Tag Archives: Matt Ryan

Patriots Play Lucy to Falcons Charlie Brown, Win 34 – 28

I hate Tom Brady.

I hate Bill Belichick.

I hate the New England Patriots.

I hate the fact that Tom Brady is so freaking good and comes up huge in big games.  I am not looking forward to all of the GOAT talk that will invariably surround him from this day forward until he mercifully retires from the game.  But the way he has been playing, that may not be for another five years or so.

I hate the fact that Bill Belichick is always so calm during the face of adversity.  Granted, he came close to being unglued a few times in the first quarter but by the end of the first half, down 21-3, you could just see that he was going to come up with something to get back into the game.

His quarterback was getting hit, a pick-six interception was forced as well as a fumble.  Just how good was it going for the Atlanta Falcons?  Better than head coach Dan Quinn could have imagined.

In the third quarter, Atlanta thought they had put a strong nail in the coffin by going up 28-3.  But New England came back and put six on the board.  Normally reliable Steve Gostkowski went wide with the extra point.  Personally, I thought that would have taken the wind out of the Patriots sails and lift Atlanta a bit.  But that wasn’t the case.

The crucial turn in the game, for me was at 3:56 left to go in the fourth quarter.  Atlanta was up 28-20 and driving from New England 23 yard line, second down and 11 yards for a first down.  They were in good shape for a field goal, about a 33-35 yards away, well within the range for Falcon’s kicker Matt Bryant.  One would think with the success Atlanta had running the ball, they would have kept it on the ground.

And for some damn reason, the Falcons choose to pass the ball.  New England’s Trey Flowers dropped Falcons QB Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss.  Now it’s third down and 23 yards needed for a first down.  Still within range for Matt Bryant from 47 yards out.

Again, they dropped back to pass and completed a nine yarder to Mohamed Sanu to give Bryant just a little more insurance.  But a flag was thrown on the play for offensive holding on lineman Jake Matthews.

In two plays, the Atlanta Falcons went from 2nd down from the 23 yard line to 3rd down and 33 yards.  From New England’s 23 yard line to New England’s 45 yard line, making a field goal attempt of 55-58 yards.  Even indoors, I don’t think Matt Bryant has that kind of leg.

On third down, Matt Ryan threw an incomplete pass and the Falcons were forced to punt.  And that was the ball game.  From there, New England marched down the field to score and then made the 2 point conversion to tie the game at 28.

New England won the toss and in 3 minutes and 58 seconds in overtime, became the winners of Super Bowl LI.

There are two questions I have for the Atlanta Falcons:

  1. Why change the defensive strategy of going after Brady?  Atlanta was getting to Brady often, getting him out of rhythm and making him throw when he didn’t want to.  Later in the second half, Brady was barely touched as the Falcons chose to drop back in coverage and play a prevent defense.  All that did was prevent them from winning the Super Bowl.
  2. Why didn’t you run the ball at 3:56 to stay within Matt Bryant’s range to make it a two score game?  Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman had run the ball effectively and had in fact, gotten into the Patriots secondary a few times.

If the Falcons would have stayed with the game plan of going after Brady, I’m convinced they would be the champs instead of New England.  Yes, it is a tiring effect on the defense to chase the QB all the time.  But when you have one of the best passers in the game on the ropes, you don’t let him get up.  I would have even been OK if the Falcons had taken a couple of roughing the passer penalties if it would have caused Brady to be looking out of his ear hole of his helmet.

And giving up points is perhaps the worst thing a team can do.  Those three points the Atlanta Falcons didn’t score when they were up 28-20 were the biggest three points they could have ever scored.  It would have made it a 2 score game and even as hot as the Patriots were, I just don’t think they would have had the time to win it.

The Atlanta Falcons are a young team with an experienced QB who did fairly well on the big stage.  And in the end, there were only two outcomes that could happen for them:  Win or Lose,  This time they lost but I believe there will be a next time for the Atlanta Falcons.

Dan Quinn has  good scheme in place.  And even though he will be losing Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shananhan, who will become head coach for San Francisco, he is getting another offensive wizard in Chip Kelly.

And yes, those gosh-darn New England Patriots (did I mention I hate these guys?) will also be in the mix yet again.

Remember, only 214 more days until the 2017 season begins!

Super Bowl LI Prediction – Going With The Atlanta Falcons

super-bowl-li

I just know everyone has been waiting for the Beer Thinker’s prediction on the Super Bowl.  And to be quite honest, I needed to really do a deep search on what my prediction would be.

