September 19, 2017

Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

The third playoff game on the schedule had the well traveled Seattle Seahawks heading down south to take on the Atlanta Falcons.  The Seahawks were coming off a 24-14 win over the Washington Redskins and the Falcons had a first round bye.  The Falcons won the toss and elected to receive.  Return man Jacquizz Rodgers fielded the kick three yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the 25.  Running back Michael Turner got things off to a good start and rumbled up the right side for a gain of 15 yards.  Turner got the call again and got a short gain.  Quarterback Matt Ryan then hooked up with tight end Tony Gonzalez for nine yards and a first down at the Seahawk 49.  A couple of carries by Rodgers and a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Roddy White put the ball at the 28.  Turner and Rodgers gained seven yards on the next two plays and that brought up a third and three at the 21.  Ryan threw for White in the end zone, but the ball was knocked away by cornerback Richard Sherman.  That brought in kicker Matt Bryant to attempt a 39-yard field goal and the kick was good.  The Falcons took an early 3-0 lead with 9:40 to go in the first quarter.

Two carries by running by Marshawn Lynch and an incomplete pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Sidney Rice forced the Seahawks to punt.  The Falcons started at the 50 and on third and three from the Seahawk 43, Ryan’s pass intended for Gonzalez was picked off by linebacker Bobby Wagner.  That gave the Seahawks the ball at their 33-yard line.  A scramble by Wilson got them to the 50.  From the 50, Lynch ran up the middle for a nice gain, but the ball was knocked loose by linebacker Sean Witherspoon.  There was a mad scramble and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux came up with it at the Falcon 39.

From the 39, Ryan connected with wide receiver Julio Jones for 13 yards.  Turner then got another carry for a gain of four.  The Seahawks were flagged for a horse collar tackle and that moved them down to the Seahawk 29.  A short run and a false start made it third and 14 from the 33.  Ryan calmly stood in the pocket and completed a 16-yard pass to White for a first down at the 17.  From the 17, Ryan floated one up the right sideline for tight end Chase Coffman.  He was ruled out of bounds at the one-yard line.  From there, Gonzalez made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for a Falcon touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons went up 10-0 with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter.

The Seahawks started at their 20 and on the strength of two receptions by tight end Zach Miller, got down to the Falcon 44.  On third and eight from the 42, Wilson’s pass to wide receiver Golden Tate was incomplete.  They punted again and the ball was downed at the 13-yard line.  From the 13, Rodgers burst up the middle, bounced off a big hit and ran 45 yards to the Seahawk 42.  Completions to Jones and White netted another first down at the 30.  The drive came to an end at the 19 and Bryant made his 37-yard attempt to put the Falcons up 13-0 with 9:13 to go in the first half.

Passes to Miller and Tate put the Seahawks at the Falcon 20.  A three-yard gain and a six-yard catch by Lynch made it third and one at the 11.  For me, the answer to getting a first down on third and short is to give it to Lynch.  He was standing on the sideline and the carry went to Robert Turbin for no gain.  Seahawk head coach Pete Carrol decided to go for it on fourth and short.  This time, Lynch was back on the field.  But he didn’t get the ball.  Fullback Michael Robinson did and he was stuffed for no gain.  I honestly don’t understand why Lynch wasn’t used to get the first down.  The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs.

With 5:33 to go in the half, the Falcons looked to increase their lead.  A 33-yard run by Turner on second and seven from the 15 got them off to a good start.  A defensive holding call on the Seahawks got them into Seahawk territory.  On first down from the 47, Ryan went deep down the middle of the field and the pass was caught by White for a 47-yard touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons now led 20-0 with 4:16 to go.

The Seahawks got the ball at their 20.  Some scrambling by Wilson and passes to Tate, Rice and Miller had them at the Falcon 19 with time ticking away.  A nine-yard pass to Miller and a four yard-pass to Tate made it first and goal at the nine.  That was followed by a three-yard pass to Rice, a false start and an incomplete pass to Tate.  On third and goal from the 11, Wilson was sacked by Babineaux.  With no timeouts, Wilson tried to get his offense set for one more play.  Time ran out and they didn’t get the play off.  The Falcons took a 20-0 lead into the locker room.

