Tag Archives: Brian Billick

NFL 08: Falcons send the Vikings longship-packing

Looks like someone decided to give the Atlanta Falcons a couple of go-home-and-collect-200 cards. The Baltimore Ravens broke up the Dallas Cowboys’ party 33 to 24 Saturday night. The San Diego Chargers took out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41 to 24 earlier today. The Falcons went into todays game against the Minnesota Vikings with one condition: win and you’re in the playoffs (as a wild card). So, were they able to do it? and on the Vikings’ turf?

Televised by Fox, the first quarter started with a super cool throw from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throwing to wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who caught the ball one yard away from the goal line. Running back Michael Turner trudged his way into the end zone on the next play. Atlanta 7 and Minnesota 0. Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe got his hand into the end zone for a touchdown in response. Atlanta and Minnesota tied 7 a piece.

The second quarter surfaced with Matt Ryan shovel passing the ball to running back Jerious Norwood, who ran his way into the end zone. Atlanta 14 and Minnesota 7. The Vikings hit back with a few good runs by running back Adrian Peterson and throws by quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and then the ball got away from the Vikings and into the hands of Falcons wide receiver Roddy White. Unfortunately, no score came from that cul-de-sac of ball exchange. Once Vikings were back on offense, Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson made good ground coverage…but then there was another fumble and Falcons cornerback Chris Houston got his hands on the ball. Going into halftime, Atlanta was in the lead with 17 points to Minnesota’s 7.

The third quarter began with another series of impressive Vikings action which then turned into Falcons fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead sacked Tarvaris Jackson and defensive end Chauncey Davis got on top of the ball. The outcome of that turnover? Rien. Nothing. The Falcons had to punt the ball away. SWEET MOLLY OF MARINATED CUBAN SANDWICHES?! The game clock was tripping passed three minutes in the bottom of the third quarter; the Falcons were second-and-five on the Minnesota five yard line; Matt Ryan couldn’t find someone to whom he could launch the ball. Alors, he decided to take it to the goal line himself.

Only, his forward somersault was possibly twelve inches shy of the goal line, and as he came closer to the ground, the ball fell away from his hand and into the end zone (diagonally left from Matt Ryan’s hand). Purple and white swarmed around that prolate spheroid and Falcons guard Justin Blalock ended up with the credit for repossessing it for a TD. Atlanta 24 and Minnesota 7. The fourth quarter commenced with a re-energized Vikings offense…in the form of a field goal. Minnesota benefited from another Visanthe Shiancoe TD in the bottom of the quarter. Atlanta 24 and Minnesota 17. The Vikings’ defense were not going to surrender. With the two-minute warning left to play in the fourth, Tarvaris Jackson and his eligible receivers had one more chance to tie or take the win by a one point lead. Despite the Vikings’ efforts, the Falcons reclaimed control of the ball in the final minute of the game. Atlanta 24 and Minnesota 17. Final score. SWEET SHINY PLANTAINS ON A SUNDAY!!! The Falcons are going to the playoffs!!!

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Wow. After the Tennessee Titans beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31 to 14, CBS cut to the end of the Miami Dolphins attempting to maintain a lead over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dolphins wore white jerseys and the Chiefs red. Together on the field, they looked like diced salsa ingredients or a Tabasco bottle.

2. Brian Baldinger, Dick Stockton, and Brian Billick provided commentary.

3. So, about that Matt Ryan somersault. I wonder if he’d ever do that again….I wonder if he’d practice doing that again for next season.

