Category Archives: Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl Forty-Meh

The Pats don't really need another Super Bowl win. For that matter, neither do the Giants.

To borrow (or rather skewer) a line from the post-Camper Van Beethoven band Cracker, “What the world needs now is another New York or Boston champion like I need a hole in my head.”

Ugh. Super Bowl XLVI is like the Bush tax cuts for the sports world. The rich get richer, no matter who comes out on top in this one, folks. (ESPN The Magazine even allowed the two over-publicized cities to shit-talk one another, perhaps forebodingly, via hometown comedians, Artie Lange and Denis Leary.) Though, in the new century, I suppose Boston currently sits atop of the sports town heap, having won at least one championship in each of the four major sports.

To hear Bill Simmons talk about the manner in which the Pats found themselves moving on to the Super Bowl was to hear an entitled fan spoiled from too much recent success. On his B.S. Report podcast from Monday, Simmons says, “That was so much more of a loss for Baltimore than it was a win for the Patriots. … Your watching it going, ‘These can’t be the two best AFC teams. It doesn’t seem right.’ That was probably Houston’s conference. … Maybe [the Pats] didn’t back in. Maybe they just got lucky because of the Houston thing.”

If the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl because their opponent’s bus broke down on the way to the game, I’d be beyond elated. A well-defensed pass and a rushed, hooked kick? I’d probably be excited enough to turnover a car on my own.

Can you even imagine being so blasé about your team making it to the Super Bowl?

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Barkley Outs Major Atlanta Sports Flaw: Too Many Nice Guys

In this uproarious clip that multiple friends sent me last week, Charles Barkley unknowingly unburdens himself during a TNT broadcast of the Hawks’ pitiful, triple-overtime loss to what was essentially a developmental league team fielded by the Miami Heat. During a break in the action, Sir Charles discusses his success on the Weight Watchers plan and then moves on to panning the Hawks, characterizing them as just a “bunch of nice guys.”

Barkley’s comments cut not just to one of the main facets behind the Hawks’ enduring mediocrity—the other being the franchise tying all its money up in second tier, aging “star” Joe Johnson—but it might also explain a pervasive issue with all Atlanta franchises. I am not sure I’ve felt a sense of urgency with an Atlanta team aside from the 1991 Braves and the 1998 Falcons, two teams that ended up in their respective league’s championship games against what was written in everyone’s script (including their own). There’s a lack of fire that seems to infect all Atlanta teams and all its players.

The last, truly intense, seemingly unhinged competitor I can recall was Jesse Tuggle, the standout Falcons linebacker who did it all on the field and made me feel like he might not be the nicest person in the world off it. (His eyes were pretty close together, so he always looked like he was glaring.) I’m not saying we need a Ray Lewis (he allegedly murdered someone, by the way), a Ndamukong Suh, or a James Harrison—but someone with an unmistakeable competitive fire burning in them would be nice.

Maybe a Patrick Willis-type? Or an Osi Umenyiora? A Pujols? Or even a smug fuck like Kobe?


How Falcons Fans Express Disappointment

Corey Peters doesn't like eating it in the playoffs either.

One of the primary reasons that I remain a strong supporter of the Falcons is because they unite a community of family and friends behind a common cause. All of us are cautiously optimistic at the beginning of the season or a game and then we swoon or sigh as a unit.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep focused on a game due to the volume of texts I receive and attempt to respond to during the action. But, it’s also one of my favorite parts of the fan experience.

Here are some of the noteworthy texts (as well as a couple Facebook posts) that I received toward the end of this weekend’s disastrous showing against the New York Football Giants. (Technology-enabled group therapy for birds of a particularly disappointing feather.)

“Equal blame to everyone. Including myself, thinking the falcons could win”

“Props to mocking the dirty birds dance.”

“Offense blew this game. Smitty is an amateur.”

“Why did I let you talk me into watching?”

“At least this will probably seal the fate of mularky.” [Editor’s note: Mularkey wasn’t fired, but rather hired by Jacksonville. Enjoy him, neighbors to the south!”]

“Hold a team to 17 points and we still get embarrassed.” [Ed. note: The Falcons would end up giving up another seven points.]

“We haven’t scored on offense. This is unreal”

via Facebook: “Being a Falcons fan is sorta like waiting for R.E.M. to write another good album.” [Ed. Note: This was by far my favorite comment.]

“I know that there is still time, but Baker hasn’t given up a sack! This is not worse than last year yet only because it is a road game, but its close to surpassing it”

“We’ve quit guys. It’s very embarrassing for our offense. Oh how cute. A reverse on kickoff return”

“At least I don’t have to set aside time next Sunday. Poor tony Gonzalez”

“Tebow is the only football thing I have left to root for now”

“If tebow has a playoff win before Ryan I may have to de-commit from the falcons.” [Ed. note: Tebow would, in fact, notch a playoff victory before Ryan, and in his first try to boot.]

“Heads better roll after this game”

“this is atrocious. I hope Arthur doesn’t stand for this. Smitty looked like he was holding back tears once he realized game was over. str8 embrrassing” [Ed. note: Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he was “angry” with the way his team played.]