Everyone knows that Bill Belicheck’s philosophy in winning games is to take away the opponent’s strength.  It’s been a great strategy for them over the past 14 years.  One can hardly argue with a team that has gone 176-48 over that span, winning 78% of the time.

There are a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to say a 10-6 season was an “off” one.  Just ask the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.

Back to Belicheck’s philosophy regarding taking away a teams strength.  In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, I believe they just have too many weapons, starting with quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan passed for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  He has been cool and calm under pressure and with the myriad of targets he has available, he has also come adept at finding the open man.

Let’s start with Julio Jones who is the most potent offensive weapons that Ryan has available to him.  While Jones has missed some playing time this year with various injuries, he still put together a stellar season…1,409 yards receiving along with 6 touchdowns.  And let’s not forget the monster game he had against the Carolina Panthers when he torched them for 300 yards and a TD.

Going to take away Jones?  Now you need to worry about Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.  Combined they have caught 131 passes for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns.  And let’s not forget running back Devontae Freeman coming out of the backfield with 54 catches for 462 yards and 2 scores.

Take away the passing game?  No worries, Freeman put up solid numbers there as well with 1,079 yards rushing and 11 TD’s.  And his partner in crime, Tevin Coleman, rushed for 520 yards with 8 scores.  Both Freeman and Coleman average 4 plus yards a carry and both have breakaway speed once they get in the secondary.

New England just won’t have enough defense to focus on just one area of the game.

That’s not to say that they are just going to roll over.  Admittedly, I am not a Patriots fan, I have to admire there consistency and game planning.

Tom Brady, despite missing 4 games because of the Deflategate fiasco, still passed for 3,554 yards with 28 TD’s and just 2 interceptions, completing 67% of his passes.

With Rob Gronkowski out with a back injury, the remaining Patriots receivers have stepped up.  One of Brady’s favorite targets has been Julian Edelman who led the Pats wit 1,106 yards receiving but only 3 scores.  Edelman’s job has been to be Brady’s go to guy on third down and he has excelled at it.

TE Martellus Bennett has done a serviceable job.  He comes in with 55 catches for 701 yards and 7 touchdowns and has a knack for making a big play when the Patriots need it.  Chris Hogan has come on strong in the playoffs, especially against the Steelers when he lit them up with 9 catches for 180 yards and 2 TD’s.

Patriots rushing attack, while not as strong as Atlanta’s two headed monster of Freeman and Coleman, isn’t anything to sneeze at.  LaGarrette Blount had a fine season with 1,168 yards and 18 scores.  Not much of a receiving threat as he only had 7 catches for 38 yards in 2016.  For a receiving threat out of the backfield, Brady will rely on RB James White who had 60 catches for 551 yards and 5 TD’s.

It could be said offensively that who is better is a toss-up.  I give a slight edge to the Falcons…they just have too many weapons and they can hang with the Patriots offense just fine.

Defensively is ultimately where this game will be decided and I believe that Atlanta will have the edge.  Atlanta has great team speed defensively and I can see them getting some hits on Brady.

Atlanta tallied 34 sacks in 2016 with linebacker Vic Beasley racking up 15.5 of them.  The defensive line collectively sacked opposing QB’s 12 times.  The ageless wonder of Dwight Freeney recorded 3 sacks used in situational schemes.

As for the secondary, the Falcons intercepted opposing teams 12 times running back 3 of them for scores.  Linebacker Deion Jones led the way with 3 interceptions, 2 of them the pick-six variety.

Atlanta defended 90 passes and many of those were clutch 3rd down situations to force three and outs, getting the ball back to their offense.

New England also racked up 34 sacks in 2016 with D-Lineman Trey Flowers leading the way with seven.  Jabaal Sheard recorded five sacks and former Ram Chris Long chipped in with four.  The have a pretty good defensive line scheme that will attack QB’s from different directions.  Matt Ryan will need to rely on his offensive line to give him the time he needs.

New England also intercepted opposing teams 13 times but none resulting in a score.  New England defended 68 passes but also gave up a lot of ground while doing so.

What I see is Atlanta being able to control the clock better than New England to keep Brady on the sidelines.  They will take there shots and once they start scoring, head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will step on the gas and stay on it until the game clock reaches 0:00 and Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl LI will be theirs.

 

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.

Russell Wilson Is A System Quarterback – Myth or Fact?

All he does is win games.
All he does is win games.

So I am going to weigh in on the Russell Wilson contract issue again.  But I am going to try and look at this from a different perspective.

