Devonta Freeman

Recap: Falcons Fight Back Once Again For 39-28 Win Over Cowboys

By: Gabriele Watts

If you are a Falcons fan, then you’re probably used to the occasional heart-stopping, back and forth, change-in-score game, with the Falcons almost never coming out on top as of late. On Sunday, however, the game between the Cowboys and Falcons seemed to have a different feel to it than those from the past, and surprisingly, the good guys (Falcons) were the last team standing.

A Tale of Two Halves

Coming into this game, many people speculated that the Falcons would have no trouble jumping out to an early lead and keeping it throughout, because of the fact that the Cowboys are decimated with injuries to key players on offense and defense (i.e. Dez Bryant & Tony Romo). However, that proved to not be the case, as the new starting quarterback for the team, Brandon Weeden, orchestrated a near perfect first half. Besides Weeden throwing 13 straight completions, (had an INT late in the second quarter) the run game was also effective, with Joseph Randle gashing the Falcons with huge chunks of yardage and multiple touchdowns.

To everyone’s surprise, including my own, this newly revamped, Dan Quinn-led defense suddenly could not tackle properly, couldn’t put pressure on a shaky-at-best quarterback, and couldn’t keep up with what the Cowboys were doing at all. To be honest, after the Cowboys had run it down our throats on consecutive drives for touchdowns, in unison with successfully stopping our offense, I was ready to mail it in. I thought that the Cowboys’ momentum was too great and the Falcons had no chance to win, much less, even keep up. Clearly, I was still living in the Mike Smith era.

Fortunately, the Falcons did just enough to keep themselves in the game in the first half. With two touchdowns by Devonta Freeman and a field goal that was the result of a masterful 40 second drive by Matty Ice, the Falcons had the Cowboys right where they wanted them.

To start the second half, the Falcons defense looked inspired and ready to play. They successfully were able to stop the run, as well as those little short passes over the middle that Weeden grew accustomed to throwing in the first half. With the defense showing some fight, the offense started to pick up as well. We all know what Julio Jones can do, and yes, he did it again, finishing with 12 catches for 164 yards and 2 TDs.

Jones set an NFL record for receptions through the first 3 games with 34. He is currently on pace for over 180 catches for over 2,200 yards, which would both be NFL records. However, in my opinion, Jones wasn’t the MVP of the game.

All Day Devonta

The MVP turned out to be Devonta Freeman, the second-year RB out of the national champion, Florida State Seminoles. He finished with an incredible 30 carries for 141 yards and 3 tocuhdowns! Freeman became the only running back to rush for 100+ yards and three touchdowns in a game since the days of Michael Turner.

For me, I was extremely proud and happy for Devonta. You can tell he works very hard at his craft and cares deeply about his teammates. Who would have thought that he would be the one to put the team on his back and essentially carry them to victory?

In the end, all I have to say is Dan Quinn is doing a heck of a job with this team. They never give up, no matter the circumstances. Quinn’s Falcons are the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after trailing in the 4th quarter of all three games. He’s got this team believing that they can win any and all of their games. That, to me, is recipe for success. Who knows, maybe even a recipe for a “super” season.

Final Notes

  • TE Jacob Tamme left the game and did not return due to a concussion.
  • FS Ricardo Allen left the game due to a leg injury as well, but eventually returned to the game.
  • The Falcons return home next week to face the Houston Texans. Look out for Brooks Reed—something tells me he’ll be playing in this game against his former team.
Julio Jones

Recap: Falcons Beat Eagles 26-24

By: Gabriele Watts

It feels pretty great to be an Atlanta Falcons fan right now! On Monday night, the best stage in the NFL to make a statement and prove that your team has playoff aspirations, the Falcons did just that with a hard fought victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t easy for sure. There were times towards the latter part of the game where one may have said, “Here we go again” but thankfully, our Falcons pulled it out and now it’s “On to New York”! Let’s recap how the Falcons pulled out an impressive comeback win to start the Dan Quinn era.

