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  1. Interesting article in the local "rag" today by Sierra Webster. I knew that our short yardage offense wasn't stout the last 3 seasons, but I didn't realize that the Falcons couldn't convert on 3rd and 1 seven times in Super Bowl LI. Forgive me for saying that things might have been different if we had converted just 1 of those! Hopefully, it's now fixed. GO FALCONS!!!!
  2. If DOL put it in print, it's got to be true. Seriously though, what DQ says here makes sense, but it's probably not the total truth. I'm not sure we'll see the "true" Falcons defense until we play Minnesota Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the defense is not switching to a 3-4 alignment. There has been a lot of conjecture in cyberspace – from the self-anointed Twitter coordinators – that the team is switching to a 3-4 because Quinn has been experimenting with standing up the defensive ends. When asked if he was switching to the 3-4 on Thursday, Quinn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “No.” What Quinn is doing is getting the defense ready for eight games where they play mobile quarterbacks who run read-option packages or zone-read running quarterbacks. The Falcons play the Eagles (Carson Wentz) on Sept. 15, the Titans (Marcus Mariota) on Sept. 22, the Texans (Deshaun Watson) on Oct. 6, the Cardinals (Kyler Murray) on Oct. 13, the Seahawks (Russell Wilson) on Oct. 27, the Panthers twice (Cam Newton) of Nov. 17 and Dec 8) and Jacksonville (Nick Foles) on Dec. 22. ‘”What’s happening so much more from the (late 90s and early 2000s) is that the tight ends move so much,” Quinn said. “Then with the element of some of the teams that are going to do zone-read with the mobile quarterbacks, it’s easier to play them up than from down.” Quinn, who will call the defense this season, plans to continue to look at the tweak of the 4-3 alignment over the exhibition season. “I want them to see some things with all of this movement as opposed to being down and the crack (back) blocks with people trying to get the ball on the edge,” Quinn said. “We are going to try it and I’m not sure where I’m all the way at with it until I go through some (exhibition) season games.”
  3. The Big Hole River wends 150 miles through southwest Montana without a single dam to stop it. Left purely to its own imagination, it cleaves the land whimsically, in random twists and bends, as if its course were drawn in finger paint at the pre-K stage of creation. It is one of the world’s great water features, its banks giving way to copses of willow and cottonwood, wispy fields of wild grass, rocky outcrops that appear almost in ambush around the next turn of the river. At the most memorable places, the scenery comes with the distant backdrop of mountain peaks, here in July still wearing traces of the snow that feeds the river’s flow. Steve Bartkowski, he with an everlasting place on the Falcons’ Ring of Honor, the franchise’s first quarterback who left a mark, was at the moment concerned with a very small, very specific section of the Big Hole. His son Pete worked the oars of the drift boat, keeping Pops in range of where they figured the fish were. They figured correctly. For suddenly, Bartkowski’s flyrod was bent and shivering with a fish just realizing that the presumed insect it attacked had other plans. Bartkowski held the rod high, keeping the pressure on, while retrieving line by hand and closing the gap between fisherman and fish a few inches at a time. He’d not take much credit in the brief post-catch review – “I did everything I could to lose it,” Bartkowski would say. But proof otherwise was soon beside the boat, and officially netted. A fine brown trout, whose name does no service to the iridescent gold of its belly nor the pointillist display of red and black on its flanks. It is like naming a ruby a “red rock.” Posing unwillingly for a few photos, and measured at 19-1/2 inches – “It’s 20 inches, we round up,” Bartkowski insisted with a smile – the beautiful fish was then given back to the water. Bartkowski tries hard to explain the draw of this part of the world, the attraction that ultimately has won him over from the big city where he could have just spent the rest of his life comfortably wrapped in the shawl of his football fame. A man seldom at a loss for something to say, he finds that words can fail him on this subject. “People all want to know what it’s like, they say, tell me what it’s like out there. What’s the attraction?” he said. “I start to try to describe it and I just can’t come up with the words. I tell them you just got to come out here and see it, come out here and experience it. It’s like trying to describe a sunset to a blind man.” The better explanation comes in the snapshot of Bartkowski and a