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theProf’s thoughts on the Falcons/Bears game


theProf
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Ok so I took a little liberty with the spelling of the city’s name to force a title rhyme, and used a book title to further describe the game. However, this game has to get some type of catchy title and description, it was just too electrifying not to. I have never experienced such extreme emotions ranging from gut-wrenching, heart-stopping despair to thrilling exhilaration in any previous NFL game, like I did during the last few minutes of this game.

Exhilaration on Norwood’s long kick-off return all the way back to the Bears 15 yard line just after Chicago’s last field goal to put them within a TD. Then Elam’s completely unexpected stunner with the badly missed chip shot field goal, his first official miss of the season, after kicking four straight in this particular game. Then the agonizing ensuing last drive by Chicago, and the knife plunged straight into the heart with the Bear’s TD pass with 11 seconds left to put them up by a point.

And then with all hope completely drained out, Matt Ryan and the Falcons work some magic. A perfect pass and catch from Ryan to Jenkins on the side line to get out of bounds with all of one second remaining. Finally the ecstasy over Elam’s redeeming 48 yard field goal. Just an unbelievable and unforgettable Falcons game! What a great game and what a wonderful feeling.

Against a very good NFL defense, rookie QB’s are not suppose to pass for over 300 yards, have no interceptions or sacks, manage the game expertly, and throw the perfect pass with 6 seconds left in the game. Rookie QBs are not supposed to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Perhaps Ryan is really not a rookie after all. Perhaps he has spent the last six seasons playing pro football in the Twilight Zone, or in some other dimension or world that we don’t know about, and has now returned to our current world where we just think he's a rookie. Either that or the kid’s not really human, with ice water running through his veins instead of blood.

This year's Falcons is not about one person though, no matter how much above expectations that one person may be playing. It is about the TEAM. It is about “we” instead of “me”. Notice how much the others congratulated Jamaal Anderson after his first sack.

Immediately the monkey jinx went off of Jamaal’s back, and he was transformed into a real football player Sunday. He got after people, he made tackles for losses, he knocked down passes, and he pressured the QB. Hopefully the real Jamaal Anderson finally emerged at last, and Sunday’s miracle game marks his coming-out game as a prelude to many more impressive games by him. Fans would much rather praise his play than criticize his play. I know I would.

The offensive line played extremely well in pass protection against a good pressuring team, not allowing a sack for the second game in a row. I would have liked to see the OL get a better push and open better seams in the running game, but it is difficult to do that against a top-notch front 7 like the Bears. Still the Falcons were able to run well enough to keep the Bears defense honest and to open up Atlanta’s passing game.

Atlanta’s WRs played very well as a group. Roddy had another 100 yard game and a TD. Rookie Harry Douglas had a break-out game with almost 100 yards receiving, and a great lay-out catch for a long gain. Jenkins had “the catch” at the end, as well as a couple of other ones, to redeem himself from the dropped TD catch. Finn had a few catches too. Robinson may have some trouble getting back into the lineup when his knee heals.

Atlanta’s defense played a good first half, but not nearly as well in the second half. They have to get better stopping third down conversions, especially at critical junctions. However, they did make a goal line stand in the fourth quarter, which kept the Bears from getting points on that particular series. Hopefully they can use that series to build up their confidence some. Only Jamaal Anderson had an impressive game on defense, although Lofton appears to be gradually improving each game as he gains more experience.

The Falcons special teams had another good game, and certainly contributed to the win. Elam made 5 of 6 field goals, including the 48 yard game winner. Norwood had the 85 yard kick-off return that should have sealed the game, had Elam not missed the chip shot field goal attempt.

Punt coverage and kick-off coverage was very good against Hester, probably the most dangerous returner in the NFL. Snelling in particular made several nice ST tackles. Putting the on-side kick team on the field for Chicago’s last squib kick-off was very smart. Harry Douglas fielded the kick-off cleanly, and was able to advance it enough to give the Falcons excellent field position for the final miracle pass play. What a game. Words are just not adequate enough to properly describe this particular game.

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Thanks for the post.

