Mark Bradley blog 

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

Florida’s Muschamp knows what he’s doing, OK?

  • 8:30 am Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"Mark, if you ever need any tips on discipline, I'm available." (Bob Andres/AJC)

Florida planned to suspend three players — receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive linemen Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick — for its season opener against Idaho last Saturday. The Idaho game lasted one play. After a weather delay, the Gators returned the opening kickoff. Then came another weather delay, which became a postponement and ultimately a cancellation.

Florida coach Will Muschamp announced this week that the three suspended Gators would be available for this week’s game against Eastern Michigan, their penance apparently having been served by sitting out an opening kickoff. Asked about this odd decision on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, Muschamp — [More]

The plucky Braves try again to score an actual run

  • 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Turner Field, 13 minutes before gametime. Pennant fever! (M. Bradley)

The Atlanta Braves had three hits Tuesday, one night after they’d managed none. They actually had 11 on Sunday, which enabled them to score one run. That run — a second-inning homer by Evan Gattis — remains the Braves’ only one in 37 innings.

They’ve been shut out three times in four games. Over that span, they’re 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position. (And the one hit — a Jason Heyward infield single Saturday night — didn’t result in a run.) Over those four games, the Braves are hitting .044 with RISP. Fun fact: The Braves were actually 0-for-6 with RISP [More]

In this season of no hitting, the Braves are no-hit

  • 6:02 pm Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The Braves managed the same number of hits against each of these four. (John Bazemore/AP)

Labor Day brought a logical culmination to the five months that had come before. The Atlanta Braves were no-hit by four Phillies pitchers, the first of whom — Cole Hamels, who can be great — wasn’t terribly great by his standards. He walked five and hit a batter in six innings, after which he retired, having thrown 108 pitches.

The Braves did nothing — not against Hamels, not against the three relievers who followed him. A season spent doing little on offense reached a nadir in its 138th game. No runs, no hits, no chance.

Ready for the really weird part? Until [More]

Labor Day dawns, and the Braves are buoyant

  • 11:28 am Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I think we're better than Milwaukee. What about you?" (David Goldman/AP)

Four weeks ago, these flying fingers suggested that the arrival of baseball’s third holiday checkpoint would reveal the Atlanta Braves’ playoff chances as a forlorn hope. This grim forecast was based on two observations: First, the Braves’ schedule was about to toughen; second, that the Braves had been, not to sugarcoat things, stinking out Ye Olde Joint.

Which only goes to show: Baseball seasons are rarely quite what they seem. After an 0-8 West Coast swing, the Braves have gone 14-9. (That still puts them three games under .500 over the past 31, but never mind.) Our friends at Baseball [More]

About Tech: The good, the bad and the Wofford

  • 5:29 pm Saturday, August 30th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Justin Thomas had a nice starting debut -- as a passer. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

These short takes are presented as an adjunct to the Georgia Tech-Wofford game column, which can be found on myajc.com. (Tech won 38-19 but had to score the final two touchdowns to do it.)

1. Tech threw the ball better than Tech usually throws the ball, but that’s not entirely a positive. Making his first start at quarterback, Justin Thomas completed 11 of 15 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is the Jackets needed to throw the ball to win. They couldn’t make Paul Johnson’s option work the way he wants it [More]

Live from Tech: Will Jackets waffle versus Wofford?

  • 11:42 am Saturday, August 30th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Historic Bobby Dodd Stadium. Did I mention it's hot? (M. Bradley)

To answer the question posed above: No.

With the exception of Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech tends to beat teams from lesser divisions/conferences like a rug. Remember last year’s opener, the 70-0 demolition of Elon? Remember 59-3 over Presbyterian in 2012? Remember 63-21 over Western Carolina in 2011?

(You might also remember the 10-7 victory over Gardner-Webb in 2008, but that was on a day when Joshua Nesbitt didn’t play.)

It would be a major shock if Tech doesn’t look good today. These games are made for the bigger program to look good. Indeed, the season’s first three weeks — the Jackets play Tulane [More]

South Carolina’s collapse opens the East for UGA

  • 7:54 am Friday, August 29th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
I'm guessing this pass was completed. (Rainier Erhardt/AP)

Two thoughts occurred Thursday night. (And only two; I’m not exactly a deep thinker.) First, that South Carolina, having been routed by Texas A&M, will be in desperation mode when Georgia plays in Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 13. Second, that the Gamecocks mightn’t be good enough for it to matter.

I’ve been around the SEC long enough — I covered my first conference game in 1976 — that not much surprises me. South Carolina being picked over Georgia in the East did. The Gamecocks had lost the best quarterback in school history (Connor Shaw of Flowery Branch) and the best defender [More]

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