About six years ago, I wrote an article for the Bleacher Report called The Myth About A System Quarterback.  At the time, I was writing under the pseudonym of Seattle Lion Fan.

According to Wikipedia, a system quarterback is defined as “is an American football quarterback who flourishes under a particular offensive system, specifically one that focuses on passing.”

Under another definition, a system quarterback could be defined as one that is successful but not talented.

I, for one, believe that every quarterback in the NFL is a system quarterback.  Each team has its own system whether they drafted a quarterback that fit the direction the head coach wants or they built a system to exploit the talents of a quarterback.

I think the best example of this was when the Miami Dolphins, then coached by the great Don Shula, took Dan Marino.  Shula made six Super Bowl appearances, going 2-4 in those games.  His teams from 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1982 were all keyed by a run-first offensive strategy, including the undefeated team of 1972.

That all changed when Dan Marino, drafted in 1983 and became the full-time starter in 1984 when he threw for over 5,000 yards and threw 48 touchdowns.  Shula recognized what he had in Marino and built a system around him which in my eyes, makes Marino a system quarterback.

Another great example is Joe Montana.  Bill Walsh needed to find the perfect quarterback to run his West Coast offense and in 1979, Walsh found him in the third round.  Montana, coming out of Notre Dame, was not your prototypical quarterback.  But Walsh kept saying is that “all this kid does is win.”

Four Super Bowl wins in a span of 13 years with San Francisco as well as never losing one puts Montana in a very elite class.  Many, myself included, put him as one of the greatest quarterbacks to have played the game.

In both of these examples, each quarterback fit the system designed by the coaches…one had a system built for him (Marino) and the other was a perfect fit for a system already in place (Montana).

In Pete Carroll’s system, he needed a quarterback that had the capabilities to:

  • Have lots of mobility but still look to throw
  • Take care of the ball on their possessions
  • Make smart and intelligent plays
  • Be the leader on offense
  • Make the big play when needed.

Russell Wilson fills each of these needs very, very well.  How can you argue when all this kid has done in his past three seasons as the Seahawk quarterback is win?

  • Three straight post-season appearances.
  • Two straight Super Bowl appearances (and it should have been two straight wins!).
  • 36 – 11 regular season record over three seasons.
  • Career passing percentage of 98.6 over those three seasons and averaged 100.6 over the last two years.
  • Has not missed a game in those three years.

I truly believe that Russell Wilson is the best fit for this Seahawk offense.  Is there another QB worth a damn that can do better than Wilson at this point?  Tavaris Jackson?  Been tried and he could do no better than 7-9.  Granted he didn’t have Marshawn Lynch as a running back but even with Beast Mode, I doubt he do much better than 9-7.  T-Jack is a turnover machine and checks down way too much.

Wilson fits the system that Carroll has designed.  Wilson needs the Seahawks and the Seahawks need Wilson.  What the question is now is what is the magic number to get the deal done?

The top seven highest paid quarterbacks (listed is guaranteed salaries, not the total contract) according to Sports Cheat Sheet:

  1. Colin Kapernick – San Francisco:  $61 Million
  2. Matt Ryan – Atlanta:  $59 Million
  3. Tom Brady- New England:  $57 Million
  4. Drew Brees – New Orleans:  $55 Million
  5. Tony Romo – Dallas:  $55 Million
  6. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay:  $54 Million
  7. Jay Cutler – Chicago:  $54 Million

So tell me, out of these seven quarterbacks, which one would you take over Russell Wilson?  If I had to pick, it would most likely be Aaron Rodgers.  Why?  Because he is a 6’2″ version of Russell Wilson…or to be more accurate, Russell is a 5’11” version of Rodgers.

Imagine how successful Rodgers would have been if he had the caliber of running back such as Marshawn Lynch as well as the defense of our beloved Seahawks!  Rodgers would be out of fingers with Super Bowls.  And yet, hardly anyone batted an eyelid when Rodgers signed one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL.

I agree, you take away Lynch and Russell would be a different QB.  But I believe that he would still be successful because Wilson can adapt to compensate for the loss of a great running game…he would adapt to the changes in the system.

Russell Wilson deserves to be paid as one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league simply because of what he has shown what he’s done over the past three seasons.  Does he deserve to be the highest paid?  If he can get it, more power to him.  But this is one player the Seahawks cannot say “next man up!” because they don’t have a player of his caliber to take his place.

Pay the man, he deserves it.