Notes from cocktail napkins...
What a weekend! I did the double header of FSU at Death Valley and then the Falcons-Bucs at The Dome. What a night in Clemson. The Garnet & Gold hadn't won at Memorial Stadium since 2001. I was at a bunch of those losing efforts. The Chris Rix years, the Jeff Bowden years...all distant memories because Famous Jameis is here! Like many FSU fans who've been taking it on the chin lately, I was a bit slow to buy into the Winston hype. Sure the Noles won the ACC last year, but a lackluster loss to NC State and a humiliating second half fold to the Gators made the conference title feel a bit hollow. Not to mention the booby prize of a damned if ya beat 'em, damned if ya don't Orange Bowl appearance against NIU...
The buzz around Jameis Winston was similar to the buzz around EJ Manuel 4 years ago, so I was cautiously optimistic, I thought the hostile environment of Death Valley would be a bit too much for the red shirt freshman. Not only was he up to the challenge throwing for 444 yards and 3 TDs and running for another, he also gave the pregame speech. Sounding like a 5th year senior he was loose and full of swagger and then backed it up on the field. Noles fans love new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt who came over from Alabama to replace Mark Stoops. As improved as the Seminole defense was under Stoops it's much more aggressive under Pruitt.
The only bad part of Saturday's historic beat down of the Tigers was we drove up with Clemson fans. Needless to say they wanted to get the hell out of Dodge by the 4th quarter. We got to stick around long enough to see tight end Nick O'Leary run over Clemson's Travis Banks. A fantastic metaphor for the dismantling of the Tigers.
The Noles get NC State at Doak Saturday while the Hurricanes face Wake in Miami. Which should set up the biggest Miami-Florida State game in nearly a decade November 2nd in Tallahassee.
Bloody Mary in hand we jumped on MARTA Sunday at noon for the short ride to The Dome. Many Falcons fans had the look of kids being dragged to church on a beautiful Indian summer Sunday. Bound by faith us Falcons fans filtered in quietly. Save for the drunk dude hollering "Rise Up" as we ascended the escalator.
A few too many empty seats but that was to be expected after a 1-4 start, with no Julio, Steven Jackson or Roddy for a battle with the win less Bucs. Running Back Quizz Rodgers up the middle for no gain wasn't exactly the inspiring start to the second half of the season Falcons fans were looking for.
Despite no running game whatsoever, (take away Ryan kneel downs and it was 15 carries for 30 yards) the offense was able to put together two 80 yard drives for touchdowns. Matt had his second best passer rating as a Falcon throwing 3 TDs and Harry Douglas had a career day.
Mike Nolan did what he didn't do against rookie Geno Smith. Sunday, facing rookie Mike Glennon, he released the hounds. Blitzing William Moore and forcing a fumble and subsequent touchdown on the Bucs first offensive series. I thought we didn't do enough blitzing in the second half, but good coverage contributed to 2 more sacks by the Falcons D.
I've been looking forward to Robert Alford returning punts and then he fumbles, D'Ohhh!
The Bucs doubled Tony Gonzalez and took him out of the game plan. He was targeted 4 times.
Defense was a mixed bag, allowing the Bucs to crawl back into the game. I know we say it every week on the air, but how can guys make it to the NFL and not be able to tackle?
It was a grind it out win over a divisional rival. We're 2-4, and safe to say we can expect another grind it out kind of effort against Arizona. Without a running game and a true play maker on defense this is what the rest of the season is going to look like. For any shot at let’s say 9-7, Matt Ryan will have to continue to be the man and put up 30 points each week.