4. Last week’s game against Tampa Bay caused much anxiety since Matt Ryan’s second throw. Today’s horse-shoe toss against the Minnesota didn’t fill me with as intense a level of nerves, but from halfway through the third quarter to the end of the fourth, I experienced a dull chattering of anxiousness. I believed the Falcons could maintain a numerical lead but the Vikings just weren’t going to let up one breath, as evidenced in the bottom of the fourth quarter.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

NFL 08: Saints out-charades the Falcons

When the New Orleans Saints voyaged to the Eastern time zone a month ago to stare down the Atlanta Falcons, the home team proved to be the master of the ceremonies.  Today, the Falcons were over in  the Saints’ playground aiming to capture another victory.   Broadcast on Fox, the first quarter started with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throwing an interception.  Saints cornerback Jason David plucked the ball right out of the air as it was traveling towards Falcons wide receiver Roddy White.  Saints running back Reggie Bush made a touchdown a couple plays later.  New Orleans 7 and Atlanta 0.

The second quarter started with Saints quarterback Drew Brees throwing to wide receiver Marques Colston.  The ball ended up in the hands of Falcons cornerback Chevis Jackson, but it hit the ground.  Thus, incomplete pass.   The Saints shot up a field goal at the end of that possessio.  New Orleans 10 and Falcons 0.   The first play of Atlanta’s next possession was a fifty-nine yard pass to Roddy White.  Spectacularly projected and cradled.   The end of that drive led to a touchdown, courtesy of running back Michael Turner.  The Saints flung up another field goal (of forty-six yards) not long after the Falcons got on the board.  New Orleans 13 and Atlanta 7.   Towards the bottom of the second quarter, Matt Ryan connected superbly with wide receivers Harry Douglas, Michael Jenkins, Roddy White, and finally  Brian Finneran for a TD.  Atlanta 14 and New Orleans 13.  Going into halftime, though, the Saints reclaimed the lead with a field goal.  New Orleans 16 and Atlanta 14.

The third quarter pulsed halfway through and Matt Ryan launched two awesome passes while under much pressure (once to Brian Finneran, who was flanked by two Saints, and a second time to Michael Jenkins).   Edging towards the bottom of the third quarter, as that possession ended, Jason Elam’s field goal placed the Falcons back in the lead.  Atlanta 17 and New Orleans 16.

The fourth quarter commenced with a Saints touchdown by running back Pierre Thomas.   They would attempt a two-point conversion but it was not successful.  New Orleans 21 and Atlanta 17.   On the Falcons’ next possession, Matt Ryan ran twelve yards into the end zone himself for a touchdown.  A two-point conversion was tried and it worked (Michael Jenkins caught the ball).   Atlanta 25 and New Orleans 22.   The Saints responded with a zippy kickoff-return and a drive that culminated in a Pierre Thomas TD.  Saints 29 and Atlanta 25.   Final score.

Observations & Miscellania:

1.  Two of the pre-game segments were a vignette on the Falcons and a getting-to-know Roddy White sequence.  White was also featured on 11alive’s (my local NBC station) Falcons Face to Face last night.  It’s taped at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead and is hosted by Fred Kalil, one of 11alive’s sports reporters.   Roddy White was born in November of 1981.  I’m older than him by nearly a year.  He’s adorable.  His off-field, onscreen persona is remarkably different from his on-field, onscreen persona.

2.  Brian Billick, Dick Stockton, and Brian Baldinger were the commentators.

3.  Jason David made that interception in the first quarter, was then brought to the ground by Roddy White, and then proceeded to do the Carlton Dance upon standing up.

4.  Before cutting to commercial after the second quarter ended, one of the Fox cameras got a shot of a Saints fan dressed up as the Joker a la Heath Ledger.  Only, his jacket was chartreuse.  In fact, the fan bore a strong resemblance to actor Crispin Glover.

5.  Falcons defensive end John Abraham has Chinese character tattoos in his left bicep.  I can’t make out what they are, though, from the camera angle that revealed them (in the top of the fourth quarter after Falcons cornerback Dominique Foxworth got a penalty for illegal contact).

6.  Falcons owner Arthur Blank got a medium close-up after Atlanta lost the forward progress challenge in the fourth quarter.  His face could be read as blank–ha! pun–or stoic.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

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But the Eagles beat the Giants.