brown trout meeting on the Big Hole River, the kind of moment of natural simplicity that makes him most happy. It’s not all lazy days of fishing and hunting, because this also is a working life out here for the Bartkowskis – Steve, his wife, Sandee, and son Pete. They run the Ruby Drake Lodge, a compound consisting of a main lodge building and five tidy cabins, all of a pine-paneled, mounted-animals-on-the-wall theme. It’s an enterprise built on sharing wilderness with the paying guests, many of them on retreat from the corporate world and many coming from the Southeast, where Bartkowski built so many ties. Pete’s the guide, the one responsible for navigating the five trout rivers within range of the lodge and the wide valleys when it turns hunting season. “Pete has taught me so much about fly-fishing that I could have never learned on my own,” his dad said. “He’s the teacher, and I’m the student now.” Sandee brought the necessary style and taste when it came to revitalizing a lodge that had fallen into grimy disrepair. Steve is the CEO in charge of public relations, a good name and a big personality that comes in handy when fishing for customers. You need someone to maybe scramble an egg in the morning, drag a dead, decomposing skunk out from beneath one of the cabins (that really happened) or wash and dry the dishes, he’ll do that, too. They all are a very long way from Buckhead, indeed. As a young man Bartkowski came to Atlanta as the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick in 1975, a big, blond promise of better days for a franchise that had spent the previous nine seasons of its existence on the outside of the playoffs. He played 11 seasons in Atlanta and lived to tell about it. Cultivated for a town hungry for a hip sporting personality was the persona of “Peachtree Bart.” As a 66-year-old, Bartkowski is the antithesis of all things urban and slick. Peachtree Bart now lives off a dusty gravel road, the view out his front door an alfalfa field, that when newly mown draws herds of deer and squadrons of hungry hawks looking for the varmints flushed from cover. Welcome to one of those where-are-they-now stories that always seem to surprise fans who have frozen a favorite player in another time, another place, another image, another body. He has taken many forms in his 66 years. He was the dashing two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who took the Falcons to their first three playoff appearances and led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1980. He has produced outdoors TV programming that showed up on The Nashville Network and ESPN. He invented a $3 million made-for-TV golf tournament that had a very brief run. He has survived colon cancer and potentially fatal blood clots after a dual knee transplant. He made a career for himself with the Atlanta firm, DPR Construction, with which he still has ties. And, now, here he is, in a place where the nearest town – Twin Bridges – contains 300 souls and where a traffic jam is defined as waiting for a rancher to move his herd to the other side of the road. This is a place where you can’t throw an elkwing caddis brown dry fly without hitting a Lewis and Clark historical marker, and still maintains just a hint of frontier. This is the setting of his last act, Bartkowski figures. “There is no question about it, my ashes will be dumped right out there in the Ruby River,” he said, nodding toward the gentle stream that runs directly behind the lodge. “I’ve already requested that of Pete, and he said, Dad, no time soon, please.” It was Pete who led the way west. Both he and Bartkowski’s eldest son Phil had followed their father into jobs with the construction company. By 2014, though, Pete was growing increasingly dissatisfied, to the point that he abruptly called an audible at 31. He’d finish one last big job, then pack what he could in his car and head to Montana. “I didn’t have a plan. My plan was to keep driving that way,” Pete said. The family dream of owning a little piece of Montana had gotten as far as buying some riverfront land. But finding the money to actually build on it was proving difficult. That’s where Pete headed, pitching a tent on the property in April and freezing his ideals off. The morning a moose poked its head through the tent flaps was a sign that he might need something more permanent. Pete supported himself working construction in Montana, but events were lining up to push him outdoors. His godmother died and unexpectedly left him $10,000, money he could have used in any number of practical ways. Or just enough to buy a drift boat and scratch an itch he had to become a fly-fishing guide. He got the drift boat. And enter Jim Cox Kennedy, the Chairman of Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He’s a friend of the Bartkowskis, a