morten-andersen

Assessing Morten Andersen’s Candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Steve Cohen (@SteveInBrooklyn)

The Atlanta Falcons have sadly not had very many Hall of Famers on their roster throughout the team’s history. In fact, the Falcons went their first 30 years of existence without having a Falcon player enter the Hall of Fame. The dam was finally broken with players like Tommy McDonald and Eric Dickerson, but that did little to satisfy Falcon diehards, as their respective single seasons as Atlanta Falcons were not especially memorable.

With that backdrop, on a relative basis, the last five years have been a major breakthrough for the Falcons with regard to the Hall of Fame. Deion Sanders was a first-ballot inductee in 2011 to no one’s surprise. The following year, Chris Doleman – whose Falcons June Jones-era career was brief, but fairly impactful – brought his pass-rushing prowess into the Hall. And in 2014, the Senior Committee finally ended Claude Humphrey’s extended wait, so the football historians cheered while millennial casual football fans shrugged.

With all of that recent momentum, we’ll keep that wave going for at least one more year in 2016. Yes, Falcons could’ve-been-great Brett Favre will join Tommy McDonald and Eric Dickerson as Pro Football Hall of Fame “FINOs” (Falcons In Name Only). Falcon fans can celebrate this achievement by drowning in their sorrows, wondering what could have been if only Ron Wolf were not such a smarter general manager than Ken Herock. And if only Jerry Glanville could have realized that maybe, just maybe, that Favre kid had more upside than Billy Joe Tolliver and might be able to string together more than four starts in a row, unlike then-starting quarterback/injury-magnet Chris Miller. But alas.

Moving on from Brett Favre-related regrets, one other Hall of Fame finalist warrants discussion, and unlike Favre, most Falcons fans have fond memories of him in a Falcons uniform. That man is the great Danish legend with the left leg of steel, Morten Andersen.

Morten Andersen’s Background

This is Andersen’s fourth year of Hall of Fame eligibility and third time as a Hall of Fame finalist. From an outsider perspective—taking into account that no one ever knows what the 46-member NFL writer Selection Committee will decide to do once they all get together in one room—he would appear to have a more-likely-than-not chance of eventually making it in. Clearly, the Selection Committee considers him a worthy candidate for strong consideration, as well it should.

Morten is the all-time NFL points leader at 2,544 points, ahead of his nearest competitor (his near-namesake Gary Anderson) by more than 100 points, he played 25 seasons (i.e., he averaged more than 100 points per season played), he made the All-1980s and All-1990s NFL teams, he was a three-time First-team All Pro, and he was named to the Pro Bowl seven times. His career includes 13 seasons with the Saints, eight seasons with the Falcons, as well as some brief stays with the Giants, Chiefs, and Vikings.

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Falcons kicker Morten Andersen (NFL)

In addition to reaching the highest heights among his generational peers, his longevity was something to behold. He played until age 47, which is essentially unheard of. The oldest active NFL player right now is 43-year old Adam Vinatieri, and there were a mere four active players age 40 or older during the 2015 season (Vinatieri, Phil Dawson, current Falcons kicking extraordinaire Matt Bryant, and Matthew Hasselbeck). The fact that Andersen had the strongest kicking leg in the league during his 1980s prime meant that he still had enough leg strength to be serviceable into the mid-’00s.

When compared to current active NFL kickers, Andersen currently maintains a 291-point lead ahead of 43-year old Adam Vinatieri (who currently sits in 3rd place on the scoring list behind Morten and Gary Anderson) and a 869-point lead over 37-year old Sebastain Janikowski. So it’s quite possible that Morten will hold the NFL all-time points record for at least another decade, at least before relative young guns Stephen Gostkowski, Robbie Gould, and Mason Crosby start pulling up somewhere in the rear-view mirror.

As a Falcons fan, it’s easy to have a soft spot for Morten Andersen. The guy secured the Falcons’ lone Super Bowl bid on a day during which his generationally great kicking counterpart Gary Anderson famously fell embarrassingly flat in the clutch department.  And after his fine six-year Falcons run from 1995-2000, Morten returned to the Falcons six years later in 2006—at age 46—after the Michael Koenen-at-kicker experiment came to a screeching halt. Oh, and for good measure, he heroically salvaged the Falcons’ kicking game once again in 2007 when a then-boyish Matt Prater, um, cratered after two games.  For good measure, Morten’s kicking percentages in 2006-2007 were among the best of his career (~88%)! There was truly a lot to like about Morten as a Falcon.

But now that the superlatives are out of the way, it’s worth sizing up Morten Andersen against (1) his 2016 Hall of Fame competition; and (2) his kicking peers. As shown from the discussion below, I think notwithstanding his truly impressive career, he should not be an inductee in 2016.

