Mark Bradley blog 

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bucs stomped here: The Falcons romp 56-14

  • 11:47 pm Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
A record dash: Devin Hester does the Deion. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Buccaneers print column, which can be found here.

1. This offense is really something, and we don’t mean Tampa Bay’s. After a blah performance at Cincinnati, the Atlanta Falcons needed 177 seconds to score a touchdown. By halftime they would lead 35-0. After three quarters it was 56-0. Through those three quarters, the Falcons had outgained the visitors 457 yards to 151 and had mustered 24 first downs to the Bucs’ six. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Devin Hester scored on a reverse and [More]

The great Matt Ryan has never been greater

  • 6:40 pm Sunday, September 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Robert McClain makes a point-saving interception. (John Bazemore/AP)

These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Saints game column, which can be found on myajc.com.

1. As great as he has been as a Falcon, Matt Ryan has never been greater than he was Sunday. Forget, if only for a moment, the two fourth-quarter scoring drives. (The first to take the lead, the second to force overtime.) Forget the 448 passing yards, which established a franchise record. Forget even his stop-the-presses 15 yards scrambling. Return instead to the final 20 seconds of the first half: The Saints had re-established their 13-point lead and were about to [More]

Live from Falcons-Saints: This ain’t no foolin’ around

  • 11:42 am Sunday, September 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The Falcons have a shot to turn the NFC South upside down. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

A fairly big season for the local 11 (or 53, to be precise) kicks off with a big-time game. More than a few folks think the New Orleans Saints will win the Super Bowl, though I’m not among those. Maybe one or two people think the Atlanta Falcons will be good again, and I am one of those.

The Saints are favored on the road, which doesn’t often happen in the NFL unless you’re visiting Jacksonville. I’m not a bettor, but that seems to me a money-making opportunity. This is a prove-it game for the team that just went 4-12. It [More]

Grantland: The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders

  • 10:05 am Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Julio's back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As we know, offseason appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons have run from lukewarm (Football Outsiders projected them to be better but not quite good) to lousy (Pro Football Focus assessed theirs as the NFL’s 30th-best roster). Here’s one, from Bill Barnwell of Grantland, that’s wildly — wildly, I say — encouraging.

Barnwell lists the Falcons as one of the eight teams that can win it all. His reasoning:

I just think it’s shortsighted to write off a team that was so good for so long after one bad year. I can’t really prove that, because there just aren’t many [More]

Falcons’ Smith is NFL’s 18th-best coach, per ESPN

  • 8:42 am Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I might be No. 18, Pete, but I'm 1-0 against you in the playoffs." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I’m not a major fan of everything ESPN does — I’m not sure the Worldwide Leader itself is a major fan of everything it does — but I do enjoy those features where anonymous coaches/executives share their thoughts. Regarding college football, Travis Haney does these on a regular basis for ESPN Insider; regarding the NFL, they’re the province of Mike Sando.

In July, Sando polled his nameless electorate and found that Matt Ryan was considered the NFL’s eighth-best quarterback. (That sounded a tad low to me, especially considering there was a four-way tie for eighth, but what do I [More]

Have the once-meek Falcons gotten too mean?

  • 11:38 pm Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"Play with composure!" Smitty whispers. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I preface this by saying that exhibitions are no predictor of what happens when teams start playing games for real. I write knowing that, two games into September, this could fall under the heading of “never mind.” That said …

Twenty-nine penalties have been assessed against the Atlanta Falcons in three preseason games for a total of 268 yards, and that’s not counting infractions that offset or were declined. (On their final snap of the 24-17 loss to Tennessee on Saturday, they were flagged for two violations, neither of which was accepted.) But here again we offer a caveat.

As sloppy as [More]

The fickle finger of Johnny Football: What it means

  • 10:47 am Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
This sort of gesture is A-OK. (Evan Vucci/AP)

In most cases, it would be wrong to make too much of a gesture made in the heat of competition. In the case of Johnny Manziel, the middle finger he flashed toward the Washington Redskins’ bench during Monday’s exhibition game — repeat, exhibition game — is too much in keeping with his persona to be dismissed as a one-off. This being Johnny Football, you half-expected as much.

Having seen Manziel in person as he directed the epic Texas A&M comeback against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, I consider myself a convert. Before the 2013 season, I wondered if the 2012 Heisman [More]

From SI: Petrino and Grantham aren’t getting along

  • 10:18 pm Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"All these guys? They hate me already." (Garry Jones/AP)

Well, that didn’t take long. According to an SI.com report by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, the odd Louisville couple that is Bobby Petrino (once the Falcons’ coach) and Todd Grantham (recently Georgia’s defensive coordinator) has already had a falling out. Who among us didn’t see this one coming?

Write Thamel/Evans:

Sources with ties to the Cardinals’ football program and Petrino said there’s significant friction between Petrino and Grantham. The two have feuded often since Grantham’s hiring in January — so much that one source insists Petrino would have already gotten rid of Grantham if not for his guaranteed five-year contract [More]

The Falcons play and win and don’t look awful

  • 11:02 pm Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Matt Ryan completed six passes and called it a night. (David Goldman/AP)

So: Did the Atlanta Falcons look bigger? Tougher? Meaner? Are they ready to “rectify with a vengeance,” as general manager Thomas Dimitroff hopes? Is one exhibition victory over the Miami Dolphins cause to fire up the Super Bowl Express?

Nah.

They looked OK. Not great, not awful. Just OK. They didn’t take a lead until the second half, and by then both starting quarterbacks were long gone, neither having played beyond the first quarter, neither having thrown an incompletion. The Dolphins took the opening kickoff and drove to a touchdown. The Falcons answered. That was it for both No. 1’s, and that [More]

Football Outsiders thinks Falcons will rebound!

  • 6:30 am Monday, July 21st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
A healthy Julio Jones could make a difference, don't you think? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Recent appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons haven’t been kind. Pro Football Focus rated theirs the 30th-best roster in the 32-team NFL. In its yearbook, Sporting News ranked them third in the four-team NFC South and 24th in the whole wide NFL. But today we offer glad tidings from an improbable source.

A year ago, Football Outsiders sounded the earliest alarm that the 2013 season wouldn’t be kind to the Falcons, rating their “mean projection” at an NFC South-worst 7.6 wins, which sounded mighty low for a team that had just gone 13-3. (As it turned out, even Football [More]