Monday, October 27, 2014

Falcon Follies

The Falcons don't deserve my time, and usually don't get it. Anyone who has a problem with the Braves' new stadium needs to justify that much more expensive Falcons' monstrosity first. The Braves would still be downtown if the city hadn't rolled out the billion dollar red carpet for the losingest team in town. And while we're on that subject, traffic out at the 75/285 interchange was clear all weekend, but downtown was gridlocked. I doubt the big Georgia Southern / Georgia State game had too much to do with the bad traffic.
How did the Falcons blow a 21-0 lead in London? Let me count the ways. Take back any one of these plays and the Falcons win:
1. Third and 25, the Falcons defensive back lets receiver Golden Tate get behind him. Matt Stafford wings it 60 yards for the touch, moving him ahead of Bobby Layne for the team lead in touchdown passes. As Tate celebrated, Stafford sprints down the field to retrieve the ball.
2. Pressured, the normally ice-cool Matt Ryan inexplicably throws across his body into an area far from any Falcon receiver. There was a Lion defender in the area, who ran the ensuing interception back inside the ten yard line.
3. With the clock running down the Lions are able to stop the clock after every Falcons offensive play. The Falcons help by calling slow-developing running plays that are stuffed near the line of scrimmage. After all the Lions timeouts are burned, the Falcons help out by getting called for holding – an inexcusable offense.
4. On the next play the normally sure-handed Julio Jones drops an easy screen pass – once more stopping the clock. Even so, the Falcons punt is downed at the seven yard line.
5. On the Lions first play Stafford guns a thirty yard completion down the middle of the field.
6. As the Lions move closer to field goal range the Atlanta defense stuffs the running play, but the Falcons defensive lineman is called for inexplicably holding a Lions lineman - who was not even blocking that Falcon. WHY?

I was thinking Detroit might score too quick and leave time for the Falcons. With Matt Prater I knew 43 or 48 yards didn't matter – after he missed the first kick I knew he would adjust and make the second kick. When I heard the whistle as the kick sailed wide right, I thought the Falcons had called time out. Years ago Central Florida scored a TD as the clock ran out to tie their bowl game. Prater came in for the game winning extra point – and missed it. He's gotten better in the pros, who always liked his strong leg.

Fire the coach? It's not Mike Smith's fault. He just has bad players. Why is defensive coordinator Nolan a genius when on other teams but can't get the same results in Atlanta? The players. But Smith will probably be let go at some point.
Georgia Tech / Pitt: After the first five minutes the two teams played to a 28-28 tie. Would Tech have won without those five first-quarter gifts? As long as the Pitt starting QB was in the game, GT had a good chance. They rushed for over 430 yards, missing Chuck Oliver's prediction by a week. Tech should've scored at least nine more points. As usual, Butker missed a 37 yard field goal field goal at the end of the first half (Butker has made 58% of his field goals this year. Georgia's Marshall Morgan has made 80% of his). Instead of trying an earlier field goal, Tech was stopped on fourth down deep in Pitt territory.

Though backup fullback/halfback/quarterback Synjyn "The Engine" Days rushed for over one hundred yards, he was called for illegal motion on Tech's first offensive play of the game. Evidently the self-marketing major has a lot of time to sit around and think up nicknames for himself. On Tony Zenon's long touchdown run Days could have been called for a downfield block below the waist. Johnson finally pulled him from the game after a fourth quarter fumble. Third-stringer Matt Connors came in and bolted for twenty yards on his first carry, then reeled off another eight – hopefully earned more playing time in the next two games (that Zack Laskey will miss). For the year Connors 10.0 yard average per carry is third on the team. Among running backs, Days' average is second-to-last.

After scoring the fourth touchdown Tech was ahead of the pace when they beat Cumberland 222-0. In addition to the six lost fumbles, Pitt dropped at least three passes. And three reviewed calls went Tech's way, though all three could've gone the other way. Pitt did look good in their Marino-era script helmets.