NFL 08: the Falcons kung pao spaghetti the Panthers

A brief detour:

The Dallas Cowboys put on their ritz against the San Francisco 49ers earlier today 35 to 22. Click here for details. In the top half of the fourth quarter, SF quarterback Shaun Hill threw to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler for thirty yards and the camera filmed that play from behind the 49ers offense. Their backs were facing the camera–it was pretty cool. Slow-motion instant replays included views from the high-angle, press-box POV (with Zeigler screen-right) as well as from in front of Shaun Hill and behind Ziegler.

Cowboys kicker Nick Folk made four field goals at a distance of greater than forty yards.

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The Baltimore Ravens wisecracked the Philadelphia Eagles 36 to 7. Click here for details.

The New York Jets broke the Tennessee Titans spotless winning streak today. Click here for how and why.

Retour:

The Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. Who would walk away from this game cradling the golden orb of victory? Broadcast on Fox, the first quarter commenced with a Falcons field goal. Upon their next possession, Atlanta scored a touchdown, courtesy of Harry Douglas, who flattened his body horizontally (parallel to the end zone’s sidelines boundaries, or perpendicular to the goal line) and essentially bourreed into the end zone. Falcons 10 and Panthers 0.

The second quarter took off with another Falcons touchdown, thanks to running back Michael Turner. Atlanta 17 and Carolina 0. The Falcons were on a hot cross bun in the second quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw to wide receiver Roddy White, who was then tackled by Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble. Safety Charles Godfrey recovered the fumbled ball for Carolina. This turnover resulted in a field goal. Falcons 17 and Panthers 3 going into halftime.

The third quarter spat out a touchdown for the Panthers, nailed in by running back DeAngelo Williams. Carolina increased their score with a field goal not long after. Falcons 17 and Panthers 13. The third quarter concluded with a horse-collar personal foul on Carolina cornerback Richard Marshall. The fourth quarter sparked with a touchdown by Michael Turner. Falcons 24 and Panthers 13. The Panthers were not going to be disheartened. Carolina’s own quarterback Jake Delhomme ran the ball into the end zone. A two-point conversion was successful. Falcons 24 and Panthers 21.

Atlanta regained some of their first quarter momentum with a Ryan-Douglas connection. The Falcons got to the red zone and then the end zone on the fourth try, thanks to Michael Turner, in the middle of the fourth quarter. Atlanta 31 and Carolina 21. The Falcons widened the score gap when Harry Douglas returned a fifty-seven yard punt for a TD. He then received a taunting penalty because he extended his left arm while running towards the end zone (probably within fifteen yards of it) in a kind of “ha ha” expression. Atlanta 38 and Carolina 21. The Panthers wouldn’t be so visibly demoralized, though. Delhomme threw to wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad in the bottom of the fourth quarter. Atlanta 38 and Carolina 28. With under a minute left to play, the Falcons demonstrated one more dose of athleticism with yet another Michael Turner TD. Atlanta 45 and Carolina 28. Final score.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick provided commentary. After the Falcons put 10 poins on the scoreboard, either Thom or Brian remarked that Matt Ryan has received a lot of praise for his contributions to the franchise even though the defense deserves some recognition too. I don’t think Falcons fans have taken the defense for granted. I don’t think the Falcons have taken their defense for granted.

2. In the seconds before the halftime commercial, the camera cut to a couple of hardcore Falcons fans. The first was a woman who donned this faerie-esque get-up )complete with glitter around the eyes). The second was a man who wore a full-body costume, including a cape, a left-handed claw hook contraption, and a plastic headpiece in the shape of a falcon head.

3. Camera coverage after Harry Douglas’s fourth quarter punt-returned TD included the back of Arthur Blank on the sidelines, making a “yes!” downward swoop with his right arm. As Brennaman and Billick discussed the taunting penalty on Douglas, the cameras cut to veteran Falcons telling Douglas something along the lines of “we know you’re excited, but you gotta refrain from doing that kind of stuff.”