The 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class Is a Very Strong Class Filled With More Historically-Significant Figures than Morten Andersen.

When I think of Pro Football Hall of Fame worthiness, I usually try to weigh how historically significant an NFL player/coach/executive’s career was. An exercise that I find useful for evaluating potential Hall of Famers is asking: If you were sitting down with someone for an extended period of time and had to give them an oral history of pro football, whose name belongs in that discussion and whose name is skipped over?  Statistics, All-Pro appearances, and playoff/Super Bowl performances are obviously important factors as well for determining whether an individual has a Hall of Fame-worthy resume. But a Hall of Fame induction is essentially equivalent to immortalizing a football player/personality. Anyone who walks into Canton for the next hundred years will see that person’s bust and immediately regard him as a god among men. So the question, at least in my mind, is who warrants that status? Who are the true legends?

Of the current list of finalists, there are definitely some standouts:

  • Brett Favre. Notwithstanding the fact that Aaron Rodgers has in some ways surpassed Favre, it’s impossible to question the significance Favre had to NFL quarterbacking, the preponderance of the West Coast offense, risk-taking, and playing through injury. An obvious selection.

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    Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (Official Brett Favre)

  • Terrell Owens. Another historically-excellent player who—despite all of the WR talent that has emerged in the last two dozen years—will be remembered as an ultimate gamer, including for playing through injury in the Eagles’ Super Bowl.
  • Kurt Warner. His stockboy-to-Super Bowl MVP story is the stuff of legend and is one of those quintessentially American tales that professional sports brings from time to time. Although his tenure as an elite QB was relatively brief as far as NFL quarterbacking goes, three Super Bowl appearances and his status as the show runner of the Greatest Show on Turf means that his historic permanence is assured.
  • Tony Dungy. There are coaches with better win/loss resumes, but the consistency with which his teams played and his persona will never be forgotten. Thanks to Dungy, never again will an NFL owner ask himself “Can an African-American head coach win my team a Super Bowl?” Dungy has already served as a direct or indirect inspiration to countless African-American coaches. And his unique-at-the-time, level-headed, non-rah-rah style led to a coaching philosophy and approach to which many aspire.
  • Don Coryell.  Given the number of football historians on the Hall of Fame committee, it’s amazing that Coryell hasn’t already been inducted. The guy was a true innovator in the passing game.  When I grew up watching football in the ’90s, commentators so revered the “Air Coryell” style offense that you would have thought Coryell had been in the Hall of Fame for years.
  • Ken Stabler (Senior Committee). He played before my time, but he certainly stacks up well in the historically-significant department. Most people who watched football in the 1970s probably assume Stabler is already a Hall-of-Famer.
  • Dick Stanfel (Senior Committee). While we’re on guys who were before my time, my parents were children back when Stanfel played. Nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say he’s a “legend” and probably the main thing that’s kept him from enshrinement is the fact that he only played seven seasons.
  • Terrell Davis. He’d be a no-brainer if not for the fact that his career was relatively brief. But how do you tell the story of the two-time Super Bowl champion, late-90s Denver Broncos without including this guy? For three consecutive NFL seasons, he was the best in the league at what he did and helped his team win two Super Bowls during that span. What more could he have done? His resume is simply fancy yellow jacket-worthy.
  • Orlando Pace. Based on Mike Martz’s eventual struggles guiding offenses, it became clear that the Martz offense was highly reliant upon a top-notch offensive line. So give Pace credit for the Greatest Show on Earth, even though he’s not the first or second or even third name that comes to mind from that offense. He wasn’t the best left tackle of his generation, but he wasn’t far off from that either.
  • Alan Faneca. He played on numerous successful Steelers teams known for their smash-mouth style, and he was the smash-mouthiest of them all. (Insert All-Star joke.) He was a six-time All-Pro, arguably the best offensive player on the 2005 Super Bowl-winning Steelers team, and arguably the best offensive guard of the ’00s.  On a relative basis, not many offensive guards are considered NFL legends, but Faneca deserves to be among them.
  • Marvin Harrison. Here’s a case where the numbers argument may be stronger than the historic significance argument. There’s no other way to slice it: Harrison put up absolutely insane receiving yardage numbers. In any event, being the primary WR target of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time makes Harrison pretty darn historically significant in my book.
  • Kevin Greene. Sure, I suppose if you really wanted to, you could leave Kevin Greene out of your story of football history. But why would you want to? He was a consistent double-digit sack threat and made every defense he joined much better. Even towards the tail-end of his career, he was out there sacking quarterbacks for the newly-formed Carolina Panthers on the way to a NFC Championship game run.
  • Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. (Contributor). There are probably many individuals who you could identify from the 49ers teams as “legends” before you’d get to DeBartolo. Does being smart enough to hire Bill Walsh make you a legend? Probably, right? Football historians will certainly make that argument for Bob Kraft, so the same logic should apply to DeBartolo.