Fast Start

The Falcons came out firing on practically all cylinders. The defense especially looked great to start the game. They worked together to constantly get pressure on the Eagles’ QB Sam Bradford, who himself, was seeing his first amount of regular season game time in quite a while. There really wasn’t one specific player, in my opinion, who made all the plays on defense. Again, it was more of a collective effort. Guys like O’Brien Schofield, Adrian Clayborn, Justin Durant, Paul Worrilow, and even the rookies Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley, practically lived in the backfield for the majority of the first half. While they didn’t get a sack, they were able to still, continuously, hit Bradford causing him to make ill-advised throws (one in particular late in the second quarter, was picked off by veteran SS William Moore). To put it simply, the usually fast-paced and electrifying offense of the Philadelphia Eagles was largely held in check in the first half (ATL held last year’s NFL leader in rushing yards and newly-acquired RB DeMarco Murray to just 4 rushes for -4 yards in the first half and as whole, held the Eagles to just three points).

As for the offense, they got off to a pretty good start as well. On the first drive in particular, Matt Ryan led the offense right down the field only to come up just short of a touchdown. The Falcons ended up settling for an always reliable Matt Bryant field goal. The second offensive drive of the half was a good one as well, however, it ended horribly in a beautiful INT play, I must say, by Eagles LB Kiko Alonso. The rest of the way, it was all Julio Jones. To me, the guy is literally unreal. He proved all night that Eagles CB Byron Maxwell was no match for him, as Maxwell showed that he could not cover Jones one-on-one. I wouldn’t feel bad for Maxwell however, because quite frankly, no one in the NFL has proven that they are up to that task up to this point. Thanks to Jones and a few clutch kicks by Matt Bryant, the Falcons entered halftime with a ‘seemingly” comfortable 20-3 lead.

Third Quarter Woes

If there is one thing that I saw last night that quite possibly could have been carried over from the Mike Smith era, it was the fact that the Falcons came out absolutely flat to start the third quarter. On the first possession of the quarter, Matt Ryan threw a bad pass down the middle of the field that was intercepted by former Seahawks S Walter Thurmond. This clearly put the momentum in the hands of the Eagles, as much of the third quarter was undoubtedly theirs. To keep it short, the Falcons got thrashed. The Eagles’ fast-paced play got the better of them, as the Falcons’ defense was quite visibly gassed. The Falcons’ offense, which was humming like a well-oiled machine in the first half, could not sustain drives, and Sam Bradford was beginning to heat up. I have no idea why the Falcons have made it a habit to come out of halftime cold on several occasions. Because of this, they almost gave this game away. This, to me, has to be a point of emphasis going forward. They have to learn how to quite simply, put games away and keep their feet on the gas when necessary.

The Finish

After an abysmal third quarter, the fourth quarter is where we started to see glimpses of what we saw in the first half. The Falcons were able to sustain a couple of their offensive drives that didn’t end in touchdowns, however, but ended in much needed field goals by again, the ever-reliable, 40-year old, Matt Bryant. That didn’t seem to stop the Eagles momentum however. Their offense was still able to move down the field seemingly at will. It wasn’t until a third-down stop by Paul Worrilow and a missed field goal by Eagles K Cody Parkey that momentum started to swing in the Falcons’ favor.

Eventually, the Falcons had the ball with a little over two minutes left, right where they wanted to be. All they had to do was get the first down and the game would be sealed. However, as we all know, it’s not a Falcons’ game if nail-biting isn’t involved at some point in the game. The Eagles were able to get the ball back at the two-minute warning, but thanks to a nice special-teams tackle by Levine Toilolo, they didn’t have favorable field position. This time, unlike many times in the past, the Falcons’ defense rose up to the challenge and was able to seal the game on a spectacular diving interception play by Ricardo Allen, the hard-working corner turned safety.

There is no other way to put it, this was a great game. The Falcons were able to send a clear message to the rest of the NFC South and quite frankly, the entire NFL that with time, they could be a formidable force come playoff time.

Final NoteThe Falcons signed veteran OT Jake Long earlier today. This move provides depth for an offensive line that looked to hold up well on Monday night.

Up next: The Falcons (1-0) play the New York Giants (0-1) next week in Atlanta’s first road game of the season.

Malliciah Goodman

Predicting the Falcons’ Final Roster Cuts

By Al Baskurt

With the preseason finally behind us, it’s time to look at the players who, as a result of either poor play or circumstance, may not make the Falcons’ 53-man roster. Obviously, there are a few questions: how many receivers will the team carry? Two or three quarterbacks? How much patience will they show for younger players? These are unknowns to us on the outside, but we can at least try and rationalize some of the potential decisions. Here are the players I predict won’t make the final cut.

