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The New Orleans Saints extend their lead in the NFC South to two games over the Atlanta Falcons.
Houston began the fourth quarter with possession of the ball, and would embark upon a 19-play scoring drive that was kept alive when the Texans converted a fourth-and-one when they could have easily elected to kick a field goal. Three times the Falcons forced third or fourth down, and three times they failed to stop some combination of Arian Foster or a short pass by T.J. Yates. A one-yard TD by Foster would put the Texans up 17-10 with just over six minutes left.
Matt Ryan would then lead the Falcons on a similar drive, one that spanned 13-plays and involved two conversions on third-and-long. Guys like Harry Douglas, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez all made clutch catches in the absence of any real running attack.
But on a fourth-and-one on the Houston 20 that was originally a completion to Harry Douglas and would have been a first down was negated by a delay of game penalty. All season long, the Falcons have been plagued by penalties in key situations, and that was certainly true here.
After turning the ball over on downs however, the defense quickly kicked the Texans off the field, and the Falcons suddenly had the ball again with 0:59 left and no timeouts. Amazingly, in only four plays Ryan got the Falcons from their own 33 to the Houston 25. The end of the game went something like this:
0:08 left: Ryan chucks it deep to Roddy White but thrown over the heads of both White and the cornerback
0:01 left: Ryan throws it to Julio Jones, who is in triple coverage, and yet somehow the ball still finds his hands. But Jones drops the pass.
Another tough loss, but the Texans defense and Arian Foster both deserve alot of credit. They simply made more plays and fewer mistakes today. The Falcons will drop to 7-5, and now look ahead to next week's rematch with the Carolina Panthers.
After John Abraham made a big-time sack that helped get the Texans offense off the field, the Falcons started finding their rhythm on offense. Ryan would narrowly escape fumbling the ball away by virtue of a timely Houston penalty, but the drive would stall on the Texans' side of the 50. Instead of kicking a 54-yard field goal, Mike Smith elected to go for it on fourth down, and a pass tipped by Connor Barwin would fall incomplete.
However, the defense would show up big yet again. After giving up an 18-yard run to Arian Foster, the run defense would clamp down- Sean Weatherspoon made a particularly nice stop- and quickly stop T.J. Yates on third down. In a decision much unlike Mike Smith's, the Texans chose to try a 54-yard field goal that would come up short and give the Falcons some good field position.
And then the Falcons offense put up six points at last. Ryan led the team on a seven-play drive that began at the Atlanta 44-yard line, and on third down would hit Julio Jones on a fade route that would net a 26-yard gain. One play later, Ryan would find a wide open Roddy White for the 4-yard touchdown toss, tying the game up at 10 apiece.
It took a while, but the Falcons finally managed to get some offense on the board.
Of course, this would come after the defense allowed T.J. Yates to orchestrate a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive that would put the Texans up 10-0. After putting the Texans offense in a third-and-long situation, a dump-off pass to Arian Foster would go for 28 yards and a first down.
And then Andre Johnson happened. Yates would hit Johnson- matched up against stand-in cornerback Dominique Franks- on a 50-yard pass caught all the way down at the Atlanta four-yard line. Franks' coverage was actually pretty solid, but this is also arguably the best receiver in the league. Three plays later, Yates found Joel Dreessen on a three-yard touchdown toss that would be the defining moment of this first half.
As for the Falcons, it was mostly more of the same. However, Ryan was able to lead the team on a 10-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Tony Gonzalez came up huge, catching three passes for 51 yards on the drive. But the Falcons would come up just short of putting seven on the board, instead electing to kick a field goal from the Texans' one-yard line.
And that's how things would stay, with the Texans entering halftime holding a 10-3 lead on the Falcons. Given how poorly they've played on offense (turnovers, dropped passes, inability to run the ball), the Falcons should feel very fortunate to only be down by one touchdown.
But if the Falcons want to win this one, Mike Mularkey has to make some adjustments at halftime. If the offense has their usual third-quarter ineptitude, then you can probably kiss a win good bye.
As the Falcons' week 13 matchup against the Houston Texans gets underway, a few lineup changes to take note of going forward: both Michael Turner and Julio Jones are active for todays game, and both will start. However, on defense the Falcons will be without Stephen Nicholas (replaced by Mike Peterson) and Brent Grimes (replaced by Chris Owens).