So in addition to the two Seniors Committee finalists and the Contributor finalist, that means 10 of the 15 modern-era finalists are truly historically significant in my book. But there are only five induction spots open to modern-era finalists.

Which takes us to Morten Andersen. Now, certainly, if you were reciting the oral history of the Atlanta Falcons or the New Orleans Saints, Morten Andersen’s name would be featured. But in the oral history of the NFL? It’s possible, I guess, if you felt the need to talk about the all-time points leader, or felt the need to digress into kicking awesomeness of the 1980s, or wanted to accentuate how the Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl during the 1998 NFL season.

But I don’t think Morten is as significant a figure in NFL history as Jan Stenerud, who is the only kicker currently enshrined, was a Super Bowl winner, the best kicker of his generation, an originator of soccer-style kicking, and among the first dedicated kickers (one could argue the other side of that argument though, based on longevity, leg strength, and accuracy). Morten is certainly not as historically significant a figure as Adam Vinatieri, who made numerous, legendarily clutch Super Bowl-winning kicks and whose winning playoff kick against the Raiders in the snow during the tuck rule game will be featured in replays forever (and is a crucial moment in the Patriots/Brady/Belichick dynasty narrative).

So I think Morten’s a borderline case, similar to the four other modern-era finalists I did not mention above (Steve Atwater, Edgerrin James, Joe Jacoby, and John Lynch). Given the fact that there are ten modern-era finalists who had more historically significant careers, and only five modern-era players can be inducted, I unfortunately don’t think there is space for Morten in the Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

This leads me to one other concern I have with Andersen’s candidacy.

Andersen’s accuracy is unimpressive by historical standards, especially when considering the kicker generations that have followed.

Although Morten is number one on the NFL all-time scoring list (and number one in our hearts), he checks in at a lowly 48th on the current field goal percentage list for all kickers who have kicked at least 100 attempts in their career. His career 79.69% kicking percentage, while decent in the 1980s, would quite possibly get him fired in the 2000s and 2010s. Vinatieri, meanwhile, sits at 84% and ten players have an 85%+ rate.

Perhaps his accuracy is artificially low because the Saints had him attempt a large number of long kicks because of faith in his awesome leg? It’s possible, but that doesn’t seem to necessarily hold up when reviewing the stats. In most of those years with the Saints, Morten was attempting four or so kicks from beyond 50 yards. While that’s more than Gary Anderson was attempting at the time, another 1980’s peer, Nick Lowery, was in that ballpark. Even so, if you remove, say 10-15 kicks on account of the fact that the Saints were gambling on his leg (which would be a dubious approach, but just for argument’s sake), that doesn’t move the needle very much (1-2%) for someone who attempted 709 field goals in his career. And, in general, his accuracy from 40+ from the 1980s through mid-1990s just doesn’t hold up against more recent kicking talent. In fairness to Morten, though, it’s worth noting that Hall-of-Fame kicker Jan Stanerud is all the way back on the list at 97th, with a 66.846% accuracy rate.

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HOF Kicker Jan Stanerud (CSA Shows)

When we compare quarterbacks and wide receivers from earlier eras to today, it’s an easy argument to make that game rules have changed to make offenses more passing-friendly, and thus it makes sense that quarterbacks and receivers be compared against players of their own era. That’s a somewhat harder argument to make for kickers. Have kicking techniques improved? Has more control over K-balls and ball inflation led to inflation of kicker performance over time? Are special teams coaches better at getting the most out of kickers these days? Are sports psychologists playing more of a role? Is the prospect of earning millions as an NFL kicker luring more talent to the game now than was the case 30 years ago?

If I were ready to induct Morten Andersen into the Hall of Fame, I’d be curious to hear answers to these types of questions. Because once Morten gets inducted, suddenly the diehard fans of Matt Stover, Ryan Longwell, Jason Hanson, and Jon Kasay will have a hook to argue “Hey, why not us?” since their kicking resume stacks up fairly well accuracy-wise against Morten’s (although none of those guys quite lasted until age 47). And the list will get longer as the current stable of kickers like Gostkowski and Gould continue their careers.

Other points worth mentioning regarding Andersen’s career and candidacy

The fact that the Falcons have had great kickers over the last 25 years can lead a Falcons fan like myself to under-appreciate Andersen. He’s arguably the 3rd-best kicker for the Falcons during that 25-year timeframe behind Matt Bryant and Norm Johnson, who was more consistent and accurate in the early 90s than Andersen was in later years. With that being said, Morten didn’t join the Falcons until he was 35 years old, meaning he was already past his kicking prime when he arrived in Atlanta. He put together an outstanding 13-year NFL kicking resume before he was a Falcon and was generally regarded as the best at what he did during that era. That should not be overlooked.

