Friday, August 26, 2005

Thoughts on the Falcons game last night

1. The defensive line looked outstanding. Forget Michael Vick, the biggest improvement in the team and arguably the biggest reason why they were the second best team in the NFC last year was the play of Coleman, Kearney, Jasper, and Smith (in that order) on the front four. The team piled up a great sack total using four-man rushes, which is pretty much the key to defensive football. Last night, the line was in Leftwich's face all night. He got hit while delivering passes on a number of occasions. The Falcons were regularly blowing up running plays in the backfield. The play that stands out the most was Jonathan Babineaux running down a screen pass from the weak side for no gain, on which he showed both athleticism and great recognition skills. If the Falcons are going to survive a tougher schedule, then the defense is going to have to go from pretty good to very good and the onus is on the defensive line to lead the charge. Philly is incorrectly seen as Donovan McNabb's team, but the reason why they're in the NFC Title Game every year is they play consistently great defense.

2. While some look for every occasion to rip on Michael Vick, I have no problem with him pouting about criticism. For one thing, he's very much a love him or hate him figure, so even though SI fawns over him with cover stories and the ESPN crew acts as if he's Peyton Manning and Hercules rolled into one, there are also scores of pundits who rebel against that love-in by ripping him, often as excessively as he's praised. Additionally, Michael Jordan, the most lionized athlete of my time, constantly derived motivation from slights, real or imagined. If Vick becomes a better player because he's motivated by the naysayers in his head, then more power to him. I'll be sure to thank them all when I'm watching the parade down Peachtree Street in 2007.

2a. All that being said, when Jim Mora was haranguing Matt Schaub at the end of the first half for not getting a snap off quickly to prevent the officiating crew from reviewing a fumble call, the wife and I agreed that he would never, ever treat Vick the same way, even though Michael is just as capable of making such a mistake. The Falcons organization coddles Vick in every way, which is why him deriving motivation from slights from outside is even more important.

2b. And speaking of the fumble call, no one dwells on a call with more mind-numbing repetition without saying anything original or even paying attention to the monitor like the ESPN Sunday Night Crew. I don't know a single soul who likes them. Do you?

3. Michael Jenkins, nice to meet you.

4. Another good sign: if their behavior on the sidelines is any indication, the Falcons offensive skill position players seem to really like one another. I hate making the undisprovable "good for chemistry" arguments, but is it possible that part of Vick's value is bound up in the fact that his teammates like him and he seems to have a good time with them? One of Sports Guy's few legitimate criticisms of Peyton Manning is that he, like Dan Marino, is always bitching at his teammates every time something goes wrong and not in a Jordan-esque "I'm going to put the fear of G-d into you" way, but rather in a Luke Skywalker "But I was going to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters" way.

5. How happy are Falcons fans going to be if and when Peerless Price is cut? Will Distant Replays buy back his jerseys from fans to include in their "Disgraced Atlanta Athletes" section along with Len Barker, Theo Ratliff, Damian Rhodes, and every one of Pete Babcock's first round pick.

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