The Seahawks knew they really had to get something going quickly or this game may end up being a blowout.  Another touch-back meant they would be starting at their 20 again.  An 11-yard completion to Rice, a short gain by Lynch and a 17-yard scramble by Wilson had the Seahawks at midfield.  Carries by Lynch, Wilson and Turbin netted another first down at the Falcon 40.  Wilson was sacked on the next play for a loss of eight by defensive tackle Vance Walker.  But, on second and 18, he hooked up with Miller again for 19 yards and a first down at the 29.  Tate took it the rest of the way as he caught a pass on the left side and weaved his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Newly acquired kicker Ryan Longwell made the point after and the Seahawks now trailed 20-7 with 9:47 to go in the third quarter.

Rodgers returned the kickoff to the 20 and the Falcons went looking for another score.  A five-yard carry by Turner and a six-yard pass to Gonzalez moved them to the 31.  Ryan then spread the ball around to Rodgers, Jones and wide receiver Harry Douglass for a first down at the Seahawk 44.  On second and ten from the 44, Ryan tossed a short pass to Jones who turned it into a 21-yard gain.  On third and nine from the 22, Gonzalez caught another pass for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 11.  On first down, Rodgers caught a pass for six yards to make it second and goal from the five.  From the five, Ryan completed a pass to running back Jason Snelling who took it in for the score.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons now led 27-7 with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.

The Seahawks were now officially in “panic mode.”  Lynch ran up the right side for five yards and Tate caught another pass for a gain of 24 yards.  That was followed by a 12-yard pass to Rice and a 26-yard pass to Miller.  All that passing got them down to the Falcon 13.  From the 13, Wilson threw a short pass to the right side that was caught by Turbin for a gain of seven yards.  A carry by Turbin moved the ball to the one-yard line and made it first and goal.  On second down, the Falcons brought the pressure up the middle, Wilson faked the hand-off to Lynch and took the ball in for a touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and it was now 27-14 with 13 minutes to go in the game.

I was thinking the Falcons may want to take some time off the clock on their next drive.  They had the ball for exactly one minute and 58 seconds.  That’s because on second and 11 from the Falcon 32, Ryan went deep into double coverage looking for White.  White fell down at the Seahawk 39 and the ball was easily picked off by safety Earl Thomas.  That gave the Seahawks another chance to close the gap.  They went 62 yards in four plays with the big plays being a 24-yard pass to Rice and a 30-yard catch and run by Turbin.  That got them a first and goal from the three.  From there, Wilson found Miller wide open for a touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and it was now 27-21 and there was an eerie hush over the Atlanta faithful.

Again, I thought the Falcons would pound the ball with Turner and Rodgers to take the clock down.  But, with 9:13 to go, they called three pass plays that got them exactly three freaking yards and took only 1:50 off the clock.  They punted the ball back to the Seahawks who took over at their 40.  The Falcon defense rose up this time and forced a punt.  The ball hit the goal line for a touch-back and the Falcons went to work from their 20.  This “drive”  got them a grand total of 14 yards (12 came on a carry by Turner) and took 2:32 off the clock.

So, with exactly three minutes to go in the game, the Seahawks found themselves at their 39 with a chance to take the lead.  A three-yard run and a seven-yard catch by Lynch got them a first down at the 49.  Tate was wide open in the middle of the field on the next play and Wilson connected with him for a gain of 19.  That made it first down at the Falcon 32.  Wilson scrambled for a gain of five and on third and five from the 27, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and looked for a receiver.  He found Lynch and he took the ball down to the three-yard line.  The Falcons were flagged for 12 men on the field and that moved the ball to the two.  From the two, Lynch ran off right guard for a touchdown.  Or was it?  The ball came loose as he entered the end zone, but replay showed it had crossed the plane before it came loose.  Longwell made the point after and that put the Seahawks up 28-27 with just 31 seconds to go.

The Falcons started at their 28 and Ryan quickly hooked up with Douglass for a gain of 22 yards.  Just like that, they were at midfield and called their second timeout.  From the 50, Ryan completed a pass to Gonzalez at the 31.  In two plays, the Falcons went 41 yards.  What kind of defense was that, Seattle?  With 13 seconds remaining, the Falcons called their final timeout and Bryant came on for the crucial field goal attempt.  The Seahawks called timeout, but Bryant kicked the ball anyway.  It sailed wide right.  But, with Seattle calling that timeout, Bryant had another chance.  This time, his kick was good and the Falcons led 30-27 with eight seconds to go.