One other footnote that longtime Falcons fans may remember is that Andersen had a memorable missed chip-shot game-losing 30-yard field goal attempt in 1996 week 17 vs. the Jaguars, which had the effect of sending the Jaguars to the playoffs, in which they ultimately made it to the AFC Championship game. While this was certainly a low-point in Andersen’s career, a missed potential game-winning kick for a three-win Falcons team doesn’t seem like something that moves the needle much when you’re dealing with a 25-year playing career like Andersen’s. I have a hard time imagining that a committee member would decide the tipping point of whether Andersen is a Hall-of-Famer or not is one missed kick during a lost season.

Andersen has a good selling-point right now for his Hall worthiness in that he’s the all-time points leader. There might not be as much of a push to get him in the Hall of Fame if he falls to second or third, so in that sense, it’s good that the committee has already opened the window wide open for him by repeatedly nominating him as a finalist. Hopefully for his sake, neither Vinatieri or Janikowski catch up to him just yet.

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We’ll find out later today if the committee decides to reward Andersen for an outstanding career. Personally, I put Andersen in the awesome-player-but-not-historical-NFL-figure category. But I think in a later year with lesser competition, there will likely be an opening for Andersen to be enshrined.  And if there’s anything we know from a quarter-century of Morten Andersen, it’s that the guy can hit an opening from long range.

In any event, it’s safe to say that he’s put his best (titanium) foot forward, now it’s in the NFL writers’ hands to decide.

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Post Senior Bowl Atlanta Falcons Seven-Round Mock Draft

By Griffin Houlihan (@GriffinHoulihan)

With the 2015 Falcons’ season coming to an end, it is time for the team to start addressing some of their roster needs. The Falcons may be able to address some of their needs in free agency, but it is hard to lure any big-name pending free agents from their current teams without over paying or having to do some serious roster remodeling. The Falcons have a great core group of guys on both sides of the ball, and the cheapest and most logical way to improve this team is through the draft.

The defense vastly improved in their first year under Coach Quinn and have a few of the building blocks needed to begin building a top-tier defense. Vic Beasley and Desmond Trufant are two of the bright spots for the Falcons’ defense, as they are both young players who excelled at various times this season for the Falcons.

The offense was great at times, but due to turnover trouble and the installation of a new offensive scheme, the Falcons had quite their share of growing pains. With Pro Bowl players such as Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, the Falcons have pieces in place to have a potent offense for years to come. That is if they can keep their $100 million dollar QB Matt Ryan upright. Matt Ryan has showed the ability to carve up defenses if given the time.

One of the key focuses for the Falcons this offseason should be adding players on both lines of scrimmage who can contribute immediately. In this article, I will give my full seven-round mock of who the Falcons should target in this year’s draft. Let’s get started!

Round 1, Pick 17: Reggie Ragland, Inside Linebacker, Alabama

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Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland (rolltide.com)

This one, to me, is a no brainer. I know that I said the Falcons need to address both sides of the line of scrimmage, but anytime you can get the leading tackler off arguably the best defensive team in college football, you don’t pass on the opportunity. Ragland has the ability to step in right away and contribute. He has a high football IQ and is a proven leader. If Ragland is there at 17, the Falcons have to pull the trigger. If the player the Falcons are targeting at pick 17 is not there, they should consider trading back in the first round and adding a few picks for later in the draft.

Round 2, Pick 50: Ryan Kelly, Center, Alabama

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Alabama Center Ryan Kelly (Tide 991)

Center was a glaring weakness this year for the Falcons, and it is time to draft a player who can shore up the middle of the line for years to come. Kelly was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide and won the “Rimington Award”, which is given to the top collegiate center in the country. At 6-5 and 300 plus pounds, Kelly has the ability to step in on day one and be the starting center. He has a commanding presence about him, and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry said he was “the heart and soul of the offense.” Kelly is just the type of player the Falcons need. Taking the leaders on both the offense and defense from this past year’s College Football National Champion is a good start in the first two rounds of the draft.

Round 3, Pick 81: Carl Nassib, DE/OLB, Penn State

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Penn State EDGE Carl Nassib (ESPN)

In round three, the Falcons add pass-rush specialist Carl Nassib out of Penn State. Nassib would look great on the opposite side of the defensive line from Vic Beasley, and would give the Falcons two young edge rushers for years to come. Nassib showed the versatility to play both OLB and put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end. With 15.5 sacks this past season for Penn State, Nassib would provide an obvious boost to the less-then-stellar Falcons pass rush which only tallied 19 total sacks in the 2015—good enough for dead last in the league. A former walk on at Penn State, Nassib has consistently shown the dedication and commitment to developing his craft. Former college coach and current Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said his effort in practice and in film study was unmatched. Nassib could be a steal at pick #81.