  1. CB Dezmen Southward – Southward was a questionable pickup in the third round of last year’s draft. While he was originally brought in under the old coaching staff as a safety, he had the physical traits desired by Dan Quinn to play corner. Unfortunately, while Southward always had the measurables, he could never quite put together the mental side of the game, and this preseason only reinforced that. He looked bad this preseason, and it seems unlikely that he’ll have a spot on the final roster.
  2. CB Travis Howard
  3. DB Jonathon Mincy (update: waived)
  4. LB Terrell Manning
  5. LB Derek Akunne
  6. FB Patrick DiMarco – DiMarco was locked into a battle with Colin Mooney for the team’s fullback spot. It’s been close, but the edge goes to Mooney.  
  7. G Adam Replogle
  8. G Eric Lefeld – Lefeld was just re-signed by the team after the poor showing by the offensive line against Miami. With injuries and caution keeping potential starters off the field against the Ravens, Lefeld is probably just a fill-in.
  9. S Sean Baker
  10. S Akeem King – The team’s final draft choice will likely wind up on the practice squad.  
  11. T Matt Huffer
  12. TE D.J. Tialavea
  13. WR Eric Weems – Weems has been a staple on special teams during his two separate stints with the Falcons, but unfortunately his value is pretty slim on offense. With other strong additions to the special teams unit, I think Weems is expendable, if only to make room for another potential contributor on offense (Nick Williams perhaps?).  
  14. WR Carlton Mitchell
  15. RB Terron Ward – Ward impressed in the early weeks of training camp, but he’s really seemed to cool down, especially during the preseason games. While it could be on account of the poor run blocking (none of the team’s RBs could do much of anything), he will probably be cut as a result. Look for him to wind up on the team’s practice squad, if anything.  
  16. DE Sam Meredith
  17. DE Mallichiah Goodman – Goodman’s best hope to make the team was on special teams, and other guys have made a big enough impact to push him out.
  18. QB T.J. Yates – Yates has been pretty bad this preseason, and his play has been uninspiring throughout his Falcons’ tenure.

Which of these players do you think the Falcons will keep?

Falcons Lose to Miami

Recap: Falcons’ Line Offensive In 13-9 Loss to Miami

By Gabriel Watts

In what was considered the final dress rehearsal before the regular season, the Falcons didn’t really give us what we had hoped to expect in the coming weeks, at least not from an offensive standpoint. For a majority of the first two quarters, Matt Ryan was either on the ground or hurrying his throws because of an ever-collapsing pocket that didn’t give him a lot of time to make his reads. To Miami’s credit, their defensive line is very good and will probably end up ranking in at least the top 5 in the NFL. However, in my opinion, the Falcons could have put up a better effort and also could have shown a little more urgency with the regular season on the horizon.

Offensive Line Struggles

​In Atlanta’s defense, they really haven’t established the starting five for the offensive line yet, so this makes it harder for our guys to gel together and form a solid unit. For this game, Coach Quinn surprisingly started Mike Person at center instead of Joe Hawley. Also, James Stone got the start at LG. They both struggled mightily, but as a whole, the entire offensive line was being pushed around all night. Again, the Miami Dolphins’ defensive line is very formidable, but that’s no excuse for the line to get thrown around like they did. The Falcons need to make changes and make them quickly. Maybe bring in outside help such as a Jake Long for depth, or return Jon Asamoah to the starting lineup. Either way, this is not the way the line should look going forward. This offense has so much potential with so many newly added weapons. However, no one will be able to see such potential if the offensive line can’t come together immediately.

Defense Shows Up

​The one bright spot for this game was the defense. Besides a lone touchdown, the Falcons really didn’t give up that much to Miami’s starting offense. Adrian Clayborn stood out in particular with how he constantly created pressure and got into the backfield. If he continues to show up like this, he could prove to truly be the steal of free agency. Also, once again, Paul Worrilow was all over the field making plays. He has said over and over again that in this defensive system, he doesn’t have to think as much and can move more freely. It is clearly showing and for the once UDFA, this could prove to be a fun year if he keeps it up.

Finally, the last highlight play of the night on defense had to be when Tyler Starr and Joplo Bartu hooked up for a nice tipped pass and interception late in the game. Bartu, for one, hasn’t really shown up during the preseason, but Starr on the other hand, has shown that he can generate a legitimate pass rush. With these two both fighting for a roster spot, it will be interesting to see if Dan Quinn keeps one or maybe even both of them.

