Garoppolo Ready for Primetime?

As it stands right now, the New England Patriots are going to start their 2015 Super Bowl defense without their franchise quarterback in the first four games. Tom Brady was handed a suspension for his part in Deflate Gate, and that means New England is going to be facing a bit of an uphill battle to start the year.

There is still a chance it gets reduced or even completely eliminated, but preparation is needed in case he can’t play. The question is, can New England actually win without their best player?

By all accounts, Jimmy Garoppolo is going to get that opportunity to fill in for Brady. Some see him as the heir apparent in New England, and they drafted him pretty highly in the second round of the 2014 draft. He is from a small school in Eastern Illinois, but he has shown the coaching staff that he can play at the highest level.

People are still going to draft Brady in fantasy football leagues, but Garoppolo they are probably going to be hesitant on. He is basically a first-year player, and it could be tough for him to be a standout right away. He will be facing a decent schedule as well, with Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas to start the
year off. That might not be the four toughest teams on defense, but they are all capable of putting some pressure on him.

Realistically, New England is probably happy with a .500 record without Brady. They will be most vulnerable against Dallas on the road, but if the suspension is reduced any, Brady will be back for that one. The opener against Pittsburgh will be tough as well, but they will be without their star running back Le’Veon Bell, so things balance out a little bit more.

The important thing for the rest of the AFC East is to not let this opportunity slip away to get a lead. Buffalo in particular has a great opportunity in Week 2 to steal a victory. If any team wants to dethrone New England, they must get a lead while Brady is out.

Three Winners From The NFL Draft

After months of buildup, the 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books. Every single team feels like they did a good job, but some had better drafts than others. We won’t know for sure who actually nailed the draft for a few years, but here is a look at 3 teams who appear to be very satisfied.

Atlanta Falcons

When a person looks at the Atlanta Falcons in 2014, it is easy to see that they have a pretty good offense and an absolutely terrible defense. That is why they focused early on to help get new playmakers on that side of the ball. They let off the draft by going after Vic Beasley as an excellent edge rusher. In the 2nd round, the secondary got a little bit of a boost when they were able to get Jalen Collins out of LSU. He fell a little bit in the draft after some drug issues at the college level, but Atlanta did their due diligence and feel like he is able to turn things around.

If Tevin Coleman ends up being a future starting running back, Atlanta will remember this draft for a long time. This instantly puts them in the running for a divisional crown in 2015.

Cleveland Browns

A trade for Marcus Mariota was definitely considered by management in Cleveland, but ultimately they decided to not give up too much for the eventual number 2 overall pick. Instead, Cleveland decided to stay put and use their 1st round picks to help out a few of their needs. Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving will not be lighting things up individually in fantasy football 2015, but they could help out the defense and offense respectively quite a bit. They are guys who do the dirty work, and Cleveland needs that in order to get in contention in their division. Cleveland still might be looking for a true franchise quarterback, but they decided not to mortgage the farm on a rookie in 2015. Maybe Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown will step up in the summer and grab the job.

Young Talent Could Finally Put Cincinnati Over the Edge

Young Talent Could Finally Put Cincinnati Over The Edge

The Cincinnati Bengals have shown a lot of consistency as far as making the playoffs are concerned. The biggest problem for them is the fact that they can’t seem to get by the opening round. They have not won a playoff contest since 1990, but they have plenty of young talent ready to change all that in the next few years. People heavily into high stakes fantasy football have already taken notice, and now it is time for everyone else.

After being drafted in 2013, there are 2 players on the roster right now who could have big sophomore campaigns. Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard will be big parts of the offense as they try to show what they are made of.

Many people were surprised when Cincinnati decided to take Eifert in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. He is a very talented player, but they already had a very dependable tight end to rely on. People in high stakes fantasy football will be looking for him to earn even more targets this year from quarterback Andy Dalton. He did a lot with the little touches he got in his rookie year, so he should see quite a bit of a boost.

As for Bernard, he is going to be the starting running back this season. There are some people who are a little bit concerned about Jeremy Hill eating into his touches, but for the most part he should be able to get plenty. He is going to try and do whatever possible to make sure that he stays healthy enough to use his dynamic playmaking ability on the field for Cincinnati.

Dalton will have a lot of pressure on him to make sure that the Cincinnati team is able to have success this year. Making the playoffs is obviously the 1st priority, but playing well in them is something that they need to work on. Expect Cincinnati to make a strong push with the younger talent taking over.

