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Monday, December 27, 2010

Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Falcons Forget Short Pass; Drew Brees and Saints Don't

Lost in all of the stuff about how Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Roddy White's Twitter Tweets fueled the New Orleans Saints to their 17 to 14 victory over the Dirty Birds tonight at The Georgia Dome, was one fact: when it mattered most, Matt Ryan and the Falcons forgot the short game.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton showed once again why he's the NFL's best play caller not name Peyton Manning, Andy Reid, or Bill O’Brien of the Patroits. With just over 8 minutes on the clock he and Quarterback Drew Brees directed a 13 play, 90 yard drive that featured six straight passes. The last pass was a touchdown to rookie Tight End Jimmy Graham that Head Coach Mike Smith and the Falcons should have seen coming: the pass to the big tight end lined up all alone over the small cornerback, where the Saints throw a quick look-in pass within five yards of the goal line. Something they did in Super Bowl 44 against the Colts.

All of Brees passes were of the short variety.

By contrast, when the Falcons got the ball with a whopping 3 minutes left, and needing only to get into field goal range, they got greedy. The first play was a broken-field run by Matt Ryan for about 20 yard, then the drive stalled and they went three-and-out, as Ryan tried to throw down field to score, rather than short to work the clock and move the chains.

If that series were replayed and the Falcons Smith said "OK, Zennie. Let's see what you can do," I'd have used Ryan's legs on a planned bootleg to open the series, worked a set of short passes off play action to Falcons Running Back Michael Turner, then called the roll-out pass to the left to Roddy White. Work short. Work the ball.

That's what the Saints did, and in a series so devastatingly perfect, Bill Walsh was smiling down from Heaven.

Saints at Falcons: The Georgia Dome Experience

As you're watching the New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game at The Georgia Dome, it's a good time to point out one thing: The Georgia Dome's an excellent place to watch a football game.

This blogger's watching the contest in Suburban Atlanta, but elected not to go to the game because of the ice patched streets. But the last Falcons home game, against the Green Bay Packers, I did attend and what an incredible experience. Here's the video:

As the video shows, the seats for my long time friend Keith Johnson and I were excellent and provided a great place to watch the Falcons win 20 to 17. (thanks to his wife for giving Keith his hall pass!) Section 129, row 33, seats 7 and 8. That's the north end zone corner.

What's great about watching football at the Georgia Dome is it's a theater for the game. Everything, from the seats to the structure, to the roof itself, focuses on the field of play. Of the seven Super Bowl's I've attended, the Georgia Dome was the second best stadium host to the game, with the best one being Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

A New Falcons Stadium?

Reports have it that Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants a new stadium so the team can move out of the 18-year-old Georgia Dome. The Georgia Dome itself should be that new stadium. It needs wider club level corridors, meeting rooms and second level "terrace club zones" to fill in the vast amounts of empty space between the curtain walls and the stadium seat structure, a large central entrance atrium, more and upgraded luxury boxes, and all-new giant screens.

Blank reportedly wants an outdoor stadium, but given his desire to gain more overall revenue, that's not a good idea. A dome stadium's ability to host more events means more money than a comparable outdoor stadium.

Keep the Georgia Dome. It's a winner. Like the Falcons.

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