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A second wind in Atlanta for Gonzalez


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From the Examiner's Desk: A second wind in Atlanta for Gonzalez

September 23, 9:20 AM Atlanta Falcons Examiner Daniel Cox

('From the Examiner's Desk' is a weekly first-person column from Atlanta Falcons Examiner Daniel Cox, discussing something from the Falcons that's catching his eye.)

There are a lot of details that I try to watch when I'm watching an Atlanta Falcons football game.

Like most, I enjoy a good end zone celebration. But in the midst of the post-touchdown euphoria, I'm trying to watch a few other things too.

I want to see the reactions of Atlanta's players. Who's in on the celebrations? Who's walking back to the sidelines early? What's Coach Smith doing?

Football gets me in its hundreds of details.

And the thing I've noticed most often through two games in the 2009 season?

For a 13-year veteran, tight end Tony Gonzalez plays like player just hitting the stride of his career. It's not just his in-game performance either; it's what happens after a big play. The 6'5" Gonzalez is typically the first player to a teammate when they've scored a touchdown or made a big play.

Michael Turner's first touchdown of the season on Sunday? Yes, Gonzalez was the first one there, climbing on Turner's back.

Jason Snelling's first receiving touchdown of his career on Sunday? The future Hall-of-Famer was first on the scene, with his arm around the 26-year-old running back's neck.

I have to admit, I never paid a lot of attention to Gonzalez for his first 12 years. Yes, I saw the embarrassment of a performance in Mora's first season in Atlanta back in '04 when the Falcons traveled to KC. The final 56-10 score implies the Chiefs beat Atlanta every way imaginable. Not entirely the case. Eight rushing touchdowns from Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock are actually what happened. The tight end caught two passes for 19 yards.

What I'm saying is I knew what Gonzalez was accomplishing, but I just never paid much attention. Just like I know Brandon Roy is a really good basketball player out in Portland, but I don't know that I've ever watched him play.

But I knew it was a big move when Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff pulled it off. Keeping his 2009 draft intact and still getting a huge, reliable target (what many liked to call a safety net...or even security blanket) for the young Matt Ryan. And Gonzalez said all the right things when he arrived.

We heard him pontificate on how excited he was for the opportunity to play in Atlanta, a team emerging with young talent. We heard him share with us that he'd never won a playoff game--a shocking statistic coming from a player who was on some pretty potent offenses of his own back in the day. And then he dropped the bomb.

"I'm here for one reason and that's to win a Super Bowl," Gonzalez said at his introductory press conference.

The comment raised some eyebrows. After all, when was the last time we heard those words mentioned in Atlanta? The fact that a future Hall-of-Famer, one of the game's all-time greats, was saying it suddenly gave it some believability. Next thing you know you hear players at training camp saying the goal is to win the Super Bowl.

Atlanta Falcons fans, Tony Gonzalez is really glad he's in your town.

Did you notice what he did with his first Falcons touchdown catch against Miami? He was running off the field, but then realized he didn't have the ball. In the midst of the celebration in the Georgia Dome, he ran back to the end zone for the ball. As he ran off the field, he pointed it at the fans.

I don't know if you noticed, but he kept last week's touchdown ball as well.

The Atlanta media loves him (the post-game crowd around his locker is almost larger than Ryan's), Falcons fans love him, and he loves his team.

"It's just great to be part of a team like this," Gonzalez said following Sunday's win over Carolina. "Just coming back in here in the locker room, seeing everybody smiling, seeing coach happy. That's good enough for me right there."

Through two games Gonzalez is the team's leading receiver with 12 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan obviously loves throwing to him and the tight end rarely lets him down. In those two games thus far, we've already seen Gonzalez make about four incredibly acrobatic catches.

But there is a twofold concern. You know what they say about diva receivers. I hope there isn't one in Atlanta, because if the trend continues, Gonzalez could very well lead the team in touchdowns, catches, or yards. But if there's anyone that could thwart a potential locker room drama, it's this guy.

I also hope Ryan doesn't get too reliant on his tremendous, playmaking tight end too much early in his career if Gonzalez isn't going to be around forever.

But a Super Bowl victory is a nice trade off for having to learn to throw to your wide receivers again.