“…and for the 153rd time in 154 tries, Atlanta’s franchise in one of the four major sports has to turn its hopes to next season. (must be the fans’ fault.) definitely feeling like a potential falcons’s window for a super bowl closed when matt ryan threw the pick six at the end of the first half of the packer game last january. today was just pathetic.”

“Fans come when you have winning seasons and then they instill this fierce loyalty in their children that carries over generations. Atlanta has a century to go for that process to complete. It’s a good time to start that process.” [Ed. note: This sagacious comment was courtesy of my mom.]


Ryan’s Third Time Is no Charm

"How many chances will I need before I win a playoff game? This many!" Matt Ryan in the midst of taking his third playoff strike.

I’m too afraid to tally the number of hours I spent reading ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, listening to NFL-related podcasts, talking heads on TV shows, and former players in online videos; and vacillating between actually going to the Meadowlands in advance of this weekend’s Falcons-Giants game.

I didn’t end up going. That ranks as one of the best decisions of my three decade-plus lifetime. I didn’t show up at Met Life Stadium. Neither did the Falcons offense.

If you spend too much time listening to chit-chat on the NFL network, you have likely noted two main criticisms of the 2011 Falcons: One was that the offense hadn’t settled on its identity between a power running game and the second coming of “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The other was that the defense, while posting more than respectable stats (especially in the second half of the season), was somehow suspect.

I take issue with the latter, which I think was perfectly illustrated by the playoff game. The defense, for my money, played pretty well—lights out, in fact, for a good portion of the afternoon. But, the offense kept sending them back out on the field after just a few plays. The Giants have a lot of weapons. They weren’t going to stay quiet all day. If the offense had come out and established anything resembling a rhythm

The first critique, however, seems totally on point. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey never seemed to figure out the individual talents of the many weapons they had in their point-scoring arsenal. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. Sunday was one of the best examples:

Matt Ryan: He can manage a game. He is intelligent. They say he can’t throw deep, but he seems to do it so infrequently, who really knows whether he can or not? Here’s what he can’t do: extend plays. When the pocket breaks down, Ryan sometimes ventures toward the sidelines, but, either as a result of his wideouts not coming back to the QB or just because he doesn’t throw well or have great field vision while on the run, those plays rarely result in decent yardage gains. Basically, that means, if you want to win games with Matt Ryan throwing 30 times or more a game, he needs to have a nonporous offensive line.

Michael Turner: A power runner. A tubby load. He can’t cut. He barrels forward. He needs to get the legs going before he can be effective. If he encounters a lot of resistance at or behind the line of scrimmage, he ain’t going very far (most of the time). Not ideal in very short yardage situations.

Jason Snelling: Runs with verve and gets his knees up high. Always seems to get a yard or two more than you think, a la the Saints’ Christopher Ivory. Seems like an ideal short yardage back and was solid catching the ball out of the backfield.

Jacquizz Rodgers: I have to admit, I was so much more excited about the Falcons drafting this lil’ spark plug relative to the Julio Jones pick. I see him as a Darren Sproles-type player whose potential is off the charts. But, we didn’t seem to ever use him unless a play had broken into a million pieces. Or we tried to run him in more traditional situations. I can only hope his development was affected by the lockout.

Roddy White: More like Droppy White this year. Roddy had an amazing season last year. This year, his proclamation that the Falcons offense would be the new “Greatest Show on Turf” was second only to Vince Young’s “Dream Team” utterance in terms of its foolishness. Roddy is perfect for out routes and that curl he likes from the slot.

Tony Gonzalez: Big end zone target. Ideal possession receiver for getting between five and 10 yards. Other than Roddy, when he wasn’t being Droppy, Gonzo was the only largely properly utilized part of the Falcons weaponry.

Harry Douglas: The Falcons forgotten man. Some pundits early on said that he would benefit the most from the addition of Julio Jones. He did. For one game, against the Saints in Week 10. He got open multiple times over the middle in the Saints soft zone as the Falcons clawed back and forced that game into overtime. Then he went AWOL. Why not use him as a Welker-type slot receiver? Why not have Roddy run the curl that every DB that plays us looks for, while sending Julio across the middle, and then bombing to Harry deep? Sound too much like Madden? Take a look at the Saints. The Pack. The Pats. The Lions.

Julio Jones: There were times that I thought the Jones pick was more trouble than he was worth. But, if the Falcons keep him beyond his initial contract, I think he’s going to be one of the league’s premier receivers, so I’m ultimately glad he’s around. That said, Mularkey seemed to call plays as though it was he who was responsible for justifying the kid’s existence on the squad. Matty seemed to force throws to him or in his direction when there were plenty of other options, including running the ball.

Frankly, there’s something to the fact that the Falcons only win against a playoff team came when Jones was injured. That’s not to say Jones couldn’t have been better integrated into the offense. It just seemed that Mularkey didn’t know how to create a good mix of run and pass. It seemed like, at times, he was consciously trying to get people touches, spread the ball. But, if there’s anything one notices when watching the Saints or the Pack, the NFC’s two vaunted offenses, they (and their quarterbacks) don’t seem to care who is at the end of their passes or which back is carrying the rock.

That’s an issue of team identity—suppressing individual egos and stressing whatever serves the team is best. That’s taught from the top down. That’s on the coaches—Mularkey, among them.