The ensuing kickoff was very short and the Seahawks recovered it at their 46.  Wilson completed a pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and he ran out of bounds at the Falcon 46 with two seconds to go.  So, what do you do?  Try a 64-yard field goal?  You’re in a dome, why not give it a shot?  Longwell was standing on the sideline waiting for a chance.  That chance never came.  Wilson threw a deep pass for the end zone that ended up being picked off by Julio Jones.  That’s how the game ended.  Final score: Falcons 30 Seahawks 28.  The Falcons will go on to face the 49ers in Atlanta for the NFC championship.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 24 of 36 for 385 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  Zach Miller had a stellar day and led the team in receptions with eight and yards with 142 and one touchdown.  Wilson was also the leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries and one touchdown.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 123 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Bobby Wagner led the defense with seven solo tackles, an interception and one pass defensed.

For the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 24 of 35 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones tied for the lead in receptions with six and Roddy White had the most receiving yards with 76 and a touchdown.  Michael Turner rumbled for 98 yards on 14 carries and as a team, the Falcons racked up 167 yards on 26 carries.  Defensively, Sean Witherspoon and cornerback Asante Samuel led the team in solo tackles with five apiece.  Witherspoon also forced a fumble.

Well, after years of frustration and saying he was 95% sure he was going to retire, Tony Gonzalez finally got his first playoff win.  Hey it had to happen eventually, right?  It was fitting that his catch on the final drive put the Falcons in position for the game winning field goal.  They’ll have their hands full next week against the 49ers.  One game remains on the schedule and that’s the Texans and the Patriots.  I’ll be back at the conclusion of that game for a recap.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Good news to every Cardinal fans ears, WR Larry Fitzgerald stated that with the improvements the team made on the field in free agency, he is more likely to sign long term with Arizona…..Coach Ken Whisenhunt stated on Thursday that Beanie Wells will start at running back to begin the season…..The addition of TE Todd Heap gives the Cardinals a solid pass catcher, but remember, Heap is nowhere near the player he used to be; however in the red zone, he’s a nice tall target for QB Kevin Kolb.

Atlanta Falcons: We learned recently that RB Michael Turner underwent groin surgery in the off-season; an optimist thinks this is the reason for Turner’s mediocre 2010 and a pessimist thinks this season won’t be any better…..Tony Gonzalez, 35, recently stated that he could play another three seasons if he wanted to; you have to wonder if Tony is starting to realize just how good this offense can be with the addition of WR Julio Jones.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are one of the teams that are rumored to be interested in the services of Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, as if that defense isn’t scary enough…..The loss of TE Todd Heap to free agency means we will find out if Ed Dickson is the real deal or not…..A couple of the Steelers have had some unflattering things to say about QB Joe Flacco this week. Seems they forget that if not for a couple of key drops by Raven WRs in the playoff game last season, the Steelers wouldn’t have even made the Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills signing of LB Nick Barnett gives them a quality player who can range from sideline to sideline. The only reason he is still not a Packer is because of salary cap reasons…..With opposing teams having to respect the deep threat of WRs Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, RB CJ Spiller could have plenty of room to operate underneath.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Jon Beason was placed on the non-football injury list with tendinitis in his Achilles but it’s not considered anything serious…..One would have to think that Cam Newton will start at QB for the Panthers as Jimmy Claussen was nothing short of awful last season. But even if he doesn’t, the Panthers have stated that they will have plays designed for him each week…..Speaking of QBs who were awful last season, the Panthers signed Derek Anderson.

Chicago Bears: The Bears must be in love with former Cowboys, having signed WRs Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, along with RB Marion Barber so far in free agency…..Williams could be the ball possession type of receiver the Bears need. Hurd is probably still best suited for special teams. Barber looks to be the goal line back…..The Bears will be looking for another center after Olin Kreutz has decided to test the free agent market. Not good for a team whose biggest weakness may have been the offensive line last season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson is back in the fold after signing a one-year deal. One has to wonder if his market dried up because of his off field problems…..Andy Dalton will be given every chance to win the starting QB job this season. This promises to be a pretty ugly situation as Dalton would almost certainly be better off sitting behind a veteran to at least start the season…..Those of you who think Carson Palmer may change his mind and come out of retirement to play again for the Bengals, forget about it! There is a better chance of Boomer Esiason putting the pads back on.

