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Sharks Flounder vs Ducks 3-1, stumble out of Pacific Division lead – Game 77

Everyone has a nemesis, whether it be a person, place or thing it’s one factor that can completely undo you or defeat you no matter what the circumstance.

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For Superman its Kryptonite, Wile E Coyote has the Road Runner, and for the Sharks or more specifically Joe Pavelski, it’s Jonas Hiller.

Vanilla Sky finds the Sharkies funny...

Yes, once again Jonas ‘Vanilla Sky’ Hiller could do no wrong as the Sharks peppered him with vulcanized rubber discs only to be rebuked at every turn.

More specifically Pavelski, who was categorically denied 6 times, including a golden point blank shot midway through the third.

The Sharks looked flat early on, and paid the price as the Ducks jumped out ahead and didn’t look back. The Yucks may be last place but don’t tell that to San Jose who has gone 1-5 against their Southern California counterparts.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way for the San Jose Sharks. Coming off an impressive 3-0 stretch and a dominant performance against the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose did exactly what I thought they would do against the cellar dwelling Ducks of Anaheim.

And that is, lose their focus, lose their confidence and lose their slim Pacific Division lead. All the talk of taking care of business and rolling all four lines against the Avalanche, the Sharks promptly went out and laid a mental egg.

But wait! It gets better! Did I mention Dallas defeated Edmonton 3-1 to hop back into the division lead with 89 points and the Kings dominated the Flames 3-0?

The Sharks now find themselves on the bubble looking up at the Stars and Kings and deadlocked with the Calgary Flames of all teams.

The Sharks still control their fate, but they’ll need to get their shit together on the road as they are now 2-11 in their last 13 road games. Next up is the Coyotes who get captain Shane Doan back from suspension, after which the Sharks face home and home sets against Dallas and Los Angeles, three of those games are on the road.

The Sharks have got to get back to playing focused, mistake free hockey in order to try and make the postseason. It’s time for the play on the ice to match the words spoken in the locker room.

Let’s go boys. Go Sharks

San Jose Sharks Game Day #77 – Downing the Ducks

The ever changing standings in the Western Conference will be as jumbled as ever when the Sharks head to the Honda Center to face a familiar foe in the Ducks.

Holding on to the slimmest of leads in the Pacific Division, the Sharks need their “A” game tonight if they hope to extend their one point lead over Dallas.

They’d be best served by remembering just where they were a mere week ago, sitting in the ninth spot in the West and looking lost after struggling against the Kings and Ducks.

Behind Martin Havlat’s return to the lineup, some chemistry is brewing on the Winnik-Desjardins-Wingels line, and improved scoring from the bottom six skaters has led to winning 3 in a row and 5 of their last 7 to surge ahead of Dallas in the Pacific.

But it’s been tough sledding for the Tiburones against the Ducks, going just 1-4-0, with the lone victory back on Jan 4th behind a Benn Ferriero wrister.

The Ducks have always been a thorn in the Sharks’ side, and this year is certainly no different. On paper this is a Ducks team that isn’t very deep, lacks secondary scoring and is extremely top heavy in talent… Sound familiar?

San Jose needs to continue to play smart hockey and stay focused, something they didn’t do much of late in their big win over Colorado.

So without further ado, here are my 3 keys to Game 77.

3. Keep to the task at hand – The Ducks will undoubtedly come out with some fire and try to impose their will against the Sharks. San Jose must keep their heads in the game and not play outside of themselves, which is a concern given the chippy and often dirty nature of the Ducks.

Paying the price to make the right smart play will be the mantra tonight, as the Ducks are no stranger to throwing their bodies around with 1,741 hits to their credit this year.

2. Get out to a fast start – Pretty simple right? The Sharks need to get on the board first to continue to build their confidence and extend their sparkling .743 winning percentage when scoring first.

Getting the Ducks to overextend and push the play will be key, because beating Jonas Hiller is hard enough without the Ducks clamming up in their end. Getting on the board will also help keep the Anaheim faithful in their seats, all twelve of them.

1. Back up the talk – We’ve all seen the famous cookie cutter quotes and snippets from the locker room. Joe talking about accountability, Marleau talking about how every game is a 7th game, Pavelski saying they need to play smart.

Well this game will be another chance for the Sharks to put up or shut up, because the Ducks have spolier written all over them. If San Jose does not come out and take care of business quickly, they could once again be on the outside looking in with several crucial Western games on the docket tonight.