I really think JA98 may have turned the corner. I was wondering if he had the physical tools to play at this level after seeing him get pushed around in the first few games, but after this week that is obviously not a question. Can he put it all together and be consistent, week in and week out? We shall see, but I will certainly be rooting for him. We are a much better defense when he is pressuring the non-Abe side of the line.

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Thanks for the post.

I really think JA98 may have turned the corner. I was wondering if he had the physical tools to play at this level after seeing him get pushed around in the first few games, but after this week that is obviously not a question. Can he put it all together and be consistent, week in and week out? We shall see, but I will certainly be rooting for him. We are a much better defense when he is pressuring the non-Abe side of the line.

Thanks for the response. Hopefully this game was Jamaal's turning point, and he can keep it up on a consistent basis week after week. An intersting ESPN article on Anderson posted by atljbo as follows:

"Atlanta's Anderson shows he can play

October 13, 2008 5:48 PM

With quarterback Matt Ryan playing like a veteran and left tackle Sam Baker proving some critics wrong, the Falcons already are collecting dividends on their 2008 draft. They also, finally, got something out of their 2007 top pick.

Defensive end Jamaal Anderson got his first career sack (and also batted down two passes) Sunday. Anderson had taken plenty of criticism from Atlanta fans early this season. But writing Anderson off as a bust so early would have been a mistake.

What he did against the Bears is just a preview of what Anderson can do. He has tremendous physical talent. He struggled last year, but everyone in Atlanta struggled last year. Just forget his rookie season. In fact, consider this his rookie season.

The arrival of coach Mike Smith, who has a strong defensive background, truly marked the start of Anderson's NFL career. Smith and his staff have believed all along that Anderson had potential. Now, they're just starting to draw it out of him."

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I agree with the way the Recivers are playing, Robinson is going to have to fight to get on the feild.

I'm also hoping Anderson's game continues to grow rather than a freakish flash in the pan game. If he can play consitantly like he did sunday Our line becomes that much better & so does our secondary

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TD, Coach Smith and his staff have done a great job at changing the culture and the work environment. That makes a huge difference.

Not only has the coaching staff changed the environment, but they also get the players ready to play. Atlanta currently has 6 rookies who are receiving significant playing time (Ryan, Baker, Lofton, Douglas, Jackson, and Biermann). It takes special coaching efforts and talents to get so many rookies to the point where they can play and contribute in NFL games so soon.

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Putting the on-side kick team on the field for Chicago’s last squib kick-off was very smart. Harry Douglas fielded the kick-off cleanly, and was able to advance it enough to give the Falcons excellent field position for the final miracle pass play. What a game. Words are just not adequate enough to properly describe this particular game.

Just read the following comment from Coach Smith's interview on the above play:

"Q: When you look at the kickoff that Chicago obviously did not want to kick to Jerious (Norwood), Harry (Douglas) got a hold of it and got great field position in a short amount of time. Harry’s play seems to get overlooked in my mind. Do you feel that way?

A: “I think it did. I thought the first thing that happened on that play was that Coach Armstrong put our special group out there. We had our squib kick unit in and we were ready for the squib kick. Instead of having big blockers, we had guys who could receive that ball off the ground. I think that was the first thing that was overlooked. Then, Harry did a very good job of getting as many yards as he could and then getting down on the ground as quickly as possible. It is something that we work on every Saturday. We make it a big emphasis point of getting our squib team out there taking about the different situations, especially at the end of the game. For him to get down and allow us to have enough time to throw that timing route with six seconds to go, it was a very big play, especially for a rookie.”

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I agree with the way the Recivers are playing, Robinson is going to have to fight to get on the feild.

I'm also hoping Anderson's game continues to grow rather than a freakish flash in the pan game. If he can play consitantly like he did sunday Our line becomes that much better & so does our secondary

From an Inside Slant article on the game concerning the play of Atlanta's WRs:

"The Falcons needed some of their other receivers to step forward Sunday and take some pressure off of Roddy White.

The unit, considered a longtime weakness, actually had three players step forward in the 22-20 last-second victory over the Chicago Bears.