Cleveland Browns: QB Colt McCoy is struggling so far in camp with the new West Coast offense, but that’s to be expected since there weren’t any off-season mini-camps to work on things…..You know you may not be in for a good season when you lose your punter for the year with a torn Achilles tendon.

Dallas Cowboys: There were many questions when Dallas didn’t try to upgrade their secondary via the draft, but the Cowboys kept insisting they trusted Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins. The Cowboys were all of a sudden in late on the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, but lost out, and now the news that they have lost Newman for 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Even if Newman comes back before the season opener, it seems unlikely that he would be at 100%, and all the top CBs are off the market…..On the flip side, they did solve their safety problems with the signing of Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam.

Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton has clearly outplayed Tim Tebow in the battle for the starting QB job. Not a shock as Orton may not be a sexy QB, but still much better than an average one…..The Broncos signed ex-Patriot Ty Warren to help with their run defense…..WR Brandon Lloyd has looked good in camp once again, and if Orton does indeed start, could once again put up a big season.

Detroit Lions: The loss of DT Nick Fairley for most, if not all, of training camp with a foot injury is certainly not good news. But if he can get close to 100% before the start of the regular season, then it’s not a devastating loss…..The Lions did a great job of waiting out LB Stephen Tulloch. There wasn’t a big market for his services and they were able to get him at a much more team friendly contract.

Green Bay Packers: The re-signing of WR James Jones is great for the Packers but not good for those fantasy owners who grabbed Jordy Nelson thinking this would be his breakout season…..It’s also not good for their 2nd round pick Randall Cobb, who now will only get on the field in the event of an injury to one of the top four wideouts…..For those of you who are worried, DB Charles Woodson is practicing fully in camp.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson dislocated a finger in practice Tuesday, nothing to worry about as he will be back in a matter of days. This reminded me of the days where John Elway and Brett Favre would repeatedly break or dislocate their receivers fingers because they threw the ball with such velocity…..RB Steve Slaton will be traded as long as Ben Tate shows he is healthy and can handle the backup RB job.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning was spotted throwing the ball in practice and looked good doing so, but is still on the PUP list…..WR Austin Collie is also practicing fully, but one has to wonder if he can make it through a full season after multiple concussions last season…..The Colts re-signed Joseph Addai to a three-year, $14 million contract. Not sure if it’s just me, but that seems a bit high.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is being limited in training camp after coming off meniscus surgery. If there is one top RB that I’m staying away from in fantasy leagues, it would be Jones-Drew. He’s an injury risk and the Jaguars might use Rashad Jennings in a bigger role in order to keep Jones-Drew as fresh and healthy as possible…..I’m not a big fan of the passing game either and wonder if teams stack the line of scrimmage and force QB David Garrard to beat them.

Kansas City Chiefs: Head Coach Todd Haley has stated that once again the Chiefs will be a run first team this season. If RB Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, he is going to have a big year…..TE Tony Moeaki has missed the first couple of days of camp with a knee injury. He may not be a household name, but he is a good blocker in the run game and can surprise some people in the passing game.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have announced that RB Reggie Bush will have pretty much the same role with them that he had with New Orleans, touching the ball about 10-12 times a game…..There were some rumblings that Miami is interested in QB Brett Favre (can’t he just go away), but apparently this is nothing more than internet rumor…..Tiki Barber had a tryout with the Fish this week. Pretty much shows you how desperate they are right now.

Minnesota Vikings:  WR Percy Harvin is looking forward to a breakout season after not having suffered from a migraine since last year…..Of course with Bernard Berrian starting opposing you, Harvin is going to have the attention of all of the pass defenses…..Tackle Byrant McKinnie showed up at camp close to 300 pounds and was promptly released…..Anyone who hasn’t seen the video of what P Chris Kluwe asked of Donovan McNabb in order to give up jersey #5 should check it out. Pretty funny!

New England Patriots: The Patriots and Jets are gearing up for what should be an interesting battle in the AFC East…..If WR Chad Ochocinco can’t be a deep threat, one has to wonder if the Patriots can be the high scoring offense they were in the past…..DT Albert Haynesworth passed his conditioning test without any problems for those of you who are wondering.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram has looked great early on in camp and could be another dangerous weapon in the Saints offense…..DE Will Smith will finally be suspended four games for using performance enhancers; the courts finally upheld the NFL’s right to suspend Smith…..If you’re looking for a TE late in your draft, look no further than Jimmy Graham. He is going to have a big year.