big outdoorsman and Montana-phile. Kennedy had another vision of Pete. There was this lodge on his property that needed resurrecting, and Pete might be just the fellow to give it new energy and new purpose. Leading Pete to ask, um, mom and dad, could you come help? “I’d never run a lodge either,” Steve said. “I do know what hospitality is, and I do know a lot about lodges. I think we put together a pretty good team. Give people a nice destination where they feel comfortable. At the end of the day those are the things you can control. Whether or not the fish bite on any given day, you’re at the mercy of the fish.” He was an easy sell, for his son’s plea to come west was like an answered prayer. “I would sneak out here as much as I possibly could (through the years) and every time I got on the plane to go back to Atlanta or wherever I had to go, I would beat myself up. Why are you leaving? Why are you going back?” Bartkowski said. “You can only take so many years of that self-peppering before you finally say this is where I need to be. “Here we are through a series of just-short-of-miraculous events. I’m living the dream.” Sandee, a native Atlantan, had to go a few rounds with the idea. This man she met at an Atlanta racquetball club (remember those?) in the late 1970s was all these years later asking her to move somewhere so remote and far away that it could be another country. A photographer and graphic artist, she was going to have to put all that largely on simmer while renovating a lodge, re-branding the whole business and then giving full attention to running an outdoorsy B&B. “I wondered, oh, gosh, can I do this?” Sandee said. The answer came on an October visit to Montana. “The Aspens were shimmering. The sky was blue. The air was crisp. It was like I heard the voice of God saying, ‘You got a problem with this?” Leasing the lodge and renting a home from Kennedy, the Bartkowskis are in their third summer in Montana (while Pete wintered, his parents can escape to a Hawaiian condo or, like this year, hang around Atlanta and a Super Bowl scene). Montana is a stoic, broad-shouldered place, slow to accept outsiders. But, as Sandee said, “We’ve found something here, a real solitude, a real community.” “I’ve never seen Steve so happy,” she added. “He cooks and cleans and loves it.” (Fixing a brisket for the next night’s meal, the former Pro Bowl quarterback found himself up at 3 in the morning, preparing it for the smoker). For all his medical mishaps, the old football player said he is in surprisingly good health now. Although, with fingers that had been regularly stomped and otherwise displaced, it can be difficult to thread line through the opening on a fly that is about as minute as the commas in this sentence. And out here, so far away from the source of his football fame, a man almost never has to think about January 1981, and what was the Falcons’ most painful playoff loss until a certain blown 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. Almost. Of the day that Dallas scored 20 in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons 30-27 in the NFC playoffs, Bartkowski said, “I’m miles away from it, but that’s one of those scabs I’ve got still. That was our chance. We had the best team in the NFL that year.” He’ll still follow certain Atlanta favorites. He loves the Braves and believes his old NFL team is poised to make some serious noise this season. But closer to his current home – the place he chose, not the one that chose him – they play a little ball, too. And on fall Fridays, he might be found on the sideline cheering. It’s high school football to scale, where because of the lack of bodies, they play eight-on-eight. Sometimes, big changes can come with little, almost snickering hints of the familiar. Sometimes, a sign that you might just be where you’re meant to be is posted on a road leading into a Montana mapspeck. Because, like the sign says, this place that Bartkowski now calls home also is home to the Twin Bridges Falcons.
  4. @Vandy This regarding our conversation earlier. I feel you. And the more I read about Oliver and Q. Williams....well. A look at Dimitroff’s draft-day trading record 2008, Round 1, Pick 3: Matt Ryan, quarterback, became the starter as a rookie and has set franchise marks for yards and touchdowns. Where is he now? In 2018, Ryan became the first NFL player to earn $30 million per year. Ryan - who hasn't missed a start since December 2009 - is the only remaining member of Dimitroff's first draft class still on the active roster. Falcons March 22, 2019 By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution When the Falcons are on the clock, you have to keep your head on a draft-day swivel. In each of the past 11 drafts, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has made a trade. It could be a big trade (Julio Jones deal) or it could be a small one (moving up to get Russell Gage in the sixth round last year). But there’s going to be a trade. Here’s a look at Dimitroff’s draft-day trades over the years. 