Dan Marino Pulls Out of Concussion Lawsuit

Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino made big news late yesterday when word surfaced that he and 14 other former players sued the NFL for not properly warning players about the dangers of concussions.

Only Marino didn’t really sue. Or at least, if he did sue, he has since changed his mind.

Per recent reports Marino has decided to withdraw from the lawsuit. The concussion issue in the NFL doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, but will that really effect how the fans see the game or how its played. Next season is right around the corner and with so many good teams there will be a lot of betting at allpro and a lot of people winning! Hopefully the positives of the games played can outweigh the negative of the concussion issue and Marino may know that.

“It was never Marino’s intention to initiate litigation in this case, but to ensure that in the event he had adverse health consequences down the road, he would be covered with health benefits. They are working to correct the error,” a source told the Sun-Sentinel.

According to the report, Marino and his attorneys are trying to find out how his name was on the lawsuit. Marino has said he had two reported concussions during his 17-year career.

Marino would have been the biggest name to sue the NFL over concussions, and it’s uncertain whether negative reaction from reports that he had joined a lawsuit contributed to his decision to pull out. Marino had never mentioned any problems with concussions during or after his career, and he enjoyed a 12-year run as an NFL analyst with CBS. He also worked for HBO as a commentator.

Plan For the Packers

Without Aaron Rodgers the packers have look abysmal at best. It goes to show having a great QB and winning games can mask a lot of issues. As a lifelong packers fan i have found a bad season hard to grasp, after all their recent successes. I have come to terms with this now. The best thing for them right now would be to get a higher draft pick then what they would get if they made the playoffs. They could shut down Rodgers for the remainder of the season, to eliminate coming back to early from his broken collarbone. Their offensive line is in shambles and could definitely use the services of one of the tackles in the upcoming draft. Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews would make a lot of sense. Baktiari has played well at times but also, has gotten completely embarrassed at others. Don Barclay has also had his struggles this year. Marshall Newhouse has been downright awful. Drafting Lewan/Matthews and a healthy Bulaga would ultimately fix the o line. Another giant issue they have is their defense. Pass defense has been awful all year. Injuries can attribute to some of that but more production needs to happen from the safety position. I believe Morgan Burnett can be good so FS position is set, but im sold on MD Jennings at all. So i believe SS also must be addressed. I think the Packers should then trade back into the 1st (such as 09) and attempt to get a Ha-ha Clinton-Dix type of player. TE is also a position that needs to be addressed. Aaron Rodgers coming back will make the Packers better but ultimately they have greater issues that need to be addressed in the best way the Packers know how, draft and develop.

Patriots: Better Off Without Welker

A clipping from the Roundup Record-Tribune about Mac Bledsoe’s 1999 visit.

I have loved the New England Patriots since Bledsoe’s time. I was 10 when Drew’s dad, Mac, came to my school in Roundup, Montana and gave a motivational speech. What he said resonated with me and I had been wanting to have an NFL team of my own (my best friend was a 49ers fan, so I had been a 49ers fan by default–and who didn’t love Jerry Rice?!), so the New England Patriots became my team!

I was devastated when Tom Brady took over for Bledsoe in 2001. I “knew” that this kid couldn’t be as good as Bledsoe and I knew where my loyalties were. But then I realized, as Brady started looking better and better through the season, that I was a Patriots fan, not a Bledsoe fan. Even though players come and go, and we get attached to them, at the end of the day, we are fans of our teams, not the players. Now, over a decade later, I am still sad to see some of my favorite players go, but love my Patriots more than ever!

Wes Welker had his first season with New England during my first semester at college. I was amazed by his talent and he easily became a top 3 favorite of mine (always behind Brady, and behind Deion Branch when he was on the team). Welker brought our team to a new level and the games were impressive to watch.

As the seasons passed and Welker continued to perform at an incredibly high level, I was a happy camper. When Welker dropped a perfect pass from Brady in the last 10 seconds of Super Bowl XLVI, I was unhappy. And then Welker decided to start contract negotiations. That made me even more unhappy. Here is an excerpt of an article I wrote about him back in September 2012:

“Wes Welker is a prime example of a player I love who was in contract negotiations this summer and, frankly, disgusted me. He wanted $11.42M this year with a long-term contract because he felt he was worth that much to the Patriots organization. He is now on a one year contract, making about $9.5M this year, and I’m pretty sure that yesterday in the season opener he got a total of 14 yards (Fourteen?!?!! Is this a high school stat???) and let a perfect pass bounce off his helmet.”