I bite my tongue when I think to myself how much of a shame it is that Tony Gonzalez won't be around for much more than two or three years. Then I remind myself who exactly I'm talking about and realize the notoriously health-conscious Pro Bowler may be around for five more seasons to make some of his Super Bowl dreams come true.

http://www.examiner.com/x-1778-Atlanta-Fal...ta-for-Gonzalez

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I thought a second rounder THIS year was too much to ask, I was totally happy with one next year. ...but after seeing him on the field for us, a second this year would still have been a terrific deal.

A first rd pick considering his production would have been worth it.

All those fans (particularly bucs fans) who questioned his is ability at his age and compared him to the other NFCS TE's look absolutley foolish right now.

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Gonzo is also the hardest working player on the team, at least from a physical standpoint. Out on the field early, running sprints and working the sled, staying late to take extra passes from one of the staff guys. Extra time in the weight room. On and off the field, he's helping this team achieve a higher standard.

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My fellow Falcon fans - Do yourself a HUGE favor and go and watch this guy live. It's surreal to say the least. After seeing what he's done so far, how can you not love what the next few years hold?

Very true... I came up from Valdosta to go to the season opener and this guy just can't be covered, no lie... I dont care who you put on him, he has the advantage. He does his job and thats all we can ask for. Very happy to have him here and hope we can get him the Super Bowl he came here for....

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Very true... I came up from Valdosta to go to the season opener and this guy just can't be covered, no lie... I dont care who you put on him, he has the advantage. He does his job and thats all we can ask for. Very happy to have him here and hope we can get him the Super Bowl he came here for....

I agree with ya 100%. If anyone deserves a super bowl ring it would be Tony G. And we get to go along for the ride :D

GO FALCONS ! ! !

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Here's my question. He has been very clear about why he is here. If we put a ring on his finger this year will he walk away on top even with a year left on his contract? I'd hate to see it, but I have to admit it would be a fitting way to see him ride off into the Sunset.

Another thought. Has a TE every gotten a leauge MVP vote?

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I am loving me some Gonzo.

And to think I was one of the folks that didn't want him because a 2nd rounder was too high.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

You and me both.

After reading this, it makes me realize two things... what it can do for Tuner... and why White held out this year- he expected his numbers to go down... not because he wouldn't perform, but because his chances would be reduced. I hate hold outs, but good call by his agent.

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Tony G has really added to this team in so many ways including:

(1) helping Atlanta score TDs in the Red Zone, something they had a lot of trouble with last year. Gonzo is either catching TD passes himself, or catching passes in the red zone which set up the TDs, or getting interference calls in the end zone..

(2) helping Atlanta keep drives alive by being a third down go-to receiver.

(3) opening up the middle of the field for underneath passes to RBs coming out of the back field.

(4) keeping double-coverage off of the WRs.

(5) keeping the defense from stacking the box to stop the running game.

(6) keeping some pressure of the defense by helping Atlanta score more points and keep drives alive.

(7) helping the OL in pass protection, when he is kept in to block on pass plays.

Gonzo is a true difference maker!

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Tony G has really added to this team in so many ways including:

(1) helping Atlanta score TDs in the Red Zone, something they had a lot of trouble with last year. Gonzo is either catching TD passes himself, or catching passes in the red zone which set up the TDs, or getting interference calls in the end zone..

...and he opens up the play for others. Do you think Mughelli and Snelling are catching balls in the End Zone with just Peele and/or Hartsock lined up at TE? But when you line up Gonzo, eyes are on him, White, Turner, Jenkins and Finn (whoever is in on that play) which leaves nobody paying attention to weapons like a "secondary" running back with decent hands. In this respect, Gonzo creates TWO weapons on the field.

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To original poster:

Very nice and well written post! I been watching #88 closely, and I was more than a little taken back by his opening statements as a falcon. I will admit I never really paid attention to the guy before. Then again I am typically close minded to my own team to watch too many others. I am proud with his performance this year not by numbers but by attitude. I personally think the guy is a great athlete with an awesome love for the game, and the players around him.

I am glad hes a falcon, and I look forward to watching what he can do to help this team. As an added bonus I hope we get that ring for him. That would be a story book ending, to an otherwise stellar career. Speaking of story book endings isnt that what they used to call us last year?

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