2018: The Falcons traded with the Rams to move up to get a sixth-round pick No. 194 (Russell Gage) and gave up two seventh-round picks, 244 (Justin Lawler, DE, SMU) and 256 (traded to Redskins). 2017: The Falcons traded up with Seattle to get the 26th pick overall (Takkarist McKinley) and gave up the 31st pick (traded to 49ers), third round No. 95 (Delano Hill, S, Michigan), seventh round No. 249 (Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State, Parkview High). The Falcons traded down with the Buffalo Bills, dealing their No. 63 overall pick (Deion Dawkins, G, Temple) for Buffalo’s No. 75 (Duke Riley, LB, LSU), No. 149 (Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State) and No. 156 picks (Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming). 2016: The Falcons traded back into the second round with the Texans. The moved from 50 to 52 (Deion Jones) and picked up a sixth-round pick (195th), which turned into Wes Schweitzer. The Texans took offensive lineman Nick Martin with the 50th pick. The Falcons gave up their sixth-round pick to Tennessee as part of the Andy Levitre trade. 2015: The Falcons traded up nine spots to land defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick. They traded with the Minnesota Vikings and gave up their fifth-round pick (146) and sixth-round pick (185). The Vikings used the 146th pick to select wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the 185rh pick to select Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson. Diggs made the PFWA All-Rookie team. 2014: The Falcons traded their sixth-round pick (182 overall) and one of their three seventh-round picks (220) for the Vikings’ fifth-round pick (168). They selected Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill with the pick. 2013: The Falcons traded from 30 to 22 in the first round to land cornerback Desmond Trufant. The Falcons traded with the St. Louis Rams They gave up a third- and a sixth-round pick. In the fifth round, the Falcons traded up 10 picks to get TCU defensive end Stansly Maponga. They sent a seventh-round pick (236) to the Chicago Bears. 2012: The Falcons made a trade with Baltimore to move down seven spots in the third round to take tackle Lamar Holmes. They picked up a fifth-round pick and selected defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi with the 164th overall pick. The Ravens picked up running back Bernard Pierce with the 84th pick, which the Falcons sent them. The Falcons gave up a seventh-rounder (229 overall) to the Eagles in the Asante Samuel trade. The Eagles used that pick to select running back Bryce Brown. 2011: There was the 5-for-1 mega-deal with Cleveland to move up 21 spots to land wide receiver Julio Jones. Later, in the fifth round after the spotlight was off the Falcons, Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 10 spots to scoop up running back Jacquizz Rodgers. 2010: Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks, who left school a year early, was slipping in the draft. Dimitroff sent two picks to St. Louis to move up 14 spots to acquire Franks. 2009: Dimitroff felt he could get his guy by going back 13 spots in the fifth round. The Falcons made a deal to send their fifth-round pick to Dallas. They moved back 13 spots and picked up a seventh-round pick for their troubles. They drafted offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and Vance Walker in the seventh. 2008: There was a run on left tackles. With the Falcons needing protection for Matt Ryan, Dimitroff sent two second-round picks and a fourth-round pick to Washington to move back into the first round and pick Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. They also received third- and fifth-round picks. The Falcons used those picks to select wide receiver Harry Douglas (84th overall) and defensive end Kroy Biermann (154th).
  5. Falcons are $6.7 million under salary cap with free agency set to start 17h ago With free agency set to start Wednesday, the Falcons are $6.7 million under the $188.2 million salary cap and will not be major players. Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub signed his two-year, $3.780 million contract extension Tuesday, according to NFLPA documents. Schaub received a $750,000 signing bonus and has a base salary of $1.030 million for 2019. His salary-cap number is $1.405 for 2019. The team can exercise the option for 2020 which calls for a $2 million base salary with a salary-cap number of $2.375 million. With Schaub’s deal and the franchise tag of Grady Jarrett at $15.209 million, the Falcons will need $8 million for incoming rookie class in May. “You don’t really need it until you’re ready to sign the guys,” said CBS Sports NFL business analyst Joel Corry, a former agent. “That will happen at the earliest in mid-May. All teams like to have their guys done when minicamp breaks. I’d say mid-June would be the latest by when they’d need that room.” Several Falcons are about to become unrestricted free agents. Left guard Andy Levitre, kicker Matt Bryant, guard Ben Garland, defensive end Derrick Shelby, cornerback Justin Bethel, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, linebacker Bruce Irvin, long snapper Joe Condo, tight end Logan Paulsen, safety Jordan Richards, guard Zane Beadles, running back Tevin Coleman, wide receiver Justin Hardy, cornerback Brian Poole and wide receiver/returner Marvin Hall are all set to become unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Bryant, who plans to keep playing at age 44, is expected to sign with Tampa Bay. Coleman is expected to draw some interest on the opening market and could land a deal better than the four-year, $30-million deal that San Francisco gave Jerick McKinnon last season. Poole will also get some free-agency interest. Levitre, the opening-day starter the past four seasons, wants to continue playing after two injury-plagued seasons. He turns 33 in May. While the Falcons don’t have enough funds to pursue any high-end free agents, they are expected to try to sign an offensive lineman. The list of interior linemen to keep an eye on includes Kevin Pamphile, Nick Easton and J.R. Sweezy. The Falcons tried to sign Sweezy in 2016, but Tampa Bay gave him a five-year, $32.5 million deal. He was injured in 2016 and was released after playing in 2017. He played 15 games, while splitting time between right guard and left guard for Seattle last season. Pamphile, 28, played with four seasons at Tampa Bay before signing with Tennessee last season. He’s played some left guard and right tackle. If they sign him, Ty Sambrailo could move inside to right guard. Easton made 12 starts last season for Minnesota. The Falcons can create more salary-cap space by reaching a deal with Jarrett or by restructuring some current contracts. The Falcons could lower the salary cap by reaching a deal with Jarrett. “He’s not Aaron Donald,” Corry said. “I know he has the same agent as Aaron Donald. He’s not Aaron Donald. Aaron Donald is a once in a generation-type player. If that’s where the agent is, then you’re never getting a long-term deal done. He’s going to be playing the season on the franchise tag.” Donald signed a six-year, $135 million deal that averages $22.5 million per year. “To me, what’s more realistic is the agent’s other client, Fletcher Cox,” Corry said. “That was done in 2016, so it’s a three-year-old. If you adjusted Fletcher Cox (six years, $103 million) to the current cap environment, you are basically at $21 million per year. Grady is not a $21 million year player, but if you take the actual deal that Fletcher did three years ago, maybe that’s a fair approximation if you look at him from a standpoint that you’ll have to tag him twice and you average the two tags, you’re going to basically be almost at $17 (million) anyway, $16.5 (million), $17 (million) is probably the right range per year.” FALCONS TOP 10 CAP NUMBERS FOR 2019 Matt Ryan, $22.8 million Grady Jarrett, $15.2 million Desmond Trufant, $13.9 million Julio Jones, $13.4 million Vic Beasley, $12.8 million Jake Matthews, $11 million Alex Mack, $11 million Ryan Schraeder, $7.7 million Mohamed Sanu, $7.6 million Devonta Freeman, $6.7 million I bolded parts I thought were interesting.
  6. This NOT just in: Matt Ryan is a top-shelf quarterback Nov 16, 2018 By Mark Bradley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Nov 16, 2018 The odds are against the Falcons making the playoffs, but let’s say they do. (They’ll need to beat Dallas here Sunday; let’s say they do that, too.) Should they qualify, it would mark their third consecutive postseason appearance. Know how many times in their history they’ve done that? Once – from 2010 through 2012. The quarterback then was Matt Ryan, who’s also the quarterback now. Wait. I’m not done. Know how many times the Falcons had reached the playoffs in consecutive years before Ryan showed up? Never. Over the 42 seasons predating the Matty Ice Age, this franchise reached the postseason eight times. Since he got here in 2008, they’ve done it six times. If we add the playoff runs of the second-, third- and fourth-best quarterbacks in Falcons annals – Steve Bartkowski, Michael Vick and Chris Chandler – we get six. The point being: We around here have gotten to know Matthew Thomas Ryan very well – of the Falcons’ past 179 games (counting playoffs), he has started 177, which is flat-out ridiculous – but rarely do we say out loud what’s indisputably the truth. Namely, that he’s the best player (not just the best quarterback) in franchise history. We were conditioned early to regard Ryan as what he was not. He was drafted to replace the franchise quarterback who’d gone to prison, and there were those who insisted he would never be better than Vick. (Wrong.) Then we doubted if he could lead this team to the Super Bowl. (He did.) Even now, in Year 11, we tune in ESPN and get caught up in the E-word debate – I will not type the silly word itself, but it rhymes with “petite” – and we take as gospel that Ryan, as grand as he has been, is somehow not grand enough. Meaning: He’s not Brady/Rodgers/Brees/Roethlisberger. I won’t argue that any of those four is anything less than an all-timer. Tom Brady: best ever. Aaron Rodgers: most talented QB ever. Drew Brees: apt to win his first MVP trophy at 39. Ben Roethlisberger: consummate winner. But at this moment, what is there about Ryan that relegates him, just below the favored four? You don’t need to shout. All together now: “He hasn’t won a Super Bowl.” And he hasn’t. That’s the fact, Jack. But here, not to get all Kellyanne on you, is where we offer alternative facts. In Ryan’s one Super Bowl, he was better than Brady/Rodgers/Brees/Roethlisberger were in any of theirs, and they’ve been in 13. Ryan’s passer rating Feb. 5, 2017, was 144.1, fourth-best in Super annals, trailing only Phil Simms, Joe Montana and Jim Plunkett. Those three quarterbacks saw their teams win big. Ryan’s team should have. If they played that game again, the Falcons would be more likely to prevail 42-10 than lose in overtime. That losing was some fault of Ryan’s is a big fat lie. (He didn’t touch the ball in OT, you’ll recall.) Ryan in that Super Bowl – 284 yards on 23 passes. His yards-per-attempt average was 12.3, also fourth-best in Super history. His completion percentage was 73.9, sixth-best. Brady threw for 466 yards that day, but – this remains incredible – had nearly as many incompletions (21) as Ryan did passes. Brady eventually dinked and dunked the Falcons into submission, but his passer rating (95.5) was the second-lowest of his five Super wins, and Robert Alford’s pick-6 was a big reason the Patriots trailed 28-3. Put it this way: In the biggest game of his life, Mr. Tier 2 was statistically superior to the greatest ever. And we hold that AGAINST him? This year, Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards per game. (He’s 46 YPG ahead of Brees, FYI.) Ryan is fourth in passer rating and completion percentage, tied for fourth in touchdowns. He’s not the reason the Falcons are 4-5; he’s the reason they aren’t 1-8. We once regarded his MVP season as a career year, but this one is of a piece: Yards per game and completion percentage are better; touchdowns per game are roughly the same; yards per attempt, while down from that peak, is still the second-best of his career. Career passing numbers are problematic, given how skewed the modern game is toward slinging the pig. (Fran Tarkenton retired as the career leader in passing yards; he’s not in the top 10 today.) But here, for comparative purposes, we go: Ryan is fifth in yards per game, ahead of Brady, Rodgers and Roethlisberger; he’s fifth in completion percentage, ahead of Rodgers and Brady; he’s 10th in passer rating, ahead of Roethlisberger; he’s ninth in interception percentage, ahead of Brees. Again, this isn’t to say that the Tier 1 guys don’t belong. This is only to suggest that Ryan does, too – and has for a while. This is his 11th NFL season. (That’s another thing: At 33, he’s younger than Brady/Rodgers/et al.) Ryan has worked under four offensive coordinators; should he make the Pro Bowl this season, he’ll have done it under all four. He has spent 10 years and nine games trying to outscore his own defense, which over the past decade never finished among the league’s top 10 in yards against and is third-worst now. Brady and Roethlisberger have won seven Super Bowls between them. How many would they won have won with Falcons-like defenses? And really, isn’t the issue of Super Bowl “wins” for a quarterback something a faux stat, like wins for a pitcher have become? (Jacob deGrom just took the Cy Young with 10.) The only reason Ryan isn’t a Tier 1 fixture is the lack of a Super Bowl “win” – and had his team held on that day, he’d have been the game’s MVP. (And he didn’t call the overtime coin toss wrong; the Pats called it right.) Ryan was the reason the Falcons made the Super Bowl. He’s the reason they’ve been a very good team for the better part of the past 10 years, and he’s the reason they still could make something of this one. He’s not just the best quarterback this team has had; he’s among the best there has ever been. There, I’ve said it.