Going in, most expected this game to be a low-scoring one dominated by defense. So far, that has absolutely been the case, despite the Falcons displaying some very aggressive play-calling right out the gate, something quite out-of-character for Mike Mularkey.
But Matt Ryan has looked off. After missing two wide open receivers on deep throws on the first offensive drive, the Falcons would go three-and-out. On the next possession, Ryan was picked off by Kareem Jackson on a flea-flicker play intended for Roddy White.
And they continued to sputter throughout the first quarter. Ryan would be intercepted for the second time- this one by Jason Allen- after Julio Jones ran the wrong route and left Allen waiting all alone for the pick. Though Ryan and the offense began to regroup towards the end of the quarter, the Texans defense has still been absolutely stifling.
As for the Texans, T.J. Yates has actually been effective moving the ball (somewhat). Early in the game, the Texans had driven all the way to the Falcons 15, but Vance Walker forced a "fumble" that stood after a Gary Kubiak challenge, negating any points Houston could have scored (on that same play, a would-be Falcons defensive TD was reversed as men came onto the field after the play was thought to be over).
But on their next drive, the Texans would put some points up. While no one player has been outstanding, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels have all contributed and help the young Yates settle down. With four minutes left in the quarter, a 43-yard field goal would break the scoreless tie and give Houston a 3-0 lead. Stay tuned.
The Atlanta Falcons had key players limited in practice this week in wide receiver Julio Jones who has been slowed down by a hamstring injury over the past two months and starting running back Michael Turner also missed practices this week and was limited on Friday with a quad injury. Both Jones and Turner are active for today's game and are expected to assume their normal roles within the offense.
The Falcons will be down one defensive starter in linebacker Stephen Nicholas who is out with a quad injury. Starting in Nicholas place will be Mike Peterson.
The Texans are down to their third-string quarterback in T.J. Yates, but besides that injury the Texans are relatively healthy and not missing any other starters for Sunday's game.
Atlanta Falcons inactives:
Houston Texans inactives:
The oddsmakers anoint Tim Tebow as a road favorite, think the Falcons are evenly matched with the Texans, and figure the Packers just might be human after all. Week 13 picks are here!
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner was limited in practice this past with a quad injury and is listed as questionable on the injury list, but he is expected to play Sunday against the Houston Texans. If for some reason that Turner does not start then the Falcons would turn to Jason Snelling to fill in for Turner.
Turner had only 60 yards on the ground last week against the Vikings and they are ranked ninth in rushing yards allowed, so today's game against the Texans could be a down game for Turner as the Texans are ranked fourth against the run, allowing only 92.5 yards per game.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been improving off of his disappointing fantasy production early in the season where Ryan six interceptions in his first five games, and over his last four games Ryan has only two picks with zero over his last two games.
Atlanta is expected to get back wide receiver Julio Jones who has been hindered by a hamstring injury, so Ryan will have another talented receiver on the field but Jones has been a hit and miss with his production to his injury. However, a reason to skeptical about starting Ryan is that the Houston pass defense is second in the league.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has scored a touchdown in three of his last four three games and last week against the Minnesota Vikings he had nine receptions. However, against the Houston Texans Gonzalez will have a tough time scoring a touchWeek 7 against the Titans' Jared Cookdown or getting nine receptions. Houston has not allowed a tight end to score a touchdown since Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans Jared Cook.
Gonzalez does lead all receivers with seven touchdowns and he is the second most targeted receiver for the Falcons with 83 and trails on Roddy White in targets.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is still being bothered by a hamstring, and even though he is listed as questionable and is expected to play. Jones has been hampered by this injury over the past two months and has not had a productive fantasy game in over a month.
This week Jones may struggle again on the field since the Houston Texans have the second best pass defense, allowing only 175.8 yards per game. With teammate Roddy White having back-to-back 100 yard games, that could be a reason to be cautious about starting Jones this week.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has broken out of his slump of six straight games under 100 yards, now posting back-to-back 100 yard games. Fellow wide receiver Julio Jones was limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play. With Jones being slowed by the injury, White could see more targets this week.
What is not to be overlooked is the Houston Texans pass defense, which ranks second in pass defense by allowing only 175.8 yards per game and could prevent White from having a big game.
The Houston Texans are down to T. J. Yates as their starting quarterback as Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are out for the year with injuries. However, the Texans are expecting more from wide receiver Andre Johnson who has been out since Week 4 with a hamstring injury and had a poor performance last week. Johnson was limited in practice all week only as a precaution.