4. Thom Brennaman noted that the “NFC South is (very) mystifying.” For the last five years, it seems, the team that came in last in the division one season would rise to the top the next season. Examples: Panthers, Falcons, Saints, and Bucs. See here.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

NFL 08: Falcons swipe the rug from under the Bears

The Chicago Bears go dirty south to see what the Atlanta Falcons can serve up in front of a sell-out crowd at the Georgia Dome. Broadcast on Fox, the first quarter commenced with an Atlanta possession and a field goal. On the first play of their second possession, running back Michael Turner dropped the ball as he was being tackled. Bears defensive end Alex Brown scooped up the ball. Atlanta head coach Mike Smith fired up that red flag to challenge the call that Chicago recovered the fumble. Indeed, the call was reversed. Turner’s knee hit the ground while he was still holding the ball. The first quarter drew to a close with another Falcons field goal. 6 to 0.

The second quarter creeped to the nine minute mark and the Falcons were edging toward the red zone. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw a complete pass to running back Jerious Norwood, who fumbled the ball as he was tackled. The ball was recovered by Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who lost the ball as he was getting up. The ball was recovered by the Falcons. Bears head coach Lovie Smith challenged the call, claiming that Harris was down by contact. The call was not reversed.

Falcons wide receiver Roddy White made a touchdown catch two plays later, but it was nullified on account of an ineligible downfield pass. On the next play, Matt Ryan threw the ball to wide receiver Brian Finneran, who caught then dropped the ball. The Bears’ next possession ended in a field goal. Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes prevented Bears wide receiver Marty Booker from making a TD catch. Going into halftime, Atlanta 9 and Chicago 3.

The third quarter began with an Atlanta field goal. 12 to 3. It continued with the Bears running back Matt Forte touchdown. The fourth quarter started with a touchdown catch by Roddy White. Falcons 19 and Bears 10. On Chicago’s next possession, they made it all the way to the one yard line but was stopped by Atlanta. Rather than go for a field goal, though, they decided to try for the end zone–and they couldn’t do it. The Bears nearly got into the end zone near the end of the fourth quarter, but they had to field goal it. Atlanta 19 and Chicago 13. With just under four minutes left on the game clock, Jerious Norwood returned the kickoff for eighty-five yards. That drive was supposed to lead to a field goal, but Jason Elam missed it. Just when it looked like the Bears would not be winning this game, wide receiver Rashid Davis caught a TD pass. Chicago tied the game 19 to 19. The extra kick was good. Bears 20 and Atlanta 19. With eleven seconds still on the clock, the Falcons had another chance to win the game. Matt Ryan threw a complete pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins. Jason Elam went on for a forty-eight yard field goal. And IT WAS GOOD!

Atlanta 22. Chicago 20. Final score.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Brian Billick and Thom Brennaman were commentators. The latter remarked that the former and Mike Smith are brothers-in-law.

2. During the instant replay of Matt Ryan’s pass to Brian Finneran in the middle of the second quarter, the camera went to a medium close-up of Ryan walking (in slight slow-motion) towards screen right. His face wore unmistakable frustration.

4. Yes, Jason Elam’s field goal was no good in the bottom of the fourth quarter, but he was the one putting all the Falcons’ numbers on the board until Roddy White made the TD in the top of the fourth quarter. Elam’s first field goal was from the twenty-nine yard line, his second from forty-eight, his third from thirty-two, and his fourth from the forty-one.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

GaTech Yellow Jackets beat Gardner-Webb Bulldogs on Saturday. Click here to read how.

Army-Navy 1995: Wonder through the Stars

I finished reading John Feinstein’s book Civil War: Army vs. Navy yesterday.

I think a good film–documentary or fiction–exists in it, but I’m not sure a film should be made.  It’s such an amazing feeling when reading the last few pages–acknowledgments too–and finding out that Bob Sutton’s contract at Army was renewed as well as how the Army and Navy football players experienced the rest of their school year.  Nearly every time I read more than five pages, I would become misty eyed.  Feinstein’s writing is just that moving.