Round 4, Pick 116: Keanu Neal, Safety, Florida

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Florida Safety Keanu Neal (GatorCountry)

Safety has been one of the most frustrating parts of the Falcons’ defense over the past few seasons, with injuries and inconsistent play leaving holes in the back end of the secondary. Keanu Neal is a great fit for the type of defense Dan Quinn likes to run. He is a physical player and has shown the ability to play in the box and help with run support, similar to what Kam Chancellor did for Quinn’s defense in Seattle. Neal may need time to develop, but he could contribute on special teams right away while learning.

Round 5 Pick: Lost due to “noise gate.”

Round 6 Pick: Traded to the Tennessee Titans as part of the deal to acquire Andy Levitre.

Round 7, Pick 236: Jay Lee, WR, Baylor

NCAA Football: Baylor at Buffalo

Baylor WR Jay Lee (USA Today)

Jay Lee is a very intriguing pick in the seventh round for the Falcons. He has the ideal frame for an NFL wide receiver at 6-3 and 220 pounds. Lee turned in a good season for Baylor, chalking up close to 800 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, but many scouts believe that Lee’s numbers may have been inflated due to the high-flying Baylor offense. Lee has a unique blend of size and athleticism that is worth taking a chance on in the final round. The Falcons will need to add depth at receiver after releasing Leonard Hankerson, as well as age becoming a concern with veterans Roddy White and Devin Hester.

It is extremely important for the Falcons to draft well this year with only having five picks in the draft. This draft will be the second under Dan Quinn, and adding more depth to the positions of need while adding some pieces in free agency will go a long way in shaping the roster into a championship caliber team. Remember, building a solid roster is a process and takes time, but landing these players would be a great start.

Rise Up!

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Falcons Lose Season Finale, What’s Next?

By: Gabriele Watts

Well Falcons fans, we have finally reached the end of the season. The good news: the season is over. The bad news: again, the season is over. As a Falcons fan myself, I would have loved for the Falcons to make the playoffs. However, with the up and down season that we had, it is a welcomed relief that we have quite possibly been saved from more potential embarrassment.

To be quite honest, despite our 5-0 start, this team wasn’t quite ready for the playoffs just yet. With a new coach and new coordinators, it takes awhile for a team to gel, and there will be growing pains—hence the ensuing six-game losing streak that had fans losing their minds. Despite how emotional this season was, there is hope that this team will get better, much better.

First, the Falcons need to upgrade their defensive rotation, especially at linebacker (calling Bruce Irvin)! If the Falcons can at least do that, the defense will be a lot better in 2016. We saw glimpses of how good this defense can be under Dan Quinn, but there was only so much he could do with mediocre starters. The additions of rookies Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett helped but proved to be not enough. The free-agency class didn’t provide much help, either. However, I believe that with more help through the draft and free agency, this defense could be a force next season.

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Vic Beasley’s development will be key in 2016. (photo: atlantafalcons.com)

On offense, a glaring need is the interior offensive line. While Matt Ryan has indeed had his struggles this season, a part of those struggles can be blamed on this line. Mike Person, in particular, didn’t have a great season. Bad snaps and not being able to block well consistently led to, what many believe, at least 2 or 3 losses. Andy Levitre—acquired a week before the season started—was good for the most part, but was called for way too many penalties. Chris Chester, the right guard, looks like father time might be catching up to him. To me, he has been solid for the most part, but an upgrade wouldn’t hurt.

Lastly, the Falcons could use another wide receiver to complement the greatness of Julio Jones. Roddy White was that compliment for awhile but he is entering the final years of his career. Justin Hardy has looked like a good draft choice, but he may not be the type of receiver that can be a true number two. An upgrade in the draft—perhaps a Laquon Treadwell—would prove to be helpful, however.

Despite all these possible improvements, improvements from within would also be extremely helpful going into next season, starting with Matt Ryan. Again, this season might have been his worst yet and that showed yesterday with another ill-advised interception that cost the Falcons the game. Ryan will likely think about that pick for the entire offseason, as he should. Hopefully that will add the necessary fuel to his fire to return to the top ranks of quarterbacks in this league. Hopefully the rest of the team can follow his lead.

Johnathan Babineaux said that he believes that Dan Quinn is the coach that will take the Falcons to the Super Bowl. This next season will go a long way to telling whether those words are true.

It’s been a pleasure writing for you this season Falcons fans! Hopefully we will be talking about a trip to the playoffs next season! As always, Rise Up!

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Can the Falcons Make the Playoffs?