In the 2012 season Welker went on to have 118 receptions for 1,354 yards; down from his 2011 season stats: 122 receptions for 1,569 yards. Although these are decent stats, I was disappointed in his season and was, to be honest, more interested in the on-again, off-again relationship Deion Branch (like me, a Louisville Cardinal alum) was having with the team.

I heard through the grapevine that Welker was renegotiating his contract with the Patriots for the 2013 season. I was furious! Why should my team spend more money to keep someone who tends to drop big passes when it really matters (e.g. 2012 AFC Championship game) instead of paying him what he’s worth and getting some new guys who could start learning from the vets?!

Then, on March 13, 2013, Welker signed with the Broncos for $12 million over two years. And I said, “Good riddance.” Honestly. I figure if he’s spending more energy off the field trying to get a bigger paycheck than making big plays on the field, we don’t need him. We are a team and if he doesn’t feel like putting the team ahead of his millions of dollars, we can do better.

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks getting over my anger at Wes Welker and scoping out the Patriots’ prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. And then yesterday I came across this interview with Welker on the Broncos’ website. Take a look here.

Wes Welker apparently told John Elway “how much [he] wanted to win” and that he “wanted to be part of a winning team.” Are you kidding me?! The Broncos haven’t been a winning team since Elway’s time and, while I respect the hell out of Peyton Manning, he’s 37 years old! In my estimate, they’ve got one shot to make the Broncos a championship caliber team: the 2013 season. Welker just left a winning team to go to a team that might have the possibility of winning. Maybe. It’s ridiculous.

Then Welker had the gaul to say that the biggest thing he learned at New England was “always putting the team first in everything you do.” Please. If he actually believed in putting the team first, he wouldn’t be in Denver. How is this interview not raising red flags for Elway? It’s incredibly obvious that Welker follows the money and doesn’t care about “the team.” I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t put him on my team if I had one–who’s to say he wouldn’t leave after one season if someone else offered him more money?!

So, for all you New England fans mourning the loss of Welker, let him go. Frame your #83 jerseys and hang them up. Look back at Welker’s time with us as a good era, but just let it slip into the history books. I mourned Bledsoe’s leaving for months and (no offense to Drew) we got someone better. We’re going to get a better receiver who doesn’t only play well, but really knows and respects the value of being a Patriot.

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” –Vince Lombardi

Up Next: The NFL Pro Bowl. Do Fans Even Care?

The divisional championship games have came and went and next is a Ravens vs. 49ers Super Bowl. But for those who may not know the NFL does have it’s form of an all-star game during the in-between time. The yearly battle of the AFC and NFC’s starrs will take place this Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 at Aloha Stadium. The problem is too many see this game as a joke and television ratings usually agree.

Personally I probably won’t watch the Pro Bowl. I am more excited for the Super Bowl. If you want to add more excitement in this coming Super Bowl, you can bet on the Baltimore Ravens at Top Bet. With that said, it’s still football and still some of the best players and athletes in the world out there so I may just try to squeeze it in my viewing schedule. We all know the facts. The league has to do something to make the game more appealing, but what? With injury concerns it’s much easier said than done and we may never see major changes. But enough of the negativity. Here are your Pro Bowl starters:

Impressions from the NFL’s Divisional Weekend

What are you lasting impressions from a recording setting and historic weekend of playoff football?

Was it watching Peyton Manning loss when many thought he was poised to make another Super Bowl run?  Was it watching Ray Lewis and his “Last Ride” leaving the Denver station and finding at least one more stop in New England for a chance to make it to New Orleans?  What is Champ Bailey getting burned twice by Torrey Smith for touchdowns or Jacoby Jones catching a 70 yard touchdown to send the game to overtime?

Was it the recording breaking performance of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the ground or how he also won the game with his arm?  What it watching how the Green Bay defense had no answers for San Francisco Space-Age offense or how Aaron Rodgers could not keep up his end of the shootout at the ole’ Candlestick Corral?

Was it seeing how quickly Atlanta jumped out to a 20-0 lead?  What it watching Seattle not be able to get out of their own way at the end of the first half and leave points on the field when the clock hit 0:00?  Was it the comeback that Russell Wilson and the Seahawks pulled off in the second half or how Matty Ice lead his team to a game winning field goal to grab victory from the jaws of defeat?  Was it seeing Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzales win their first playoff game and earning the right to host the NFC Championship game?