I’ve never regarded the military with anything but deference, framed around a cognitive (historical) understanding of what they do and what they represent.  Vietnam and the 21st Century haven’t been so kind to them in terms of PR, but I don’t hold them responsible for the way Middle Eastern relations have or haven’t gone.  After reviewing a documentary called Occupation: Dreamland three years ago and recently watching a documentary called Combat Diary: The Marines of Lima Company, I felt more respect and gratitude, which were magnified after finishing Civil War.

Reading Feinstein’s book humanizes the Cadets and the Midshipmen in a way that not even a good Hollywood drama could hope to achieve.  The reason?  The football context is key–it functions as an agent of psychological identification for the reader.  Attending West Point or the Naval Academy is the exotic factor–the element of curiosity possessing the potential to educate the reader on the life at service academies.  To me at least, the football is the familiar half.  There’s already some understanding of what it entails on general grounds: time management, physical and mental exhaustion from practice and game-play (or in some cases, the struggle to participate in any amount of game-play), and the pressure and desire to win.  Put the two together and one has an incredibly engrossing story.  Add Feinstein’s remarkable prose and the result is thought-provoking, humorous, insightful, informative, and awe-inspiring.

In Next Man Up, Feinstein explicitly states in the Introduction that the ostensibly unprecedented degree of access to players, the coaching staff, and other personnel of the 2004 Baltimore Ravens took the form of first-person, real-time presence.  In other words, he was allowed to witness meetings, locker room speeches, practices, and an assortment of conversations as they happened…in addition to the inevitable phone calls and emails placed and returned.

Feinstein puts it like so:  “My access, as you will read, was pretty much complete.  [Brian] Billick never once asked me to leave a room, and the players, who weren’t quite sure who I was or why I was there–many referred to me early on as ‘the book guy’–became, I believe, comfortable with my presence.  Deion Sanders even took the trouble to pull my jacket collar up while we were standing in the tunnel in Pittsburgh, saying, ‘Man, you have to at least try to look good on the sideline‘” (11).

Feinstein also thanks Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti for getting the machine rolling that would eventually produce the material for the book.

While the acknowledgments in Civil War spotlights the persons who were instrumental in helping to secure the permission and support necessary to make the research process possible, there’s only a slight suggestion or implication that Feinstein was present as conversations took place.  Now, we’re not talking about voice-over in a film, where logically a character usually needs to have firsthand knowledge of an event to speak of it.  Feinstein can write about an incident, a conversation, or report the progression of events without necessarily being there as it happened.  For credibility, though, it helps.

Since Civil War was completed before Next Man Up, it makes sense that there’s some ambiguity as to the proportion of witnessed and non-witnessed exchanges.  Moreover, the former focuses more on capturing an essence of the rivalry via the players and coaches of the 1995 season.  Thus, first-person, real-time presence isn’t necessarily mandatory.  On the other hand, Next Man Up is an inside-out, behind-the-playing-field book.  The expectation for first-person, real-time presence is very much there.

Furthermore, because the NFL monitors and limits the media’s access to players in ways the NBA and the MLB do not, it’s important that Feinstein is explicit in pointing out how he conducted primary research.*  It not only speaks to methodology and bolsters his credibility, but it also invites the reader to take part in a journey through him.

Trailer of from Occupation: Dreamland:

A short clip from Combat Diary:

*Feinstein notes in the Introduction of Next Man Up that “most professional sports make their players available to the press often.  Almost every NFL team severely limits access to its players.  There are limited times each week when the locker room is open to journalists, but most players simply stay out of the locker room during that time.  Most practices are off-limits, except perhaps for a few minutes of stretching at the start of the day.  Coaches are paranoid and secretive about everything” (6).

Click  here, here, and here for more excerpts from Next Man Up.

Click here, here, here, here, and here, for more from Civil War.