New York Giants: The saga between the Giants and DE Osi Umenyiroa promises to last all season long. In a nutshell, Osi believes he was promised a new contract if he performed well and now wants to be traded. The Giants did give his agent permission to seek a trade for about 48 hours before rescinding it. They then told Osi to take the day off and he refused. It is going to be an interesting soap opera all training camp.

New York Jets: The Jets are taking a big gamble on WR Plaxico Burress. He hasn’t played in two years and had issues with both organizations that employed him. Now has a sprained ankle to begin camp…..It seemed the Jets were the favorites until the last minute to land CB Nnamdi Asomugha but re-signing Antonio Cromartie is still a good move. With Darrelle Revis on your roster, Asomugha was a luxury, not a necessity.

Oakland Raiders: If you’re the Raiders, how can you let TE Zach Miller leave during free agency, not to mention the aforementioned Asomugha?…..RB Darren MacFadden will be out of action for at least two weeks with a fractured orbital bone…..The Raiders have been working out TE Kevin Boss to replace Miller…..The Raiders are still hoping that WR Jacoby Ford will be ready for the regular season after having the cast taken off his broke hand on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are going for broke this season, signing just about every free agent imaginable…..CB Nnamdi Asomugha seems to be an answer to the multiple receiver sets that the Packers and Saints use as the Eagles now have three top flight CBs on their roster. Makes you wonder if they will try and trade Asante Samuel eventually…..The Eagles even tried to lure WR Randy Moss out of retirement…..If QB Michael Vick stays healthy, this is going to be a scary offense…..Speaking of health, DT Mike Patterson is probably out for the season after suffering a seizure in practice and needing surgery to fix the problem.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Emmanuel Sanders had another surgery on his foot and is no longer likely to begin the season as the Steelers #3 WR…..QB Dennis Dixon angered Pittsburgh management when he asked for a trade. He may get his wish though…..WR Hines Ward should be ready to come off the PUP list (thumb) in the next couple of days.

San Diego Chargers: In order to keep SS Bob Sanders healthy, they are thinking about replacing him in passing situations. That’s all fine and good, but Sanders usually gets hurt throwing his body around in the running game…..Another player who came off the PUP list was TE Antonio Gates. He practiced on Thursday. The Bolts have to be a little worried though about his foot. This injury looks like it’s never going to heal completely.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers signed WR Braylon Edwards. The loss of Michael Crabtree makes Edwards close to a necessity…..In somewhat of a shock, the 49ers sent out an email to all NFL teams that S Taylor Mays is available. It didn’t take long for Mays (2nd round pick last year) to prove to new head coach Jim Harbaugh that he can’t play at the NFL level, now you know why is college coach, Pete Carroll, passed on him.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks signing of TE Zach Miller is somewhat surprising as they have a pretty good TE already on their roster in John Carlson. Miller just seems to be a luxury, not a necessity…..The Hawks also signed WR Sidney Rice earlier in free agency. Now if they only had a QB to get the ball to these two…..Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Tarvares Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams finally found their backup to RB Steven Jackson in Cadillac Williams…..Michael Sims-Walker gives the Rams yet another WR who is maddingly inconsistent. QB Sam Bradford may not be able to make that jump to the next level without a true number one wideout.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It would’ve been nice to see the Bucs spend some money in free agency this season. They are a strong young team with a ton of room under the cap. A couple of solid free agents here and there could make a big difference. Seems to be they are behind the Saints and Falcons at this time.

Tennessee Titans: It was bad news for WR Kenny Britt on Thursday when it was announced that commissioner Roger Goodell will still be judge and jury when it comes to player discipline. Oh and Britt hasn’t practiced yet due to a hamstring injury…..Chris Johnson still hasn’t reported to camp. He wants a new contract with around $30 million guaranteed. Cha ching!

Washington Redskins: A sleeper RB in your fantasy leagues could be Roy Helu. Tim Hightower has already proven he can’t handle a full-time role and Ryan Torrain underwent surgery to place four screws in his hand this week. Of course the problem is the Skins have no QB and coach Mike Shanahan is famous for driving fantasy owners crazy with his use of RBs…..The Skins did re-sign QB Rex Grossman. It’s either him or John Beck for the starting QB job, yippee.