By: Gabriele Watts

To many, this question really is irrelevant. Before last Sunday’s 23-17 win over the Jaguars, the Falcons were in the midst of a six game losing streak. The only thing fans were looking forward to was next year’s NFL draft, and maybe pricing of the seats for the new stadium to be completed in 2017.

However, mathematically, there is still a chance for the Falcons to reach the 2016 playoffs. Though quite slim, it’s a chance nonetheless. The Falcons would have to win this Sunday against the undefeated Panthers and against the Saints the following Sunday. Easy enough right? And to make it even better, both of these games will be at home in the Georgia Dome.

But, here’s the catch: the Seattle Seahawks OR the Minnesota Vikings would have to lose their final two games as well. With Minnesota, this seems like a real possibility. They play the Giants at home and then they are at the Packers for the final game of the season.

The team I am worried about is the Seahawks. Currently, Russell Wilson is playing out of his mind and has his teammates playing accordingly. They play the Rams this Sunday at home, and to me, it would take a miracle from the football gods for them to lose that game. However, anything is possible and the only thing the Falcons can do right now is take care of their own business and defeat Carolina on Sunday. Here are a few reasons why I think they can win:

They are at home

Given the way that the Falcons lost to the Panthers last time around, one would have to believe that it left a bad taste in the Falcons’ mouth as well as the mouths of their fans. A loss like that is one everybody always remembers. Hopefully, come Sunday, this will factor into how the fans respond to the Falcons’ play on the field. Hopefully this will give the Falcons the “juice” they need to pull out a win.

Sweet Revenge

While Dan Quinn says that he doesn’t really allow outside noise to motivate his team on game days, one would have to think that this is a special case. Despite the 38-0 beat down that the Panthers put on us last time, they also added a little extra motivation. With 2 minutes to go in the game, some of the Panthers’ offensive players (Cam Newton included) could be seen taking a team photo on the sideline. Now, a lot of people saw this as just a team having fun and enjoying the moment. Others, like me, saw this as blatant disrespect. Hopefully the Falcons use this as motivation and as the so-called “bulletin-board material” for Sunday.

Salvage the Season

Even if the Falcons’ chances of making the playoffs are very slim, they should look to at least finish the season with a winning record, and that can start on Sunday with a win. Getting this win against the Panthers will not only make the fans feel good, but it will say a lot about the team going into 2016. If nothing else, the Falcons should show their head coach that the message he has tried to convey this entire season has hit home, and that is to “finish”. Finish this season on a high note, let your coach know that you appreciate what he has done so far, and most importantly, let your fans know that 2016 can and will be much better.

On that note, for me personally, I can’t wait until Sunday. I have a feeling that we are in for a real slugfest with the Falcons hopefully coming out on top.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Falcons Fans!

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Falcons Drop Third Game In a Row to Luck-less Colts

By: Gabriele Watts

We all thought that the bye week was what the Falcons needed. A chance to rest, recuperate, recharge, and refocus on getting to the playoffs. For a while in the game, that seemed to be just what the Falcons did. The whole team looked reenergized and determined to prove their doubters wrong, as they took an early 14-0 lead.

Unfortunately, as the game wore on, the Falcons’ past problems reared their ugly heads once again. Marred by turnovers and bone-headed penalties, the Falcons once again served a game up on a silver platter and lost, 24-21.

Off to a hot start

The Falcons came out firing on all cylinders. Even though they didn’t get the ball first, they intercepted the football on the first pass of the day from 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, courtesy of Paul Worrilow. Even though Matt Bryant missed the ensuing field goal attempt, the Falcons got the ball right back by way of a fumble recovery, again, courtesy of Paul Worrilow.

Then, the offense started to click. Matt Ryan started to hit his receivers (Roddy White included) and Devonta Freeman seemed back to his old self, ripping off a 39-yard run to end up deep in Colts territory (he had to leave the game two plays later because of a diagnosed concussion). However, again, something happened that gave you a sense that the game might not go as expected—a turnover in the end zone. Matt Ryan, again, through an errant pass that was tipped and eventually intercepted by former-Falcon Dwight Lowery.

The Falcons eventually got on the board, jumping out to a 21-7 lead that included the first two of Patrick DiMarco’s touchdowns this year. However, even that proved to be not enough to leave with a W.

Matt Ryan’s struggles continue

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After Devonta Freeman left the game, and even though it didn’t show right away, the Falcon’s offense eventually started to struggle. The injury seemed to knock them out of rhythm, even though Coach Quinn said that they stuck to the game plan throughout. Matt Ryan, proving to be so reliable in the past, did not help the Falcons cause drive-killing errant passes. The offensive line did not play a flawless game, but it probably was good enough to get them this win if given the opportunity.