Here's the rest of Friday's edition of the Texans injury report for Week 13:
The Atlanta Falcons could be down two of their biggest offensive weapons in wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner. Turner is suffering from a quad injury and Jones is still suffering from his lingering hamstring injury. Jones and Turner were able to practice for the first time this week on Friday but are listed as questionable against the Houston Texans.
Here's the rest of Friday's edition of the Falcons injury report for Week 13:
Limited participation in practice: Offensive tackle Sam Baker (back, probable), wide receiver Julio Jones, (hamstring, questionable), running back Michael Turner (quad, questionable) and defensive tackle Vance Walker (quad, questionable).
For more on this game and the Atlanta Falcons go checkout The Falcoholoic.
The Falcons are favored by less than a field goal on the road against the Texans in Week 13.
The newest and most alarming addition to the Falcons' injury report is workhorse starting running back Michael Turner, who sat out of practice a second straight day on Thursday with a groin injury. Ever the company man, Turner was Tweeted by the Falcons P.R. staff preparing for a via-satellite interview with ESPN's Jim Rome for the "Rome Is Burning" program.
Also out for the Falcons - corner Brent Grimes (knee), corner Kelvin Hayden (toe), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quad) and receiver Julio Jones (hamstring). Limited in practice were left tackle Sam Baker (back) and defensive tackle Vance Walker. Veterans John Abraham, Tony Gonzalez and Todd McClure were held out Wednesday but returned Thursday, and corner Dunta Robinson has been practicing all week with a neck injury.
If that seems like a long list (keep in mind, Atlanta keeps their veterans off the field on Wednesdays regardless of injuries, so the only thing Gonzalez et al are suffering from is a case get-off-my-lawn), check out the Texans: Not practicing Thursday were defensive tacke Tim Bulman (calf) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (hamstring), while three players were limited - linebacker Brian Cushing (ribs), receiver Andre Johnson (knee) and tight end Garrett Graham.
But 13 other Texans were listed as practicing with some kind of ailment. They are: linebacker Mister Alexander (shoulder), nose tackle Shaun Cody (toe and ankle), linebacker Tim Dobbins (shoulder), corner Jonathan Joseph (hip) safety Glover Quin (elbow), defense end Antonio Smith (shoulder and back), gaurd Wade Smith (ankle), corner Jason Allen (thumb), gaurd Mike Brisiel (ankle), tight end Owen Daniels (knee), tight end Joel Dreesen (neck), safety Danieal Manning (ankle) and FINALLY, defensive end JJ Watt (knee and thigh).
Brian Cushing was held out of practice by the Houston Texans medical staff on Wednesday, Coach Gary Kubiak said Cushing was "just beat up," so he is still expected to start Sunday versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Here is the full injury report on the Houston Texans on Wednesday:
Did not participate: DT Tim Bulman (calf), LB Brian Cushing (ribs), FB Lawrence Vickers (hamstring)
Limited participation: LB Mister Alexander (shoulder), DT Shaun Cody (toe, ankle), LB Tim Dobbins (shoulder), TE Garrett Graham (hamstring), WR Andre Johnson (knee), CB Johnathan Joseph (hip), S Glover Quin (elbow), DE Antonio Smith (shoulder, back), G Wade Smith (ankle)
If you've been keeping up with the injury reports on the Atlanta Falcons week to week, a name has been consistently on it, Julio Jones. Such is life for a hamstring injury, they linger. So as Jones continues to linger on the injury report, one name we haven't seen on the report is the NFL's 4th leading rusher Michael Turner.
Turner was held out of practice Wednesday due to issues with his groin, and his status is questionable for Sunday versus the Houston Texans.
Here is the full injury report for the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday:
Did not participate: DE John Abraham (not injury related), TE Tony Gonzalez (not injury related), CB Brent Grimes (knee), CB Kelvin Hayden (toe), WR Julio Jones (hamstring), C Todd McClure (not injury related), LB Stephen Nicholas (quadriceps), RB Michael Turner (groin), DT Vance Walker (groin)
Limited participation: T Sam Baker (back)
Full participation: CB Dunta Robinson (neck)
In his press conference Wednesday, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith announced that CB Brent Grimes had been struggling with a knee injury and will be out a few weeks after undergoing surgery this week:
FalconsJAdams Jay AdamsSmitty just announced Grimes will have minor knee procedure and will miss a few weeks. Has been playing with it since Detroit.