Was it all the questions that Houston left New England with or all the answers the Patriots have had all season to beat the Texans twice?  Was it knowing that Tom Brady passed his boyhood idol Joe Montana for most post season victories or the chance that (perhaps) he might get to face his childhood team in three weeks for a chance to tie him for most Super Bowl championships as a starting quarterback?

What will be talking about next week at this time?  How many Harbaugh brothers will be coaching in the Super Bowl, none, one or both?  Will the Last Ride for Ray Lewis make one more stop at the Super Bowl?  Will he be facing Tony Gonzales in what most believe will be his last game?  Will the quarterback of the 49ers’ offense be able to go on the road, win and send his team to the Super Bowl?  Will that sixth round draft pick, #199 overall, be able to win a home game and send his New England Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl as he seeks his fourth ring?

What are you rooting for to happen as a fan of the NFL?  What do you think your favorite team will do (if they are still playing)?  What’s the most interesting story line for this week?  What will be the story line coming out of this weekend and heading into the Super Bowl?  This is why we watch the games and this is what they played the games.

New England wins and will host Baltimore for the AFC Crown!

Houston was welcomed to New England with a light breeze and 51 degrees on this Sunday afternoon; not exactly what the Patriots fans would have wanted or hoped for, however, this game was still not in Reliant Stadium which is all any fan of New England could have hoped for.  The winner of this game will host the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday evening for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.

Houston received the opening kickoff and Danieal Manning almost took the ball coast to coast, however he was stopped at the New England 12 yard line for the game’s first big play; however all the Houston offense could do was settle for a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead one minute into the game.  A three downs and out possession for the Patriots saw a punt back to the Texans after just 79 seconds of possession and Houston started their second drive on their 17 yard line.  Houston was able to reach midfield on their next possession of 3:11 but a third and 11 play only gained five yards and the Texans needed to punt back to New England; a good kick and no return saw the Patriots start on their 12 yard line with 9:27 sitting on the first quarter clock.  (Running back Danny Woodhead has a thumb injury for New England and was out of the game at the start of this drive.)  Two first downs saw the ball moved to the New England 33 yard line and a first down sack by J.J. Watt pushed the Patriots back to their 24 yard line with a second and 19, they could not recover and needed to punt when a third and eight pass to wide receiver Wes Welker was dropped.  Houston took back the ball after a punt at their 20 yard line with 5:49 on the clock.  (As the New England drive ended, tight end Rob Gronkowski was taken off the field favoring the arm he hurt earlier in the season and reports from the sideline reporter said he looked “compromised”.)  A three downs and out possession is what Houston did and a punt out of bounds gave New England the ball on their 35 yard line to start their next possession.  Using up only 3:01 of the remaining first quarter clock, New England moved down the field with speed and ease as their offense finally hit their stride; mixing up runs and passes quickly got the ball to the Houston 40 and a 25 yard pass to running back Shane Vereen found them in the red zone at the Texans’ 15, a pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez set up a first and goal from the one and Vereen finished the drive with a one yard run to put the game’s first touchdown on the board with 88 second left – New England now had a 7-3 lead.