The running game was non-existent after Freeman left. Newly drafted Falcons’ RB Tevin Coleman didn’t get anything going. He also turned the ball over at the end of the third quarter in Colts’ territory. Even though it didn’t lead to any points, (Hasselbeck was again intercepted by Ricardo Allen) it further gave the Colts momentum that the Falcons sorely needed to finish the game.

In my opinion and to my surprise, what lost us the game was the play of Matt Ryan. Up 21-14 after the Falcons got the ball back after the fumble by Coleman, Ryan threw a horrible interception to D’Qwell Jackson that allowed him to walk right into the end zone and tie the game at 21 all. He claimed he didn’t see Jackson at the line of scrimmage, but still, in that situation, with the Falcons at their own one-yard line, it would have made sense to just run the ball to give them some room to breathe.

Since it was the fourth quarter, there still was a sense of optimism, because Matt Ryan, over his career, had shown that the 4th quarter was where he felt the most comfortable, hence his nickname, “Matty Ice”. However, instead of hearing the usual cheers down the stretch, Matt Ryan was serenaded by boos, and rightfully so. Even though football is a team sport where everyone shares parts of the blame in a loss, one can’t help but feel that if it wasn’t for Ryan making some of the plays that he did in favor of the other team, the Falcons could have walked away with a victory.

The Falcons take another L, with a W nowhere in sight

To be honest, the Falcons really needed to win this game. If they had, they would have moved to 7-3 with a healthy lead in the wild card race, as well as kept pace with the division-leading Panthers. Unfortunately, with the loss the Falcons’ free fall continues and the division is all but wrapped up for Carolina. At this point, the Falcons are only playing for a Wild Card spot, and even that at this point in time, seems bleak.

This loss felt like rock bottom, and as the saying goes, “there is nowhere else to go but up from here”. The Falcons are 6-4 and face a very good Vikings team that was humiliated by the Packers last Sunday. This game will be a must-win. The Falcons have got to find a way to pull this one out because the Seahawks and the Buccaneers, yes the Buccaneers, are breathing down their necks to take over the final wild card spot at 5-5. If they don’t win, they will most likely be on the outside looking in, still with two games left against the undefeated Panthers. If there was ever a time to “rise up”, it must be now.

Final Notes

  • Devonta Freeman left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. He will not play against Minnesota.
  • The Falcons play the Minnesota Vikings (7-3) Sunday at home. Losing four in a row could crush any confidence this team has left.
Wheeler kills Gabbert

Falcons Don’t Show Up in 16-17 Loss to Hapless 49ers

By: Gabriele Watts

The Falcons are a complete mess right now. Once again, the Falcons were done in by their own mistakes, which ultimately cost them a game for the third time in four weeks. Perhaps a little rest to clear the mind and heal up is what is needed—the upcoming bye week could not have come at a better time. It would have been good to go into the bye week on a good note—with a win—but here we are, staring another loss in the face.

For the past couple of weeks, the Falcons have been plagued by turnovers and penalties. Despite saying many times that things will be cleaned up, those words have yet to be translated onto the field.

The Falcons appeared to show something more than what has been their Achilles’ heel lately (turnovers), a seeming lack of effort. The defense, the offense, and even the coaching staff showed no desire to take what they came for, a win. Matt Ryan was uncharacteristically over-throwing his targets. The defense, albeit riddled with injuries, was missing open-field tackles—not to mention letting a forgotten quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, resemble a Hall-of-Famer. The coaching staff, the ones that preach “finishing” a game the right way, became conservative and allowed the 49ers to get the ball back with a chance to run out the clock—which they did. This of course was made much easier when including the badly-challenged play that cost the Falcons a timeout earlier in the half.

The bottom line is, the Falcons seem to have lost their sense of hunger. At the beginning of the season, they were hungry to prove to everyone that their way of playing the game had changed, and it showed with them starting 5-0. Ever since then, it has looked like they, as a team, feel entitled. Entitled to win games that could easily be lost, which has proven to be the case. That sense of entitlement has cost them games and has made the Falcons look how they have looked for the past two years, pathetic.

I have no individual stars this week, as they all need to take a good hard look in the mirror and figure out who they want to be as a team. If the team comes out of the bye with the same underdog mentality they had at the beginning of the season, then they can put themselves in a favorable playoff spot come January. If not, then they will most likely miss the playoffs altogether.

Final Notes

    • Safety Robenson Therezie left the game and did not return due to a hamstring injury.
    •  DE Tyson Jackson left the game with a rib contusion.
    • The Falcons (6-3) next play the Indianapolis Colts (4-5) on Sunday, November 22nd, at 1:00 PM in the Georgia Dome.

Hopefully all who have been injured can come back from the bye week fully healthy and we can get on a roll again! Rise Up!