Does the deck look stacked against the Sharks tonight? Anytime Jonas Hiller (sans vertigo ) is facing the Sharks, you can’t like San Jose’s chances. With a disgusting .944 career save percentage against the Sharkies, it’s fair to say that Shark fans think Hiller is the second coming of Lucifer.

I really really really hate this guy....

But the Ducks are still in shambles, with Getzlaf trade rumors continuing to persist, and head coach Bruce Boudreau cursing at epic speed, the Ducks look like a lottery pick is in their near future.

Having said all that though, Game 77 still feels, smells and tastes like a trap game to me. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

Go Sharks.

Sharks Stay Alive, Edge Bruins 2-1 at HP – Game 74

The San Jose Sharks managed to come up for air last night, holding off the Bruins for a much needed 2 points at the HP Pavilion.

While it didn’t move our beloved Sharkies into the playoffs, it did tighten the gap with Dallas as they fell to the Canucks.

Looking for more secondary scoring, Sharks coach Todd McLellan mixed up his lines by reuniting Joe Pavelski to the top line and moving Logan Couture back to center Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat.

Jumping out to a fast start, the Sharks took the play to the Bruins until Joe Pavelski opened the scoring in the first period on a Patrick Marleau rebound off Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.

After Daniel Winnick scored his first goal in Teal, the Sharks never looked back as Niemi shut out the Bruins until captain Zdeno Chara’s goal with just 4:15 left in the game.

The return of Michal Handzus after missing six games with a lower body injury, and rookie Tommy Wingels returning after being sidelined for five helped the Sharks depth, but the third and fourth lines have got to do more to generate offense.

Antti Niemi did not have to do much in the win over Boston, stopping just 16 shots out of 17 but he continued to fight the puck all night long. Whether his confidence has taken a hit or not, Niemi just doesn’t look like his head is in the right place. Without the Sharks coming back for support, several long rebounds could have easily been chipped in by any number of Bruins.

With just eight games left and all within the Pacific Division, “Finding Nemo” is definitely what the Sharks will need if they want to make any kind of noise in the postseason.

Now just one point behind the two team tie in 8th place, the Sharks now head to Phoenix for a pivotal matchup with the season winding down to a close. After the demoralizing losses to the Ducks and Kings the previous week, the Sharks are running out of time and must build upon this win in order to make the postseason.

The Western Conference is absolutely crazy as usual, with six teams vying for the final three playoff spots in the West. And Four are shooting for the #3 spot by winning the Pacific Division, with the Kings taking the division lead after Dallas fell.

With just 2 points seperating the Sharks from another division title, and looking up at the Coyotes, Kings and Stars the next eight games take particular importance as the Sharks face the Coyotes, Kings and Stars twice down the stretch.

It truly is do or die time for our Sharkies, time will tell if they bounce back and get their shit together, or if they’ll be golfing at Silvercreek.

Go Sharks

Peyton Manning meets with Broncos – What’s next for Tim Tebow???

Watching ESPN’s live footage of a silver SUV taking Peyton Manning from the airport in Denver to the Broncos headquarters, OJ Simpson style, I can’t help but feel that John Elway is taking a huge huge gamble.

After all, how can you discount what Tim Tebow has done for that team, that franchise? The same team that was dead in the water in 2011, looking lost with a “conventional” quarterback in Kyle Orton had all but given up on the season.

Cue Tim Tebow, who enters stage right, and proceeds to stink it up. How bad did he stink? He struggled to connect on even the most routine pass pattern, couldn’t consistently throw a spiral and looked to pull the ball down at the first hint of pressure.

Some games he had single digit completions well into the third quarter, he was last in quarterback completion percentage at just 45%, he made some throws that looked like I was out there on the field, he just looked as though he was the worst quarterback to ever play in the NFL.

Until it was crunch time that is…..

Where he inexplicably led the Broncos to win after win, leading them into the playoffs and knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 80 yard catch and run to Demarious Thomas in overtime.

So it’s all puzzling to see as Elway pursues Peyton Manning, what happens if they dont win the Manning sweepstakes?

“Sorry Tim! You are still my guy!?!?!”

But is Elway really all that crazy?

Is Tim Tebow a winner? Heck yes he is…. but is he a NFL quarterback??

While I like Tim Tebow, and admire the man and the person he is, he’s just not a NFL quarterback and I don’t see him transforming into one anytime soon.

He’s a winner yes, he’s a leader of men, he’s got the intangibles and has them in spades. He’s a great runner, doesn’t turn the ball over,  and a specimen with the size and ability to play in the NFL.