Houston started with the ball on their own 20 after a touchback and used the last time of the first quarter well picking up two first downs to reach their 47 yard line using the passing game of Matt Schaub, a 16 yard pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson and a 12 yard pass to Arian Foster doing the damage.  That was, however, as far as Houston could move the ball before needed to punt as a run for no gain and two incomplete passes was all the Texans could manage; with 0:53 expired in the second quarter, New England started on their 16 yard line.  The Patriots are going to their old reliable player Wes Welker in this game and for the most part he is coming thru with flying colors – a third and eight play for 30 yards moved the ball to the New England 48 yard line.  Running back Shane Vereen added 22 yards on the next play to reach the Houston 30; a third and two from the 22 on the next set of downs saw Vereen move the ball into the red zone at the Texans’ 16 yard line.  An unsportsmanlike call on wide receiver Brandon Lloyd moved the ball back to the 31 and gave New England’s offense a second and 25 that they could not recover from; a 37 yard field goal was all this drive would give to the Patriots and their fans and a 10-3 lead with 10:16 remaining on the second quarter clock is what Houston would have to work with on their next possession.  Starting from their 20 yard line and going to their trio of stars, Schaub, Johnson and Foster, Houston reached their own 40 with a second a three in front of them, a holding call pushed them back 10 yards put they overcame that mistake with a 24 yard pass to wide receiver Devier Posey to reach the New England 46 yard line as the clock reached 8:02 left in the half; what was, however, just about as far as the Texans would get.  New England forced a punt and took over possession with 6:34 on the clock and the ball on their 20 yard line looking to add to their touchdown lead before halftime.  New England again went back to their veteran players, Tom Brady and Wes Welker to quickly get the ball down the field; to start the drive the duo paired up for a 13 yard pass and catch on a third and 11 play.  Two plays later, after another first down got the ball to their 45 yard line, Brady found Welker for a 47 yard pass down the left sideline and reached the Houston eight yard line for a first and goal.  The next play saw Shane Vereen catch a short pass and run into the end zone for his second score of the game to extend their Patriots lead to 17-3 with 3:38 left until intermission.  A good kickoff return and a penalty for a horse collar tackle set Houston up on the New England 47 yard line and they went to their workhorse in Arian Foster on this drive to keep themselves in the game.  A 21 yard run and then a second run for 19 set up a first and goal from the Patriots’ seven, two more yards set up a second and goal from the five as the 2:00 warning arrived.  Two more runs by Foster finished off the drive for a touchdown and Houston’s first visit to the end zone of the game.  With 75 seconds left in the half the score moved to 17-10.  A quick possession for New England did not take enough time off the clock before they punted the ball back to Houston; the Texans started on their 38 yard line with 0:24 on the clock  and they used every one of those ticks and tocks to set up a 55 yard field goal with 0:02.  The kick was good and set a record for the longest field goal made in New England during the postseason and send both teams to the break with the scoreboard reading New England 17, Houston 13.

New England took full advantage of having the ball first to start the second half and taking away the momentum that Houston started to build at the end of the first half.  Starting with the ball on their 31 yard line Tom Brady moved the ball down the field slowly until his reached his 48 yard line; then with a big pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez for 40 yards, he was knocking on the door with a first and ten from the Texans’ 12 yard line.  Two plays later running back Stevan Ridley ran for eight yards and a touchdown to cap off the drive after 3:30 and the score was now 24-13 New England.  Houston did nothing with their next possession as they went three and out for the first time in the game and New England got their offense back on the field quickly looking to build further upon their lead; they will start from their own 35 yard line with 9:47 on the third quarter clock.  New England matched Houston with their own three downs and out but the field position battled went to the Patriots as the Texans will start on their 10 yard line looking to come back in this game.  Houston was able to win the field position game with their next possession was they took over 4:30 minute to get the ball into New England territory; however when you make it that far with the ball and have the ball for that long, you need to grab some points, especially when you’re behind in the game.  Converting on a third and 16 with a pass from Schaub to Johnson helped them reach their 49 yard line as the clock reached 6:30 and another first down came two plays, 12 yards and one minute later when they reached the Patriots’ 39 yard line.  A third and eight play, however ended the drive when Matt Schaub threw an interception that gave the Patriots possession on their 3 yard line with 4:14 on the third quarter game clock.  As a lightning strike in a summer thunderstorm, New England made Houston pay for their turnover; in 2:53 the Patriots moved down the field with their short passes and running game and Brandon Lloyd caught a five yard pass on a first and goal to put the touchdown on the board that made the game New England 31, Houston 13 with 81 seconds left in the third quarter and the chances of the Texans being able to come back and win this game seem more and more unlikely.