  7. Falcons not half bad on defense, and getting better 1 hour ago By Michael Cunningham FLOWERY BRANCH — Halfway through the season the Falcons aren’t half bad on defense. If that seems like faint praise, you should have seen them before. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel warned us after two Pro Bowl starters from last season, linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal, went to injured reserve after the first game. “Next man up” sounds nice in theory. Manuel offered a dose of reality. “I sat here after that first Philly game and I said we had some devastating blows, and that’s what they were,” Manuel said. “I don’t think that anyone really listened to me when I said we are going back to training-camp mode. I said that, (took) a lot of heat for it. But it was not just that we had young guys, but we had new guys. “New voices. Guys that weren’t even in our training camp.” The second training camp seems to be over for Manuel’s charges. After a month of bad defense, the Falcons (4-4) go to Cleveland on Sunday with a unit that no longer is a liability. It’s doubtful that will change against Cleveland’s poor offense, quarterbacked by rookie Baker Mayfield. There’s renewed optimism surrounding the Falcons’ defense. That’s not just because it’s playing better, with Sunday’s 38-14 victory at Washington as the high point. It’s also because reinforcements are arriving. Last week the Falcons saw defensive tackle Grady Jarrett return from injury and wreck Washington’s interior line. This week they added free agent Bruce Irvin. According to Pro Football Focus, Irwin was a more efficient pass rusher in eight games with the Raiders than any of his new teammates. Jones has returned to practice and is eligible to play next week against the Cowboys. The Falcons usually can depend on their offense to play at a high level. Now they can legitimately expect their defense to carry its weight, which isn’t as heavy. “We are starting to come together as a unit,” said veteran defensive tackle Jack Crawford, among the defenders to raise their play. “We are coming together more in practice. Grady coming back helped. We’ve peaked as far as where we were at (earlier) this year. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go.” At least the Falcons can see a path to being good on defense. The Falcons were adequate on defense in a victory over the Panthers in Week 2, then struggled to get any stops while losing their next three games. Excluding kneel-downs, the Saints, Bengals and Steelers combined to score on 19 of 30 drives, including 15 touchdowns. During that span the Falcons forced only eight punts and two turnovers. It seemed the story of the 2018 Falcons would be injuries derailing a potentially promising season. The Falcons were undermanned and some of their veterans were in disarray. Defensive backs Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Brian Poole weren’t playing up to their usual standards. The pass rush was inconsistent, with Vic Beasley Jr. gone missing. Things began to change against Tampa Bay. The Falcons were very good on defense through three quarters as the offense sputtered. The Falcons hung on because the defense made key stops -- if just barely -- and it was the first time you could say that unit won a game. The defense was better against the Giants: four punts forced in eight full New York possessions, plus a goal-line stand. The Falcons shut down Washington early, then went wild once they got a big lead. “You see the Tampa game, boom, that happened,” Manuel said. “You watched New York — told you about red-zone defense. And then you go consistently stop Adrian Peterson to two yards per carry, when we couldn’t stop the run (before). You take your hat off to the guys.” Even with Irwin and their improving health, the Falcons aren’t likely to be great on defense over a long period. They don’t have to be. The defense must be considered as part of a whole, working in concert with the offense and special teams to produce winning football. We’ve seen how that works. It’s easy to forget that the 2016 Falcons, the NFC champions, weren’t great on defense. That season the Falcons ranked 25th in yards allowed per game, 27th in points and tied for fourth in takeaways. After eight games the 2018 Falcons ranked 28th in yards allowed, 29th in points and tied for 13th in takeaways. You can draw a line from the lack of turnovers this season to Neal and Jones playing in one game each. The Falcons have forced one fumble in eight games. Neal, a punishing tackler, forced five in 2016. Passes defended are a good proxy for interception chances. Jones had 11 passes defended in 2016, second-most on the team. He had two in this season’s opener, which still is tied for the most among the team’s linebackers, though Jones hasn’t played in seven weeks. By the end of the 2016 season, the Falcons had improved enough on defense to support a great offense on the way to the Super Bowl. That’s not likely to happen again this season. This offense can’t match that all-time great production, and the defense won’t be getting back Neal or safety Ricardo Allen. Then again, after those first five weeks, who thought the Falcons had a chance to play halfway good defense this season? It should only get better from here.
  8. I really hope this helps because Beasley talent wise is one of the most talented rushers the NFL has had .... More active hands alone would be HUGE to his game. Co,e on Coach... We need Vic more consistent
  9. Im glad some one pointed this out... This is what i was trying to point out last night when i was getting hit with..... Everybody gets hit with injuries..... Man this scheme depends on Deion Jones soooooooooo much tho... Its just not the same... Thats no excuse but its not the same The saints did not do anyyyything special.... The LBs and Dbs just does not have the instincts to read thru the play like Deion Jones Without Deion Jones Just for example.... With Deion jones Just examples... Deion Jones sniffed thru the BS with the WRs and sniffed out the plays..... So a 3 or 4 yard gain was just that .... But yesterday.. a 3 or 4 yard catch was a 12-15 yard gain