But his footwork and his mechanics simply aren’t things you can wave a magic wand over and fix overnight. This isn’t Florida and this sure isnt the SEC, it’s the NFL where you can’t just get by on ability alone.

Elway knows this which is why he has Manning in town, damn the consequences.

With 50 million in cap space, the Broncos have the ability to sign Manning and instantly contend. With Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, they could probably bring Reggie Wayne along in a package deal, as Wayne’s agent has hinted to, giving them a promising top 3.

What the real question should be is, does John Elway think that he can give up on Tebow’s “X-factor” in favor for 3-4 years of stellar play from Manning?

Again, for those Tebow fans I am not knocking him directly, I realize he’s a winner, a national champion, a Christian and a guy that defied logic and proved the talking heads wrong by winning over and over and over again.

After all, you can teach mechanics but you can never teach the intangibles. Problem is, Pat Bowlen wants to win, and wants to win now and nobody gives them a better chance to do so than Peyton himself.

San Jose Sharks Trade Rumors : Will the Sharks get Rick Nash?

The Sharks limp home after a disasterous nine game road swing, finishing just 2-6-1 and on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

Losing another late lead by allowing the Minnesota Wild to sneak by them 4-3 at the Xcel Energy Center, the Sharks now head home at the trade deadline with more questions than answers awaiting at home.

The time for excuses is over, the Sharks have no one to blame but themselves for this pathetic road showing. Starting the trip leading the Pacific Division by three points with four games in hand to now barely clinging to the seventh spot in the West.

Captain Joe Thornton called the team “fragile” after a 6-3 dismantling by the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the NHL’s worst teams and it’s a brutally fair assessment of the team. Joe’s done his part in trying to rally the troops, but the rest of the team or more specifically the defense and goaltending is failing to live up to their end of the bargain.

It’s not that long ago when the Sharks faithful were waving goodbye to Nabokov and his remarkable decade long run of excellence in the regular season, and gearing up for a new era of Sharks goaltending. Bolster the defense, stay with the process, add more speed and grit was the recipe we were told.

With Niittymaki and Greiss in the fold, the Sharks were ready to enter the season strong in 2010 until Doug Wilson fell in love with a shiny bauble named Antti Niemi. The Sharks were coming off a very strong campaign having lost to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks, and had plently of flexibility to move or add pieces as they saw fit.

Instead, Doug Wilson forgot the “process” he so frequently speaks about, about “sticking to the plan” as he’s said so many times and like a child in a candy store simply had to have Niemi, damn the consequences.

Now, before anyone gets their hairs in a twist Niemi was an absolute stud last year, his run in the second half was one of the best in Sharks history. But he’s not the same guy as a year ago, and especially so during this road swing. The Sharks were close to the cap before, and Niemi’s then 2 million dollar contract didn’t completely upset the salary cap cart, but the big contract he signed before the playoffs sure didnt help.

Now has the defense done it’s part? of course not but Nemo simply isn’t making the saves he did a year ago. With the trade deadline looming, one can’t help but think the courting of Rick Nash could have been dealt with much easier without the late change of mind signing of Niemi two years ago.

What are the answers? Where is the fire and passion we saw a year ago when the Sharks stormed from 14th place to 2nd in the West? Where the team was playing defense and taking care of their own end? Where Niemi looked unsolvable on so many nights? Even the Sharks sound like they are in need of a shakeup.

“We don’t have any time to go back and think we’re going to get some good days of practice and stuff like that. It’s just not in the cards,” assistant coach Matt Shaw said. “It’s going to be a mental strength issue.”

With just 3 hours and change left to the deadline, we’ll all know shortly if there will be the big shakeup people are expecting.

Could Sharks fans see this soon?

Will it be Rick Nash however? I remain unconvinced that he is the be all end all to the Sharks struggles. But make no mistake, the young stud winger is on his way out of Columbus. His agent Joe Resnick said in an interview with NHL insider Bob McKenzie that they were “hopeful” a deal got done before the trade deadline, and that the list of “acceptable teams” wasn’t going to shrink no matter what.

Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson didn’t budge even after reading inbetween the lines, refusing to comment and maintaining his stance that the Blue Jackets must find the “right deal” to move Nash.

Sound more and more like Joe Pavelski to anyone??

Improve scoring? check. Improve Leadership? check. Improve defense? Eh.. not so much. While posting a 2.38 goals against in the first 52 games, the Sharks left the keys in the ignition as their opponents have run up a 3.89 goals against in the last nine games.