Final Notes

  • Before the game, the Falcons announced that they had signed WR Julio Jones to a five-year contract extension worth $71.25 million dollars (47.5 million guaranteed). According to Adam Schefter, the Falcons had made Saturday the deadline for a deal to get done and to their credit, the Falcons got it done. The deal makes Jones the second highest paid WR in the league behind only Calvin Johnson.
  • WR Nick Williams continued his strong preseason with another spectacular outing. Other than a miscommunication on a kick-off return with Devin Hester, Williams caught a couple of nice passes throughout the game. He is making it very hard for the Falcons to cut him. With him, the Falcons would have seven wide receivers going into the regular season, and that is a very real possibility. If they put him on the practice squad, Williams could be a sure bet to land with another team.
  • Rookie RB Tevin Coleman finally made his highly anticipated debut. However, it was hampered by horrible offensive line play as Coleman could never really get anything going. After the game, Coleman said his hamstring is still only at about 80%, but he just wanted to get out there and play. Fellow RB Devonta Freeman was held out of this game and will likely be held out of the final preseason game on Thursday against the Ravens.
  • The first round of roster cuts has to be completed by Tuesday, September 1st, as the roster has to be cut down to 75 players. We’ll see who stays and who goes as I’m sure Coach Quinn has some very tough decision to make.

Until Thursday…RISE UP!

Jacob Tamme

Points of Emphasis: Tight Ends Look Much Improved

There are only a handful of high-level tight ends in the NFL. Below the most obvious names is a tier of serviceable, while not standout players. None of those resided on the Falcons’ roster between 2013 and 2014. Following the departure of all-time great Tony Gonzalez, the position was perhaps one of the team’s weakest at an individual level.

There was hope that Levine Toilolo, a rookie drafted in the fourth round in 2013, could take the necessary steps to become a role-player within the team’s offense, but that hasn’t happened. In 2014, he displayed inconsistent pass-catching ability and an overall lack of awareness.

Going into 2015, the Falcons signed a couple of free-agent tight ends in Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki. The former has worked with Peyton Manning for most of his career, and was often an underrated teammate of the quarterback. The latter was a once promising player who’s suffered a few derailing injuries.

In comparing the three players, Tamme jumps out as the best of the bunch. His resume, while limited as he was never a top target of Manning, is certainly the most impressive, and he understands the role he will be playing for Matt Ryan – a chain-mover, and match-up winner against linebackers. His blocking is sound if not strong.

The depth chart becomes murkier behind Tamme, though it’s hard not to envision Toilolo maintaining the second tight-end spot. He’s reportedly had a strong camp with major improvements in his concentration and catching. Last year against Minnesota, we (somehow) got to see Toilolo play right tackle and he held up ok, but his blocking over the season was relatively inconsistent. Still, he is probably a stronger option than Moeaki on the whole.

Behind those three players, the Falcons also have Mickey Shuler and DJ Tialavea on the roster, though neither seem to have a great shot at making the final roster depending on the number of tight ends the Falcons carry on the team during the season.

Who do you think will make the greatest impact of the tight ends this season?

Falcons vs. Jets

First Teams Shine in Falcons’ 30-22 Loss vs. Jets

By: Gabriele Watts

The Falcons’ first team offense, defense, and special teams all seem to be in mid-season form already, in only the second week of the preseason. The New York Jets clearly were no match for what the Falcons brought to the table early on in the first quarter. Just like last week, the passion and intensity were undeniably on display. This team loves playing together, and without a doubt, it shows on the field.

Matty Ice Shines Again

Quarterback Matt Ryan, yet again, made the most of his time in the game, which included throwing a perfect pass to the ever-impressing FB Collin Mooney, yes that Collin Mooney, for a huge 60-yard gain. Shortly thereafter, RB Terron Ward rumbled in for a 4-yard touchdown run. For Ryan’s next and final drive, he really didn’t have to do too much in order for the Falcons to score. Following another Jets punt forced by the impressive Falcons’ defense, Devin Hester, the ageless wonder, did what he is accustomed to doing, returning said punt for 59 yards and a near touchdown. A couple of plays later, Ryan hit WR Leonard Hankerson for a quick TD pass thanks in part to a mix-up on D, on behalf of the Jets. Ryan continues to have a spectacular preseason. We can probably expect more of the same next week, despite Miami’s stout defense with newly added DT Ndamukong Suh.