White woke up Sunday morning not certain if he was going to be allowed to play after suffering a head injury in a collision with Lawyer Milloy at practice on Wednesday. He was cleared to play on Saturday, but the final call went down to one of those "game time decisions."

"I meet with the doctors and everything," White said. "They were just checking on me Sunday morning, making sure that I was all right. I came in and I didn't have any headaches. No nausea or anything."

So White started and did some of the heavy lifting.

"It was big for Roddy to get out there," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We worked him out yesterday after our workout to just see how he would be able handle the strain of running."

White finished with nine receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. He had another touchdown catch nullified by penalty. He has 35 catches for 566 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

It was White's second consecutive 100-yard receiving game, his third of the season and 10th overall.

He got some major support from rookie wide receiver Harry Douglas, who had his best day in the NFL, catching five passes for 96 yards, including a 47-yarder in the third quarter.

"H.D. was out there in High Definition," White said. "He was making plays out there and everything."

Veteran wide receiver Brian Finneran set up White's key fourth quarter touchdown.

On third down-and-11 from Chicago's 18, Finneran got inside of Corey Graham on a slant route and picked up 13 yards. Graham was called for defensive holding, but the Falcons declined the penalty.

"Fin is consistent," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He made a couple of key third down catches. He seems to always get open. He's crafty."

The biggest catch came from Michael Jenkins, on a 26-yard pass from Ryan on a deep corner route. Jenkins tapped both feet down and got out of bounds with one second left. He left just enough time for Jason Elam's 48-yard game-winning field goal."

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The Twilight Zone. I love it.

I'm sure that there are many young pups on this message board who have never heard of the Twilight Zone TV series, which ran from 1959-1964. The opening prologue narrated by Rod Sterling as follows:

Opening Narrative:

The Original Pilot: "There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the sunlight of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area that might be called the Twilight Zone."

Season 1: "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone."

Season 1 (Alternate): "You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Season 2: "You're travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Season 3: "You're travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Seasons 4 and 5: "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone!"

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Nice post, good review! its virtual monday here at work after the long weekend... and I am loving the fact that I can make fun of all the Dallas fans here and talk about the extrodinary win the Falcons had Sunday.

If it's true that Dallas just traded a first round, third round, and a sixth round draft choice to Detroit to get WR Roy Williams, then you have even more ammunition to make fun of the Dallas Cowboys.

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Not only has the coaching staff changed the environment, but they also get the players ready to play. Atlanta currently has 6 rookies who are receiving significant playing time (Ryan, Baker, Lofton, Douglas, Jackson, and Biermann). It takes special coaching efforts and talents to get so many rookies to the point where they can play and contribute in NFL games so soon.

The above point was also brought out in Coach Smith's most recent interview as follows:

"Q: What were some of the key points that you had to stress to get so many of the rookies playing so fast?

A: “The first point was that we were going to play our best players. I think it is important to tell guys from the very beginning that the depth chart is not necessarily going to be based on seniority but how you perform and practice and out there on the game field. Our guys have done an outstanding job in learning our system and what we are trying to get done. I think it talks strongly about our coaching staff to get that many rookies prepared to start in game one of the National Football League season. I think that we have been able to identify what our players can and cannot do. We tried to emphasize the strengths of our players and not necessarily the weaknesses and try to design our schemes around that."”

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Atlanta’s defense played a good first half, but not nearly as well in the second half. They have to get better stopping third down conversions, especially at critical junctions. However, they did make a goal line stand in the fourth quarter, which kept the Bears from getting points on that particular series. Hopefully they can use that series to build up their confidence some. Only Jamaal Anderson had an impressive game on defense, although Lofton appears to be gradually improving each game as he gains more experience.

From an Inside Slant article as follows:

"PASS DEFENSE: C — Bears quarterback Kyle Orton completed 26 of 43 for 286 yards and one touchdown. Over the last three games, the Falcons have surrendered 294, 313 and now 286 passing yards. The key against the Bears is that they didn't let out a lot of explosive plays (20-yards or more). Chicago's only explosive play came from TE Greg Olsen, who got open on a seam route for a 22-yarder. DE Jamaal Anderson recorded his first sack and batted down two passes.