With just a few hours left to the trade deadline, I am hoping against hope that Doug Wilson doesn’t fall in love with another shiny bauble again.

Go Sharks.

NHL Trade Rumors – San Jose Sharks interested in Rick Nash.. Could it happen???

TSN’s hockey insider Darren Dreger reported this morning that the San Jose Sharks have emerged as the front runners to possibly land Rick Nash. Nash is easily the most attractive skater available, and is relatively young, has skills galore and is a proven winner.

So why am I not on board with this move? He’s a stud, he’s a leader, and Nash is good friends with Jumbo, and they’ve excelled for Team Canada when they’ve played together, so what’s the problem?

Overpay.. that’s what the problem is. Columbus’ demands for Nash are incredibly high, especially considering they turned down Toronto in their multi-player deal which included Kadri and Brayden Schenn.

Did I mention that Dean Lombardi is under incredible pressure to bring in Nash and that his job may be on the line? With the Kings needing scoring, and with Bernier or Jack Johnson as bargaining chips, it stands to reason that LA has more to offer than San Jose does.

Nash is still plenty awesome however, did I mention he scored a goal during last night’s 6-3 drubbing of the Sharks? San Jose is limping through a brutal road swing, and is 3-7 in it’s last 10 games. With 33 goals scored and 41 goals surrendered during that period, Nash could certainly be counted on to help the power play.

Darren Dreger says while San Jose turned down Columbus’ initiave asking price of Logan Couture, which is a steep price to pay indeed.

San Jose is on the short list of five teams he would waive his no-trade clause for, but what will we need to give up to land Nash? With the Havlat experiment on hold due to injury, Doug Wilson can’t count on Havlat to return and make a huge impact. So it’s clear the Sharks need some scoring in the top six skaters, but again at what cost?

I’m all for Nash coming to San Jose, so long as we don’t create another need by fulfilling this one.

Columbus just sent Vermette packing to Phoenix, and they figure to be busy at the deadline by dangling such names as RJ Umberger and Jeff Carter. But Rick Nash is in demand, with his name being linked to the Rangers, Flyers, Blackhawks and much more.

We’ve seen this script before haven’t we???

What seems to be a lifetime ago, another 27 year old stud came to Silicon Valley in a trade with the Boston Bruins. Thornton was acquired for the young Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau, quite a ransom.

There’s no reason to think that if Nash were to be traded to San Jose, you would be saying goodbye to core player or two. Nash, like Thornton was back then 27 years old, with a big frame, and is an elite power forward.

So what could Doug move for Nash? Douglas Murray, Torrey Mitchell and perhaps a first round draft pick would be a great move for San Jose, unfortunately the Blue Jackets would be more inclined to ask for more… much more…

Like Joe Pavelski….

Jumbo played coy with reporters when they asked him about Nash’s availability, simply smiling when asked if he had spoken to Nash.

When pressed for an answer, Jumbo simply smiled again and said “You’re just so focused on what you’re doing day to day,” Thornton said. “I really don’t pay attention to what’s going on with other teams.”

I, like Joe must be salivating at the prospect of Nash lining up on the top line next to Thornton. They were both pivotal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver for Team Canada, and Nash would instantly become a icon for fans.

Problem is… at what cost???

Good Bye Buster – Owen Nolan Retires

It seems like another lifetime ago when my beloved Sharks were still in the early stages of infancy as a NHL franchise, and struggling to gain any measure of respect from anyone.

Throughout the early years and growing pains as a franchise, there emerged an unrivaled leader and captain in Teal, and his name was Owen Nolan.

Today Owen Nolan hung it up, calling it a career after a remarkable run in the NHL. He is and always will be my favorite Shark player of all time.

Ranking second with 206 goals, 76 power-play goals and 451 points, Owen as a player was more than the sum of his stats.

Plain and simple, he was a man’s man on the ice and there’s no better leader I would want out there for my team. In today’s stripped down NHL, with the multitude of ridiculous and vague rules to protect it’s cash cows ( Sidney Crysby anyone?), there just aren’t too many power forwards like Nolan in the league anymore.

My favorite Owen moment? scoring the hat trick in the 1997 All-Star Game hosted in San Jose. After being denied time and time again by Hasek in search for his third goal on his home ice, Owen picked up the puck in the neutral zone and “called his shot” as it were.

I’m standing just left to Hasek in the vomitory in this video, and it’s my favorite Owen Nolan moment of all time.

Who can forget the 1999-2000 season where Owen potted 44 goals and 84 points en route to the infamous red line goal against the Blues in the playoffs. Epic stuff.

