sunday's 29-18 win against the Cardinals. The Falcons didn't record a sack, but they put tremendous pressure on quarterback Drew Stanton. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was aggressive with his blitz packages, and defensive linemen Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, and Cliff Matthews stepped up with big defensive efforts w
  18. Protective padding should aid William Moore's return from shoulder separation By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore fully expects to return to the field Sunday from a shoulder separation and will take all the necessary precautions to do so. Moore separated his right shoulder in a Week 4 loss at Minnesota and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He is eligible to play this week against Arizona and anticipates being activated before game time. Moore will test the shoulder in pads during practice, and he'll wear pr
  19. Sunday, November 23, 2014 Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons By Vaughn McClure ATLANTA -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns at the Georgia Dome. What it means: The Falcons dropped to 4-7 and lost their hold on the top spot in the NFC South, although they could get it right back with a loss by New Orleans Saints on Monday night. The Falcons had won two in a row and looked poised to make in three following a 53-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. But the Falcons' defense gave up too much cushion in the end as Billy Cundiff nailed the 37-yard game-winner for Cl
  20. Formatting is a little jacked up... Maybe it was a preview of things to come for Devonta Freeman. In the third quarter of last Sundays 19-17 win at Carolina, the Atlanta Falcons rookie running back took a handoff, exploded a few steps up the middle, then made a quick cut left while following a block from pulling guard Jon Asamoah. Freeman made a safety miss, made another quick cut in front of a block by receiver Julio Jones, then stiff-armed veteran safety Roman Harper en route to a 15-yard gain. "Thats what I do," Freeman said confidently. "Thats my game. Once I feel the game out and underst
  21. W2W4: Falcons vs. Browns By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com Here are a few things to watch for as the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons try to make it a three-game winning streak Sunday when they host the 6-4 Cleveland Browns at the Georgia Dome: Four-wide open: The Falcons had success at the end of last week's win over the Carolina Panthers with their four-wide receiver look, as Matt Ryan noted after the game. A few missed games by Harry Douglas kept the Falcons from using their "10 personnel" as much as they wanted. Then back-to-back matchups against solid defensive fronts in Detroit and Tampa Bay discouraged
  22. Matt Ryan hopes to take advantage of more shots down the field Nov 19 7:45PM ETBy Vaughn McClure | ESPN.comFLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan admitted the offense has missed on opportunities to throw the ball down the field, an aspect Ryan hopes changes when his team faces the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. "I think it's a couple things: We've got to hit them when they're there," Ryan said. "We've had opportunities to take some shots down the field. We just haven't hit as many as we would like. And then from a schematic standpoint, we've got to figure out ways to maybe
  23. William Moore eager to hit again after shoulder separation November, 19, 2014 3:30 By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore isn't all the way back just yet, but his return to practice Wednesday off a separated right shoulder marked the next step in his much-anticipated return to full action. Moore, who remains on injured reserve with a designation to return, isn't eligible to play in a game until next week's home matchup against Arizona. He is running on the scout team this week while working back up to game speed. Moore was asked abou
  24. Kroy Biermann trying to find his rhythm By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The pass-rusher lined up wide left, exploded up the field with two steps at the snap, then sped around the helpless offensive tackle to corral the quarterback. No, we're not talking about J.J. Watt or Von Miller. It was Kroy Biermann. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, no one is putting Biermann in the same category as those elite pass-rushers. But for one Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons' outside linebacker/defensive end put together a few highlight clips that made you think he's capable of giving his tea
  25. vaughn mcclure ‏@vxmcclure23 Jake Matthews was told his high ankle sprain would linger throughout the season. He's just going to keep fighting. http://es.pn/1xCm0lA Jake Matthews shaking off ankle injury; still adjusting to NFL pass-rushers By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie left tackle Jake Matthews was missing from the open locker room for quite a while and was obviously preoccupied with getting treatment on his ailing left ankle. The bye week at the start of the month gave Matthews a little more time to recover. One can tell the sense of relie
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