RUSH DEFENSE: B plus — MLB Curtis Lofton, a rookie second round pick from Oklahoma, is turning into an enforcer in the run game. He helped to keep rookie RB Matt Forte under 4 yards a carry (20 for 76, 3.8) and led the Falcons with seven tackles. Forte did break out for a 20-yard gain, but was held in check for the rest of the game. The Falcons also had a goal line stand, where SLB Michael Boley came around the edge and snatched Forte out of the air as he was trying to dive over the goal line. The right side of the line got a good push and safety Lawyer Milloy came in to finish off Forte."

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Are any of our wide receivers free agents after this season? Jenkins? Finneran?

Just curious...

Jenkins, Finneran, and White are signed through the 2009 season, although Jenkins last contract year of 2009 can be voided. Contract details from FalcFans.com as follows:

Mike Jenkins:

Transactions

Signed by the Atlanta Falcons on July 27, 2004.

Contract details

Signed by the Atlanta Falcons on July 27, 2004 to a six-year contract worth about $7.3 million and including a $1.5 million signing bonus. His base salaries are: $380,000 (2004); $818,750 (2005); $983,000 (2006); $1.146 million (2007); $1.31 million (2008); and $887,500 (2009). The final year of the deal is voidable. In 2004, there is a roster bonus of $275,000. In 2005, the Falcons have the ability to pay a $1.84 million option bonus which will reduce his base salaries to: $450,000 (2005); $605,000 (2006); $625,000 (2007); and $725,000 (2008). That will cause his cap charges to fall to: $1.068 million (2005); $1.223 million (2006); $1.243 million (2007); $1.343 million (2008); and $1.5055 million (2009).

Brian Finnerran:

Contract details

Signed by Eagles on July 6, 1999 to a two-year contract ... Re-signed by Falcons on April 5, 2001 to a one-year contract ... Tendered as exclusive rights free agent at $375,000 level ... Re-signed by Falcons on February 27, 2003 to a four-year contract worth $4.365 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. Finneran's base salaries are: $530,000 (2003); $535,000 (2004); $750,000 (2005); and $850,000 (2006). Finneran will count $1 million against the 2005 cap ... Due to playing time incentives, the last year of Finneran's contract voided, making him an unrestricted free agent following the 2005 season ... Re-signed by Falcons in 2006 to a four-year deal worth $8 million including a $3 million signing bonus. His base salaries are: $710,000 (2006); $990,000 (2007); $1.3 million (2008); and $2 million (2009); which gives him cap hits of $1.46 million (2006); $1.74 million (2007); $2.05 million (2008); and $2.75 million (2009).

Roddy White:

Transactions

Signed by Atlanta Falcons on July 31, 2005.

Contract Details

Signed to a five-year contract worth $7.3 million, including about $4.75 million in guaranteed money. The guaranteed money is most likely made up of a signing bonus and an option bonus in 2006.

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Atlanta’s defense played a good first half, but not nearly as well in the second half. They have to get better stopping third down conversions, especially at critical junctions.

From Coach Smith's interview as follows:

Q: What are some of the things that you think may come up in the self evaluation?

A: “I think there will be a number of things that will come up and be evident. We are going to have to look at all aspects of our football team. Offensively, a thing that we know we need to do better is work on our red zone efficiency. Defensively, we know we need to be better on third down. We have to sustain our level of play that we have had in the first quarter in most of our games. Especially in our four wins, we have played outstanding defense in the first quarter. Actually, our offense and defense have played outstanding in the first quarter in our four wins. We want to look at what we have to do to sustain that throughout four quarters of a football game. We want to also take a good hard look at our return units. I think we are improving and have over the last couple of weeks. Jerious Norwood had two explosive returns that I think were overlooked for the field position that was critical in both football games. I think we want to look at our punt return unit and see how we can be more efficient there. It’s really going to be an overall look. Our coordinators have laid out the plan for our assistant coaches to go into this self scout analysis and by the end of the week we will have a good idea of what we have done well and what we haven’t done well.”