Houston used the last 1:21 of the third to move the ball from the 14 to the 23 and were staring at a fourth and one play as the clock reached 0:00 and the television camera went to commercial before the fourth quarter would start.  Feeling as if the game was already hanging in the balance, the Texans went for the fourth down deep in their own territory and appeared to make it (New England challenged the ruling of where the ball was spotted and lost their challenge).  That would be the last first down achieved by Houston on this drive, another fourth down was attempted and this one failed, New England took over the ball on the Texans’ 33 yard line with 13:13 on the fourth quarter clock.  New England only took one play to add to their lead and show why they are going to be hosting the AFC Title game against Baltimore next Sunday evening – a 33 yard pass from Tom Brady to running back Shane Vereen, his third score trip to the end zone this game make the score 38-13 and gave all the fans reason to believe there would be another game in Gillette Stadium next Sunday evening.  Houston was able to put a touchdown on the board quickly with their hurry up, no huddle offense and the score was quickly 38-20 with 11:35 remaining the game; without some turnovers and more points, the points would only make the final score look better than the game played for the Texans and the flight home would not be any shorter for the team that once was the #1 Seed in the AFC.  Four plays and no first downs is what New England did with the ball, and only 97 seconds off the clock is what changed before Houston got the ball back with 9:58 left in the game as they continued their last ditch effort to come back in this game.  A third and one conversion helped start the drive and a personal foul gave Houston 15 more yards and found the Texans on the Patriots’ 48 yard line with a first down.  A third and two pass for 24 yards got the ball to the red zone as they reached the New England 16 yard line; a 12 yard pass set up a first and goal from the New England four yard line with 6:45 and the clock running.  It took them until fourth down but they were able to punch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, the two point conversion was successful and the score was now 38-28 with 5:11 on the game clock with special teams ready to try and make their mark on the game.  (News was coming out during this drive that Rob Gronkowski needs another surgery on his forearm that was hurt early in the season and reinjured in this game and he is done for the playoffs.  No word was given on the injury to Danny Woodhead of the Patriots however.)  The onside kick by Houston did not work and New England took over on the Houston 35 yard line with a chance to get first downs, make the Texans’ use their timeouts and maybe even end the game with the ball.  A third down pass was tipped at the line; however a holding call on the Texas’s defense gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs.  The third timeout of Houston was called with 4:03 left in the game and New England facing a third and two; the third down was completed when Tom Brady found Brandon Lloyd and now the clock was the best friend of New England and it was only a matter of time before this game would be over.  The 2:00 warning came with a third and 11 play for New England from the Houston 19 yard line; thanks to the onside kick, the Patriots would be able to kick and add a field goal to make the score 41-28 with 74 seconds left in the game and that’s how the game will end.  New England will host Baltimore next Sunday night for the AFC Championship.

Atlanta comes back late and will host 49ers for NFC Title.

Seattle was going back to the west coast either way after this game; a win meant they would be playing in San Francisco next Sunday for the chance to play in the Super Bowl, a loss meant the season was over.  Atlanta was already home this week and will be home next weekend; their only question, would they be drawing up a game plan to host San Francisco next week or vacation plans starting on Monday?

Atlanta won the toss and wanted to put their offense on the field first and started with the ball on their 25 yard line after the kickoff.  Falcons’ running back gained the first yards of the game with a 15 yard run on second down to move Atlanta to the 40 yard line; future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzales caught the first pass of the game with a nine yard catch to give the Falcons their second first down of the game and moved the ball to Seattle’s 49 yard line two minutes into the game.  Running back Jacquizz Rodgers picked up eight yards with two runs before quarterback Matt Ryan found Roddy White for 13 yards and another first down at the Seahawks’ 28 yard line; this would be the last first down the Falcons would get on this drive.  A third and three pass was broken up in the end zone by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and Atlanta settled for a field goal being the game’s first points; they took a 3-0 lead with 9:40 left in the opening quarter.  Seattle started with the ball on their 20 after a touchback on the kickoff; two runs from Marshawn Lynch gained four yards but a third down pass was overthrown by quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were forced to punt (after a false start penalty moved the ball back five yards).  After a poor punt, Atlanta started their second possession on the midfield line with 8:12 on the first quarter clock.  (Seattle tight end Zach Miller was seen running back toward the Seahawks’ locker room after their first possession, early reports were that Miller had a foot injury and his return was probable).  Atlanta gained one yard on first down and six more on second down to set up a third and three for Matt Ryan and the quarterback made his first mistake of the game eight minutes in; a pass intended for Tony Gonzales was intercepted by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and Seattle regained possession on their 33 yard line.  The Seahawks knew that to win this game they would need to take to the ground game and their next possession showed that; a 17 yard run by Russell Wilson saw them reach the 50 and Marshawn Lynch took the ball ten more yards – however, a fumble gave the ball right back to Atlanta on their 39 yard line in a very sloppy first quarter of action.  Matt Ryan got Atlanta back to the Seattle side of the field with one pass play to wide receiver Julio Jones for 13 yards and with 5:30 left in the first quarter; the Seahawks’ defense made another mistake after a second and ten run my Michael Turner, the gain was only four yards, but a horse collar tackle added 15 more yards and the Falcons were on the Seattle 29 yard line.  A one yard run set up a third and nine and a false start moved them back five more yards; however a third and 14 pass to Roddy White picked up 16 yards and gave Atlanta a first and ten from the Seattle 17 yard line.  Backup tight end Chase Coffman make a nice catch of a Matt Ryan pass to give Atlanta a first and goal from the one yard line and the veteran tight end Tony Gonzales finished the game’s first touchdown drive with a one yard catch in the back of the end zone and a quick 10-0 lead with 3:10 on the first quarter clock.  (Zach Miller returned to the game for Seattle on this drive.)  Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks were down 14-0 in the first quarter last week in Washington, so a 10-0 deficit almost seems like a scoreless game to them; the poise of this rookie showed quickly on their next possession as he found Zach Miller for two quick passes, 23 and 8 yards and the Seahawks moved the ball back into Atlanta territory at their 49 yard line; however, yet again, the Falcons’ defense held without allowing another first down and forced a punt in the last minute of the first quarter.  Atlanta started their next possession with 0:31 left in the first quarter on their 13 yard line.  Jacquizz Rodgers ended the first quarter with a 45 yard run up the middle of the Seattle defense to give Atlanta the ball on the Seattle 42 yard line as the clock reached 0:00 and the home town fans were cheering the Dirty Birds, a 10-0 lead and momentum on their side.