Mark Messier may be “The Captain” but Owen Nolan will always be “My Captain”

Best of luck Owen, thanks for the memories.

Falcons Hire Mike Nolan as New Defensive Coordinator

Well, that didn’t take too long now did it?

A few days after hiring their new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter, the braintrust at Flowery Branch have hired Mike Nolan to direct the Falcons defense in 2012.

Nolan had been Miami’s coordinator for the past two seasons, with a brief stopover in Denver after his failed head coaching tenure in San Francisco.

The Dolphins allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL (19.6 per game), ranked third in rushing yards (95.6) and tied for 10th with 41 sacks.

Now the real question, what will Nolan bring to the Falcons? Most likely the 4-3 hybrid defense he ran in his last 2 years in San Francisco, as the Falcons lack the proper personnel to run the 3-4. Without draft picks or any substantial trade bait, the conversion to the 3-4 may take longer than many anticipate.

Before joining the Broncos’ staff, Nolan ran a hybrid defense as the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach from 2005 to 2008. While the run defense was excellent during that time, giving up just 3.9 yards per rush, Nolan failed to manage the many different tasks a head coach is expected to handle.

Mike Nolan enjoyed the most success in a 3-4 with the Baltimore Ravens, from 2001 to 2004 where his defense tied for the NFL lead in takeaways ( 106 ) while ranking fifth in the league in points allowed.

Earlier today, the Falcons also dismissed Paul Boudreau as the offensive line coach.

I’ll be posting more on Nolan’s defense and the 3-4 transition that may come to the Atlanta Falcons later.

This post can also be found at Bleacher Report : Falcons Hire Nolan

UP NEXT : Taking a look at the 3-4 and how it fits the Atlanta Falcons

Tebow and John 3:16…………..

Teeebow.... WHOOOAA

Tim Tebow is easily the most intriging athlete of our generation, easily the most polarizing name in sports in recent memory. No other athlete will garner the reaction that Tim will, you either hate him or love him, there is no middle ground.

As a Christian myself, I love his morals and his faith and applaud that he wont back down from his stance no matter who the critic.

However as a football fan, I dislike that so many take shots at his faith as opposed to his ability. For the record, I just don’t see Tim lasting past this year unless he puts in some serious work as a passer. His footwork, release and tangible traits are all in question.

But if anyone can do it, this guy can. I’ve doubted him since he took over for Kyle Orton, and you just cannot dispute what he’s accomplished for a Denver team projected to be one of the leagues worst….. AND??? He’s won his first playoff game!

Did Dick Lebeau and the Steelers get caught with their pants down? Yer damn skippy they did. Just too damn cocky for their own good. And while I don’t think that Belicheck will allow his Patriots to fall into the same trap, some people are unwavering in their belief that Tebow and the Broncos will get it done.

Now, I’m not a conspricacy kinda of guy, I don’t hunt for UFO’s, I don’t think Sasquatch exists, and in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think God cares much about who wins a football game.

But the numbers Tebow generated in his playoff victory are undeniably eerie, or one huge circumstance. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

The picture above is from the 2008 BCS Championship game, where Tebow wrote one of the most famous Biblical versus on his eye black, prompting MILLIONS to search for “John 3:16”

  • Tebow beat the Steelers by passing for 316 yards.
  • Tebow averaged 31.6 yards per completion, highest in NFL history
  • Ben Roethlisberger threw his crucial interception on a third and 16, leading to a Matt Prater field goal
  • The Steelers finished the game with 31:06 time of possession
  • CBS’s last quarter-hour ratings were a 31.6

Bizzare huh? Whether you believe it or not, the fact is that Tim Tebow and the Broncos have a momumental task ahead of them at Gillette Stadium. While the Patriots defense is probably one of the worst in the league, you cannot dispute Tom Brady’s accolades in the postseason.

Tebow with all of his flaws will lead his team to Foxboro and try to dislodge one of the NFL’s premier AFC powerhouses coached by one of the NFL’s most successful coaches of all time.

And I for one, am not betting against him. Go Tim.

2011 Atlanta Falcons – One and Done… again

It’s been 4 days since my Falcons were pulverized by the New York Giants, and it’s taken that long for me to collect my thoughts in a coherent fashion. It’s one thing for me to go off half-cocked but I like my ability to be subjective about the subject matter so it’s taken me a week to stand back and calm down.

Looking back at the season and the disappointing outcome, it’s easy to lose yourself in exactly what the Falcons have accomplished over the last 4 years.