I was glad to hear that those Ramblin Wreck Club members are actually interested in GT history. I always wanted to be in that club, but most the members were in fraternities and sororities. Nowadays they barely remember Bobby Cremins, much less Dwayne Morrison. Do you remember Jim Nolan? He was a principal down in Macon and went to our church. His crew cut made him look mean and scary to me as a kid.

Clemson / Syracuse: for a while I thought the game would be decided by penalty kicks. At one point the score was 9-6. QB Stoudt could not move the ball. Another bad snap sailed over his head. Since Kelly was kicked off the team in the spring, the Tigers must not have any other options at QB. Without a downfield passing attack, teams can stack the deck and stop Clemson's middling run game. Down on the goal line Clemson sticks to the shotgun, making it seasier for defenses to stop the slow-developing runs up the middle. The Tigers did not score until late, after the Orangemen had finally worn down. Without Deshaun Watson, Georgia Tech has a real chance of beating Clemson.

#4 Auburn / South Carolina: perhaps there's less to Auburn (and the entire SEC West) than everyone thinks. Perhaps Georgia has a decent shot at winning the Auburn game. On the last play of the game Auburn got away with fielding two players wearing the same number jersey (1). The Gamecocks should've been able to run another play.

#23 LSU / #2 Ole Miss: Tough to win in Baton Rouge, especially at night. Ole Miss didn't help themselves at the end of the game, letting the play clock run out before getting off a field goal. If everyone in the stands is thinking about the play clock, why can't the football players think about it? Not a mistake a top five team makes. Good to see Willie and Jase Robertson as the ESPN College Gameday guest pickers.

#5 Alabama / Tennessee: Tough to win in Knoxville, especially at night. No shame for Bama winning like they did. A good time for Tennessee to break out the all-orange uniform. There's a good chance the final four will only take one SEC team. If UGA beats Auburn, and Auburn beats Alabama, and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss and Georgia, then only one SEC teams gets picked. And that's a real possibility.

Auburn Alabama 2015 will be another down to the wire affair. For some reason I was thinking Auburn/SC was in the third quarter, so I watched the end of LSU/Ole Miss. Ceil wanted me to flip back to Auburn/SC (Clemson fans always gotta check out the Gamecocks). I turned back and the game was over. Louie Giglio led the Auburn team in prayer on the field before the game. After the game he consoled the SC QB, who is a Christian.

#14 Ohio State / unranked Penn State was the Saturday night nationally televised ABC game. Why? Three of the nation's top five teams were playing at the same time. Guess the network was looking for any non-SEC game with any kind of importance. Despite their records, Ohio State/Penn State draws a pretty large TV audience, which is television's top priority.

Michigan State / Michigan: Wolverines looked bad again. Devon Gardner throws another pick six. He needs to give Tom Harmon his retired number back. Don't they have any more quarterbacks up there?

Georgia Southern / Georgia State: the Eagles were looking to make an in-state statement, and did so convincingly. Over 600 yards rushing. Not quite a 222-0 statement, but still impressive.

Bengals / Ravens: Glad good guy QB Andy Dalton came out on top. Glad WR Steve Smith was rightly called for the blatant push off. No way the thug should've gotten away with that. There's a reason the Panthers let him go, and there was more to it than just dollars and cents.

Seahawks / Panthers: Russell Wilson made Cam Newton look ordinary. Perhaps Newton is ordinary. He was Sunday, based on his pedestrian stats. Look for the resurgent Saints to beat Carolina on Thursday night.

Bills / Jets: Vick needs to play. That starter needs to be benched for sure. Dimino said the Jets are so bad because they needed cornerbacks, but the GM didn't sign any during the past offseason. But cornerbacks don't throw interceptions.
See where speedy Buffalo rookie Sammy Watkins celebrated too early and got tackled from behind? He sure learned his lesson on his second TD. Sad that CJ Spiller is out for the year, and having such an injury-plagued pro career. At Clemson he looked like the next Marshall Faulk.

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