The arm of Matt Ryan took over the drive in the second quarter for Atlanta; mixing in some runs by Michael Turner, including a third and one run, the Falcons’ offense reached the red zone with a first and ten on the Seattle 19 yard line as the clock saw 3:30 minutes of the second quarter run off.  The young Seahawks’ defense was bending but not breaking and again their forced the Falcons to kick a field goal after a third and seven screen pass loss yards.  The kick was good and with the clock showing 9:13 remaining in the second quarter, the Falcons had a 13-0 lead.  A good kickoff return saw Seattle starting their next possession with the ball on their 30 yard line looking and needing to put something together on offense and the rookie quarterback wasted no line moving the ball again.  Covering almost half the distance from their starting point to the end zone on one play was Russell Wilson and Zach Miller with a 34 yard pass to reach the Atlanta 36 yard line, the next play moved the Seahawks to the red zone with a 16 yard pass from Wilson to wide receiver Golden Tate as the clock moved under 8:00.  Knowing this was a big possession in the game and facing a third and one that fell short, head coach Pete Carroll went for a fourth and one from the Falcons’ 11 yard line and did not make it, coming away with no points and giving the ball back to Atlanta with 5:33 left until the half and keeping the score at 13-0 and adding even more energy to the home town fans of Atlanta and the sideline of the Falcons’ players.  Having momentum is one thing, using it is what makes good teams great and great teams championship contenders.  The Falcons knew they had a chance to take a firm hold of this game after making their defensive stop and the offense knew what to do with the ball.  Michael Turner started the drive with a run of three and then a big run of 33 yards to move the ball out to their 48 yard line; after a defensive holding call moved the ball to their Seattle 47 yard line, the Falcons were ready to soar again and put more points on the board.  A Matt Ryan to Roddy White pass found the end zone in the air and seven points for Atlanta; the lead was now 20-0 with 4:16 remaining until halftime.  A touchback started Seattle on the 20 yard line and a quick offense found them with a first and ten from their 48 yard line when the 2:00 warning was issued to both teams; their need for points were urgent and knowing they had the ball first to start the second half meant that getting points here to help them start turning the tide of momentum in their favor.  Passes to Zach Miller for 20 yards and wide receiver Sydney Rice for 19 saw Seattle reach the Atlanta 19 yard line, being contend to not give the Falcons any more time in the first half the clock reached 0:42, a first down incompletion and a second down pass to Miller set up a third and one from the Atlanta ten yard line.  Golden Tate picked up the first down and Seattle used their last timeout with 0:25 left in the half with a first and goal from the Atlanta six yard line.  An incomplete pass took four second and a down away from Seattle and a false start cost them five yards back to the 11, another incomplete pass set up a third down play; a sack of Russell Wilson lost nine yards and any chance to score points, since, without any timeouts they could not stop the clock and they were unable to snap the ball to take another shot at the end zone before the clock reached 0:00 – The halftime score read Atlanta 20, Seattle 0 as an ugly half came to an end for the Seahawks.