After the Bobby Petrino – Michael Vick debacle of 2007, if someone walked up to me and said “would you take a 43-21 regular season record but a 0-3 in the playoffs for the next 4 years” you’d be hard pressed to find any Falcon fan that wouldn’t leap at that. But that’s not the way the NFL works in it’s “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” and constantly increasing expectations.

So for those fickle fans screaming for Mularkey, Brian Van Gorder, TD or Mike Smith’s head, I think a little bit of proper perspective is needed. The Falcons over the past 4 years have been very successful, it’s transformation into a consistent winner is something that you can’t just discount.

But still, the 24-2 dismantling of the Dirty Birds showed that last year’s whipping to the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers was no “aberration” as Mike Smith likes to put it. Simply put, the Falcons have a long way to go before they are ready to compete with the Packers and Saints of the NFC.

As I did with the losses against Green Bay and Arizona, the team once again failed to rise to the occasion and seize the moment. For all the talk of being “explosive” and the aggressive moves to draft Julio Jones, the Falcons were anything but last Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

3 things I took away from Sunday’s loss

1. Michael Turner has fulfilled the Curse of the 360. pretty simple right? The NFL is a meat grinder and running backs have a short shelf life, especially when taking on such huge workloads as Turner has (335+ carries every season). see Shaun Alexander.

  • From 2008-2010, the Falcons converted 33 of 51 4th down conversions for a disgusting 65% success rate.
  • In 2011 this conversion rate fell to 31 % with numerous key 4th down failed conversions against the Giants as well as the Saints (Mike Smith’s infamous overtime failed conversion)
2. The Falcons over-extended their expectations of the offense and Mularkey mismanaged key situations in games
  • 1. They got an offense that scored zero points against a team that surrendered 400 points during the regular season, the most by any playoff team.
  • Caught up in the hype of the passing league and believing the offense was a Julio Jones away from becoming a Saints or Packers like offense led TD to neglect the offensive line.
  • They got zero movement from their offensive line in two key short-yardage situations and lacked the ability to consistently give Matt Ryan time.
  • You are on the road in a hostile environment and your 1300-yard wrecking ball of a running back is standing on the sidelines while your franchise QB attempts not ONE failed 4th and 1, but TWO.
3. The Falcons lost their identity this year.
  • The Falcons pride themselves on playing smart, tough football and being a run first physical team. And the first half of the season was lost as the offense awkwardly bumbled trying to become this high flying passing attack.
  • When Matt Ryan throws the ball more than 40 times, the Falcons are 1-7.
  • Instead of addressing clear issues on defense and the offensive line, the Falcons gambled on draft day moving up to take Julio Jones.
What has that move gotten them in 2011? Take a look :

2010 Record 13-3 – Playoff seed No. 1 – Points scored 414 – Points allowed 288

2011 Record 10-6 – Playoff seed No. 5 – Points scored 402 – Points allowed 350

Winning less games, scored fewer points, gave up more points and fell from the first seed to the fifth. Yes the Falcons underachieved horribly, and the front office knows it.

To be fair, the Falcons have acted quickly and as Dimitroff said in Wednesday’s press conference, that there was not “going to be a minor tweak, like changing the color of socks.” When a team sweeps both coordinators out of the door, it’s clear that there will be change.

But who will replace Mularkey and Brian Van Gorder? Who can make this offense click and operate without targeting Roddy White 200 times in a season? And the real kicker, who can take Matt Ryan to the next level?

Because with the meek showing in NY, Ryan now faces a crossroads for the first time in his career. No longer is he the boy wonder that broke the record for winning as a QB in his first four years, bucking the trend of struggling rookie quarterbacks.

Now the focus and whispers are that Matt Ryan comes up small in big situations, hey it may sting to hear, but that’s the reality of it. If he wants to change this perception, it’s up to him.

And perhaps more importantly who will help transform the defense from a soft zone pudding to an “aggressive, attacking” defense as Dimitroff spoke about on Wednesday. A defense that can get off the field in a 3rd and long situation for once. A defense that doesn’t play the docile bend but don’t break philosophy.

A scheme change is definitely something the Falcons should discuss, but do they have the personnel? I’ll get into that later.

These are all questions that need to be seriously contemplated this off-season, not to mention issues regarding free agents, RB, OL and FS.

But for the meantime, I can still say I am proud to be a Falcons fan, and I’m proud of the way the team fought through the season. I’m not happy with how the season ended, but I’m excited for the future and what moves will bring Atlanta their first Super Bowl Championship.