Julio Jones

Falcons Survive Another Mediocre Outing, Outlast Titans 10-7

By: Gabriele Watts

After 10 days of rest, the Atlanta Falcons came into this week fully healthy—not one single player was listed as questionable on the injury report. One would think that since this was the case, coupled  with the fact that the Titans were without their number-one overall pick at quarterback, a win wouldn’t have been hard to come by. Unfortunately, this would prove to not be the case, as the Falcons had to once again fight ’til the end to secure the win.

Offensive Struggles Continue, but “Defense wins Championships”

For the past couple of weeks, turnovers and other costly mistakes have haunted the Falcons. Going into their mini “bye-week”, the Falcons assuredly thought that they could put an end to those miscues against the Titans. Again, unfortunately, this would prove to not be the case.

The offense started off slow and never really got into a rhythm. For what it’s worth, the Titans offense struggled early on as well, with Mettenberger overthrowing his receivers on his part, and the receivers dropping easy passes on their part. However, as the game wore on into the second quarter and each team trading punts, one could tell that the Falcons were going to be trailing at some point, giving the Titans way too many chances.

As expected, late in the second quarter, Matt Ryan was intercepted in Falcons territory on a tipped pass he was trying to get to Tevin Coleman, but unfortunately, he threw it a little low instead of arching it over the intercepting defender. Of course, the Titans took advantage of this miscue and turned it into a quick seven points with a strike to WR Kendall Wright. The Titans led 7-0 at this point.

Things didn’t get much better for the offense in the first half. Other than a Matt Bryant field goal to decrease the lead to 7-3, a fully healthy, high-powered Falcons offense could not put any other points on the board.

It would have gotten uglier for the Falcons if it wasn’t for MLB Paul Worrilow. At the end of the second quarter with the Titans driving to score, Worrilow picked off Mettenberger in the red zone and almost ran it back to put the Falcons in position to score. However, an unwarranted penalty on O’Brien Schofield cost the Falcons dearly.

Additionally, the refs looked like they missed a facemask penalty on the Falcons that would have negated the interception, but that’s neither here nor there. Neither team scored any points in the final seconds of the half.

Second Half, Second Life

In the second half, the offense and defense picked up the intensity a little bit. The defense in particular started to blitz Mettenberger more. By doing this, the Falcons gave Mettenberger less time in the pocket to make his throws, which led to more three and outs.

On the offense’s part, the Falcons started going more to their “bread and butter” this season, star RB Devonta Freeman. The Titans defense ranks almost last in opponent’s rush yards per game and it absolutely baffled me to see the Falcons throwing the ball so much to start the game, but better late than never. By going with Freeman, the Falcons put themselves in good field position to eventually score on a Julio Jones touchdown to put the Falcons up 10-7.

Devonta Freeman

Towards the end of the game, with the Falcon’s defense doing its job by keeping Mettenberger uncomfortable, the Falcon’s offense found itself in good position to put the game away. However, turnovers again reared their ugly head, this time, in the end zone. With a chance to go up 17-7, the Falcons were at the goal line with a chance. On 2nd and goal, a spectacular Julio Jones catch was not ruled a touchdown, even though it looked like he had gotten the ball across the pylon for the score. At this point, one would think, “no problem”, right?

Atlanta was right near the goal line and with Devonta Freeman playing the way he was, a touchdown would surely be imminent. However, the Falcons chose to get cute and give the ball to their fullback Patrick DiMarco on third down. When that didn’t go as planned, and instead of going with the “easy” three points, they threw it on fourth down to Jacob Tamme, who tipped the ball up into the air—only to have it intercepted.

At this point, it looked like the Falcons were just giving the game away. After another defensive stop, the always reliable Matt Bryant missed a 47-yard field goal to give the Titans one last fighting chance. If it wasn’t for undrafted free-agent Robenson Therezie picking off Mettenberger in Falcons’ territory on the final possession, the Falcons very well could have lost this game after they had 10 full days to clean up their act.

It is obvious that the offense is struggling right now. Kyle Shanahan, in all fairness, has called better games. Matt Ryan, who has been so good for so long, is making mistakes that he shouldn’t be making, and he knows it. However, the Falcons, as a whole, have plenty of time to right the ship before the meaningful games start.

Final Notes:

  • Matt Ryan became the 4th youngest QB to reach 30,000 passing yards.
  • Devonta Freeman with his 116 yards rushing had his third straight game with 100 or more rushing yards. The first Falcons player to accomplish this since Michael Turner in 2009.
  • Safety William Moore and Wide Receiver Leonard Hankerson left the game early due to groin and hamstring injuries respectively and did not return.
  • The Falcons (6-1) host the Buccaneers (2-4) next Sunday at the Georgia Dome at 1:00 pm