Second Team Woes

After all the starters were pulled in the 2nd quarter, the backups all seemed to struggle. Missed tackles, bad throws, and many miscommunications were the highlights throughout the rest of the game after a stellar first quarter. Not to worry Falcons’ fans, for a growing team, there will definitely be growing pains along the way. You can be sure that Coach Quinn will address all of the blunders that were made tonight, immediately during the next team practice.

Beasley Looks Beast-ley

Rookie DE/LB Vic Beasley continued to show fans why the Falcons picked him eighth overall. He caused multiple disruptions and helped with key defensive stops during his time in the game. Beasley has a real chance to be special. If he keeps playing at this pace, he could be in line for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Other Notes

  • S Robenson Therezie seemed to suffer an apparent head injury late in the game, but he ultimately was cleared to check back into the game.
  • Newly signed RB Evan Royster seemed to get injured late in the game as well. The Falcons seem to have bad luck with the RB position this preseason. Let’s hope this kind of luck doesn’t last too long.
  • After the game, Coach Quinn said that he hoped to have rookie RB Tevin Coleman and second-year RB Devonta Freeman back next week against the Miami Dolphins.

All in all, the Falcons seemed to get through this game pretty much unscathed. Hopefully things will go as smoothly next week against Miami, as well.

Rise Up!

Justin Hardy

Points of Emphasis: Falcons Boast Talented Wide Receiver Depth

By Al Baskurt

Despite the team’s overall struggles the past two years, the wide receiving corps of the Atlanta Falcons has been viewed as a strength. This is due in part to top-shelf quarterback Matt Ryan, but even more so to the big name guys on the outside: Roddy White and Julio Jones. While the former enjoyed a few dominant years as the team’s number one receiver, his career is definitely on the decline. That’s not to say that White won’t be a big contributor to the team’s 2015 offense, but age has taken over, and it’s safe to say he won’t be quite as effective as he once was. On top of age and injury concerns, the emergence of Jones as one of the league’s best at the position has relegated White to a complimentary role.

Despite those two players, depth has been a huge concern for the Falcons at the wide receiver spot. The front office basically ignored the position for years after drafting Jones in 2011, which is somewhat understandable given the haul they parted with to trade up and draft him, but the team suffered as a result. While critics of that view might cite the presence of Harry Douglas as a valid reason for not addressing the position more comprehensively, he was never a complete player. I won’t get into Douglas too much here, but it’s critical that the team find a reliable, intermediate, in-traffic pass catcher if the Falcons’ passing game is going to succeed outside of Julio Jones.

Julio Jones

Julio Jones will once again be counted on to devastate opposing defenses

Behind Jones and White on this year’s work-in-progress depth chart are Leonard Hankerson, Devin Hester, and Justin Hardy.

Hankerson, a free-agent from Washington, has been a player slowed by injuries for much of his career. However, he has a familiarity with Kyle Shanahan’s offense and has flashed ability in the past. If he can stay healthy, he has a good chance to make an impact on the outside. Despite so far having a good training camp, his injury history is a concern.

Hester is obviously a great asset on special teams, but his abilities as an offensive player, especially out wide, are limited as he’s never been able to put it all together. Last year, the team ran some end-arounds as a way to get the ball into Hester’s hands in space, and received limited results. His role on offense will hopefully be limited to specialty plays, as that is where he will likely function best.

2015 fifth-round pick Justin Hardy out of ECU (NCAA record holder for receptions) has the potential to fill the slot/intermediate pass-catcher role in the Falcons’ offense, but he has much to learn and prove before adequately filling that void. There is room for optimism with Hardy, as many regard him as a good route runner and tough player – both important traits for someone having to make catches in traffic.

While there are a few names to watch out for beyond these main players, they are all either likely to be no more than practice squad players or primarily play on special teams in 2015. Eric Weems has proven extremely valuable for his special teams contributions, and had a few impressive games last year as a reserve pass catcher.

Bernard Reedy, a speedster who last season turned heads at training camp, could once again land on the practice squad, as it will be difficult to crack the roster with the six names ahead of him.

Marquez Clark and Nick Williams were two receivers featured a decent amount in the team’s preseason opener, though both also figure to have a hard road ahead of them to make the 53-man roster.

The Falcons’ 2015 receiving corps will be something to watch. For one, Julio Jones seems poised to have yet another outstanding year. It will be interesting to see to what extent Roddy White can regain his pre-2013 form, and who, if any, of the newcomers step into a significant role on the offense.

Up next: Tight ends