Grimes, a fifth-year CB out of Division II Shippensburg University, has started in 11 games for the Falcons with 42 tackles and one INT.
Atlanta's pass defense has been mediocre at best this season, giving up 245.7 yards a game, 23rd worst in the NFL.
Grimes' injury came at the right time, as they face a Houston Texans offense down to their 3rd string QB on Sunday as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars' league-worst passing attack in two weeks, although they will have to defend QB Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 11.
If his recovery goes according to schedule, Grimes could be back for the Falcons crucial Dec. 26 showdown at New Orleans.
Despite our speculation below about Jake Delhomme getting his 14th career start against the Falcons this Sunday in Houston, rookie T.J. Yates, a Marietta native and former North Carolina Tarheel, will face his hometown team.
Pro Football Talk clarifies that Delhomme was signed to the Texan's roster over fellow semi-retired veteran Jeff Garcia because Houston was looking for a "quarterback whisperer" for Yates, who the team wants to start for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. Per PFT, Delhomme was comfortable as a backup/adviser, whereas Garcia wasn't. Despite his lack of experience, PFT says the team is high on Yates:
Houston is stressing for now that Yates is the guy, and you get the sense they will give him every opportunity to keep the job into the playoffs. Matt Schaub says Yates picked up Kubiak’s offense faster than any quarterback he’s seen.
It's been a strange Falcons season of opposing quarterbacks with local ties - Yates joins College Park native Cam Newton of the Panthers, former University of Georgia quarterback and current Detroit Lion Matt Stafford and a guy named Michael Vick as all having played the local team this season.
We've seen recent in-season quarterback additions sit out their first week with their new NFL teams this season - Carson Palmer took a week to acclimate with the Raiders, and new Chief Kyle Orton watched as Pittsburgh beat Kansas City on Sunday night.
So it's highly probable the Falcons won't see their old NFC South foe Jake Delhomme, late of the New Orleans Saints and the longtime starter for the Carolina Panthers, signed Tuesday by the Houston Texans. That could be considered a good thing - Delhomme has thrown for more yards against Atlanta than any other franchise (2,780 yards) in 13 career games against the Falcons despite having a losing record overall against the Birds (6-7).
The only team Delhomme has started as many games against is NFC South neighbor Tampa Bay. Against the Falcons Delhomme has a 61.2 completion rate for 16 TDs and 10 interceptions, but the veteran quarterback's career spans several Falcons coaching staffs and schemes. In Atlanta's current Dimitroff/Smith reign, Delhomme is only 2-3 (four games with Carolina, one loss last season starting for Cleveland), most recently throwing only 97 yards and two interceptions in a 20-10 Falcons win over the Browns in October of 2010.
Delhomme has been a competent and at times flashy quarterback against Atlanta when he's surrounded by elite teams (like this Houston club). When he's been forced to lead subpar squads, he's struggled against the Falcons.
At the beginning of the season this was one of those match ups that you circled, knowing you would have a good game late in the season. However, with a recent injury to QB Matt Schaub the Texans are reeling at the QB spot as a team poised to make a deep run in the playoffs is now limping towards the post-season for the first time.
Despite this being an NFC vs. AFC South match-up it's become a distinctly Carolina flavored affair with T.J. Yates, the rookie from North Carolina or newly signed former Carolina Panther Jake Delhomme set to take the majority of the snaps on Sunday.
Whether it winds up being Yates or Delhomme one thing is clear- the Falcons should be able to control this game. As it stands they're the team who is peaking right now and playing the best football of their season. With Roddy White finally finding his footing and Matt Ryan on a deadly hot streak it seems that not even the #1 ranked Texans defense will be able to derail the Atlanta offense.
The betting community are giving Houston as much as three points, but I still feel this is too generous to the Texans. Yes, I know they have Arian Foster who can break out at any second, however I think they'll need to pass the ball a lot in order to stay in this game and I don't have enough confidence that their quarterbacks will be able to get the ball to the receivers with regularity.
Despite the Texans' offense being poised to struggle, and the Falcons facing a nasty Houston defense the line on the game is still pretty high. Currently sitting at 38.5 pts I think I'm taking the under in this scenario even though I feel the Falcons will dominate. At best it will take another 2 games for the Texans' offense to gel with a new QB, and that alone will cause things to stall.