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Brian Finnerran:

Contract details

Signed by Eagles on July 6, 1999 to a two-year contract ... Re-signed by Falcons on April 5, 2001 to a one-year contract ... Tendered as exclusive rights free agent at $375,000 level ... Re-signed by Falcons on February 27, 2003 to a four-year contract worth $4.365 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. Finneran's base salaries are: $530,000 (2003); $535,000 (2004); $750,000 (2005); and $850,000 (2006). Finneran will count $1 million against the 2005 cap ... Due to playing time incentives, the last year of Finneran's contract voided, making him an unrestricted free agent following the 2005 season ... Re-signed by Falcons in 2006 to a four-year deal worth $8 million including a $3 million signing bonus. His base salaries are: $710,000 (2006); $990,000 (2007); $1.3 million (2008); and $2 million (2009); which gives him cap hits of $1.46 million (2006); $1.74 million (2007); $2.05 million (2008); and $2.75 million (2009).

Hate to say cuz I like Finn alot, close to 3 mil for a #4 Reciver and special teams player may be too high. Seeing that salary, unless he takes a pay cut this may be his final year as a Falcon.

I wonder if they can reelase him in the Offseason and bring him back at a reduced salary..like 1.5???

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QUOTE

Brian Finnerran:

Contract details

Signed by Eagles on July 6, 1999 to a two-year contract ... Re-signed by Falcons on April 5, 2001 to a one-year contract ... Tendered as exclusive rights free agent at $375,000 level ... Re-signed by Falcons on February 27, 2003 to a four-year contract worth $4.365 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. Finneran's base salaries are: $530,000 (2003); $535,000 (2004); $750,000 (2005); and $850,000 (2006). Finneran will count $1 million against the 2005 cap ... Due to playing time incentives, the last year of Finneran's contract voided, making him an unrestricted free agent following the 2005 season ... Re-signed by Falcons in 2006 to a four-year deal worth $8 million including a $3 million signing bonus. His base salaries are: $710,000 (2006); $990,000 (2007); $1.3 million (2008); and $2 million (2009); which gives him cap hits of $1.46 million (2006); $1.74 million (2007); $2.05 million (2008); and $2.75 million (2009).

Hate to say cuz I like Finn alot, close to 3 mil for a #4 Reciver and special teams player may be too high. Seeing that salary, unless he takes a pay cut this may be his final year as a Falcon.

I wonder if they can reelase him in the Offseason and bring him back at a reduced salary..like 1.5???

The way I understand it is that players can be released, even if they have year(s) remaining on their contract. The player can resign at a reduced amount, if the player and the team so choose to do that. This is what happened in preseason with Joey Harrington, for example . If the player is released and not resigned, then any remaining guaranteed amount that has not been paid, or any remaining prorated signing bonus, would count against the team's cap. In Finneran's case, that would be the remaining prorated signing bonus for the last year of $750,000 for 2009. However, Finn's scheduled salary of $2 million for 2009 would be saved and not count against the cap.

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The Falcons special teams had another good game, and certainly contributed to the win. Elam made 5 of 6 field goals, including the 48 yard game winner. Norwood had the 85 yard kick-off return that should have sealed the game, had Elam not missed the chip shot field goal attempt.

Excellent point. Remember all the illegal blocks we had on kick and punt returns the first three games? Coach got those sorted out. I've been very impressed with that aspect of our special teams.

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I agree with the way the Recivers are playing, Robinson is going to have to fight to get on the feild.

I'm also hoping Anderson's game continues to grow rather than a freakish flash in the pan game. If he can play consitantly like he did sunday Our line becomes that much better & so does our secondary

I dont think he would have troubles getting back in the line up he would bring another threat in a 4 wr set with norwood in the backfield

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I agree with the way the Recivers are playing, Robinson is going to have to fight to get on the feild.

I'm also hoping Anderson's game continues to grow rather than a freakish flash in the pan game. If he can play consitantly like he did sunday Our line becomes that much better & so does our secondary

I dont think he would have troubles getting back in the line up he would bring another threat in a 4 wr set with norwood in the backfield

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