Breaking the ice and getting on the scoreboard was the first step in starting the Seattle comeback and climbing the hill of a 20 point deficit they have in front of them in this game; knowing that time was not on their side also was on the mind of quarterback Russell Wilson.  A touchback gave Seattle the ball on their 20 to start and one play netted 11 yards and two plays later a Wilson run saw them a yard shy of midfield less than two minutes into the quarter.  A third and one sneak by Wilson set up a first down on the Atlanta 40 yard line; but a sack moved the ball back eight yards as started the cycle that saw a shutout in the first half, this time around, however, things would be different.  A second and 18 pass went from Wilson to Miller for 19 yards and the next play saw the first points for the Seahawks and Wilson found Tate for a 29 yard touchdown to cut the Atlanta lead to 20-7 with 9:47 on the third quarter clock and a somewhat more subdued crowd in the Georgia Dome.  Now it was time for the Seattle defense to stop talking and start making plays and give their offense a chance to get back on the field with the game’s outcome still in some doubt.  Seattle’s defense had an early shot to force a three downs and out; but a third and five pass for six yards from Ryan to Tony Gonzales gave Atlanta a first down on their 31 yard line, a second and eight pass to Julio Jones moved the ball to their 46 with another first down.  Keeping the clock moving with first down runs and second down passes for first downs, a second and seven pass from Ryan to wide receiver Harry Douglas got another first down at the Seattle 44 yard line as the clock moved under 5:30.  After a Douglas drop deep down the field, Ryan found Julio Jones for 21 yards and set up the Falcons on the Seahawks 23 yard line with less than 4:30 and the clock still running for Atlanta and against Seattle.  A third down pass from Ryan to Gonzales set up a first and ten from the Seahawks’ 11 yard line, after a five yard run by Rodgers, Ryan found full back Jason Snelling for a touchdown pass to restore the lead they had at halftime, the score was now 27-7 with 2:11 left in the third quarter.  The quick offense of Seattle lead by Russell was not giving up and the third quarter came to an end with the Seahawks on the move again making the most of the little time they had left in the quarter — a few big plays saw Seattle with a first and ten at the Atlanta 13 yard line as the clock reached 0:00, the third quarter ended and the fourth quarter was about to being.

Russell Wilson was able to put the ball back into the end zone using just two minutes of the fourth quarter with a second and goal run and the score was not 27-14 and Atlanta controlling fate and their chance to host the NFC Championship game next weekend against the San Francisco 49ers.  Atlanta knew the clock was their friend and their second best friend was the possession of the ball; however, Matt Ryan did not take good care of his friends.  After one first down moved the ball to Atlanta’s 32 yard line and a failed end around lost a yard, Ryan threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Earl Thomas and Seattle took back possession at their 38 yard line with 11:03 on the clock and a chance to make the Dirty Birds sweat as the Falcons’ fans already were at least a little bit.

Russell Wilson did not waste any time making the fourth quarter much more interesting as one pass to Sydney Rice moved the ball 24 yards to the Atlanta 38 yard line and two plays later Wilson found running back Robert Turbin for 30 yards to set up a first and goal at the Falcons’ three yard line.  One play later Wilson went back to his tight end Zach Miller and just like that the score deficit was down to six points at 27-21 and there was still 9:13 left on the clock.  The Seattle defense did what they needed to do and the Atlanta offense did what they could not do; a three downs and out possession saw the Falcons punt the ball back to the Seahawks, the sideline was excited and the comeback was in full effect.  Seattle took over possession at their own 40 yard line with 7:23 left in the fourth and a chance to take their first lead of the game with this drive.  One first down was all the Seahawks could manage before needed to punt; however the quick possession might have helped Seattle as there was still 5:32 left in the fourth with Atlanta plenty of time for either team to win, or loss this game.  One first down turned this Falcons’ possession to a four play and out but the clock lost 2:32 before punting the ball back to the Seahawks.  Seattle started their season defining possession on their 39 line win with 3:00 left.  Two plays saw Seattle get the ball to their 49 yard line as the two minute warning was issued to both teams.  A 19 yard pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate moved the ball to the Atlanta 32 yard line still having all three of their timeouts in their pocket; however they let the clock run.  A five yard scramble run by Wilson and an incomplete pass set up a third and five at the Falcons’ 27 yard line with 0:44 on the clock; Wilson found Marshawn Lynch after avoiding the pass rush and 24 yards later the Seattle offense had a first and goal on the three yard line with 0:34 on the clock and all three timeouts.  A first down run my Marshawn Lynch appeared to show him crossing the goal line before a fumble and just like that, the Seattle Seahawks came all the way back to tie; the extra point gave them a lead at 28-27 with 0:31.  Still having some life and still being able to move the ball, Matt Ryan and the Falcons moved the ball just far enough and used their timeouts to set up a field goal try for Matt Bryant that he hit from 49 yards and Atlanta won the game 30-28 and move on to host the NFC Championship game next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

All Football, All The Time!