When it's all said and done I'm taking Atlanta minus the points and I'm taking the under. Best of luck
The Atlanta Falcons announced that they have signed tight end Ryan Winterswyk to the practice squad and had waived tight end Tommy Gallarda
Having lost their top two quarterbacks to season ending injuries, the Houston Texans have signed veteran signal caller Jake Delhomme to a contract to back up new starter T.J. Yates.
Delhomme last played in the NFL last season for the Browns where he played in five games and finished with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Delhomme was the long time starter at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and led them to the Super Bowl during the 2003 season.
Delhomme's agent reported that the 36 year old quarterback had been staying in shape and was hoping for another shot at playing in the NFL.
"He relishes that role, and he's looking forward to contributing to the team," Smith said in a phone interview. "He keeps himself in shape, he's been throwing a bunch."
Delhomme joins both T.J. Yates and Kellen Clemens as options for the Texans at quarterback. Yates will get the start against the Falcons on Sunday but it is unknown what the rest of the depth chart will look like.
The Atlanta Falcons have moved into the top 10 in the most recent ESPN Power Rankings as they jump from No. 11 last week to No 9 this week. The Falcons are fresh off a 24-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and currently sit at 7-4 on the season, just one game behind the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints (8-3).
The Falcons travel to Houston this week to take on the Texans and rookie quarterback T.J. Yates in a game with huge playoff implications for both teams. Yates is starting in place of injured quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart for the Texans.
For more news and coverage on the Falcons visit SB Nation's The Falcoholic.
Winning five of their last six games hasn't done much to improve the Atlanta Falcons' reputation nationally, as they check in at No. 14 in SBNation's latest NFL Power Rankings:
14. Atlanta Falcons (7-4, LW: 15): The Falcons have won five of their last six with the one loss coming in overtime to the Saints. They're hot right now and they'll need to be with two more first place teams on their schedule.
Atlanta has benefited from a relatively easy schedule, going 2-3 against teams above-.500 and 4-1 against teams below-.500.
The good news is they only have two more games against above-.500 teams, and one of those games is against the Houston Texans, now down to their third-string QB.
So if the Falcons can win the games they are supposed to, they'll finish at least at 10-6, which should be enough to get them into the playoffs in the relatively weak NFC.
For the latest news and notes on Atlanta, check out The Falcoholic.
The Houston Texans are slapping together a quarterback depth chart in advance of their game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Texans QB Matt Schaub, if you'll remember, was a third-round selection of the Falcons all the way back in 2004. He rode the bench for three years, but in limited action had actually looked quite impressive, most notably his three-TD performance against the Patriots in 2005.
Then in an attempt to give then-starter Michael Vick full confidence that the organization was committed to him 100%, Schaub was traded to the Texans for a pair of second-rounders prior to the 2007 season. Poor timing, to say the least. Schaub then went on to pass for 300 yards and a TD in a surprising Falcons win that very season. This time, however, he'll be playing a Falcons team with some serious talent.
Record: Finished 6-10, missed playoffs
Last Meeting: Sept 30, 2007 (Falcons won 26-16)
Notable Additions: CB Jonathan Joseph, S Danieal Manning, FB Lawrence Vickers, P Brad Maynard
Notable Losses: FB Vonta Leach, S Bernard Pollard, LB Zac Diles, P Matt Turk
The Texans have been the trendy sleeper pick for the past few years now, and each year they have failed to deliver. Last season was no exception. After losing Dunta Robinson to an infinitely more awesome team, Houston struggled mightily in pass coverage of any sort.
Still, they remain a team with a ton of talent. Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones and Owen Daniels all make up an offense that could definitely keep pace with the Falcons. The big question, as always, is how their defense will hold up. Shiny new cornerback Jonathan Joseph is a huge upgrade in the secondary. However, whether the team can thrive in its new 3-4 scheme remains to be seen.
My guess is that this one will be a shootout of epic proportions. The difference will come down to Atlanta's ability to keep a currently hobbled Arian Foster hemmed in, forcing the Texans to become one-dimensional on offense. The linebackers will have to really watch out for Owen Daniels, as well.
The Texans will be better in 2011, of that I have no doubt. But the Falcons are still a couple notches ahead of Houston at the moment, and should be able to come away with a win in Reliant Stadium.
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