Mark Bradley blog 

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

The Knowledge: 16 things I’ve learned in England

  • 2:55 pm Friday, October 24th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
There's no English pub nearby. There is, however, this. (M. Bradley)

London

1. Everyone has a favorite football team (and not the American kind), and some of the affiliations are nearly ancient. Owen, our bus driver to the Falcons’ complex in Watford, is a Chelsea supporter because his father saw his first Chelsea game in 1939.

2. My seatmate on the train ride from Sunningdale to Waterloo Station recalled in great detail the massive upset his team — Swindon Town, then as now a lower-division side — sprang over Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup (not to be confused with the FA Cup) final. The man is now retired, but he volunteers [More]

Stafford and Megatron: Living the life in Bagshot

  • 11:54 am Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Calvin Johnson (right) goes incognito at the Lions' practice Thursday. (Matt Dunham/AP photo)

London – If anything, the Detroit Lions’ England HQ is even swankier than the Atlanta Falcons’. It’s the Pennyhill Park Hotel outside Bagshot, and if you’re within spitting distance of Bagshot … well, you’re in clover.

Megan, our indispensable guide, noted that Bagshot is something of “a one-horse town,” but apparently the horse is Secretariat. Edward and Sophie — “a couple of the lesser Royals,” Megan said — live at Bagshot Park, and the next town over is Sunningdale, which has both a Rolls-Royce dealership and a quaint little train station, the latter of which was used by me this afternoon [More]

The Falcons in England: Julio takes a pricey ride

  • 11:25 am Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Mike Smith unleashes bon mots in the potting shed. (M. Bradley)

London — Want to feel disoriented? Take a gander at the Atlanta Falcons, Hall County’s team, after a morning walk-through at their posh hotel in Watford. Same guys, different continent. (Although technically this is an island. But you get the drift.)

The Falcons’ hotel, The Grove, is so posh that it’s the resting place before matches for the English national soccer team. (David Beckham slept here!) Also for visiting clubs before UEFA Champions League games in London. (Lionel Messi, too!) It’s about a 40-minute ride from London itself, as some of the visiting Americans discovered Tuesday.

Julio Jones said he and some [More]

It’s going so badly the Falcons have fled the country

  • 8:23 am Monday, October 20th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Exiting Baltimore, bound for Blighty. (Gail Burton/AP photo)

After a month like this, you’d think about fleeing the country, too. The Atlanta Falcons have lost four consecutive games by the aggregate score of 127-68. (Not-so-fun fact: The Falcons beat Tampa Bay 56-14 in September and have still been outscored by opponents by 28 points on the season.) They’re 2-5. Not one of their losses has been by single digits.

We started off thinking (for good reason) that their defense was lousy. Now their offense is, too. They’ve scored 40 points and four touchdowns in three games. The lowest three-game output for the 2013 Falcons — who finished 4-12, you’ll [More]

Numbers crunched: These Falcons don’t add up

  • 6:57 am Friday, October 17th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"We need to go for it. Or do we?" (Seth Wenig/AP photo)

If the Atlanta Falcons’ record — they’re 2-4, the four losses having come by 10-plus points — didn’t tell you that there’s trouble afoot in Flowery Branch, these numbers will. Pro Football Focus grades the Falcons’ offensive line as the league’s 28th-best, which is actually an upgrade over last season, when it ranked 30th. Advanced Football Analytics assesses the Falcons’ defensive efficiency as the 32nd-best — there are 32 NFL teams — and the team as the league’s fifth-worst despite the presence of the 10th-most efficient offense.

FiveThirtyEight’s rankings have the Falcons as the seventh-worst team, and Nate Silver’s [More]

The Falcons: Outplayed, outclassed and out of ideas

  • 9:06 pm Sunday, October 12th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Caught in a Bear hug: That's Matt Ryan. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

These short takes off Falcons-Bears are presented as a companion to the game column, which can be found here. The Falcons came within 15 points of winning, if you hadn’t heard.

1. It’s hard to believe now, but the Falcons were favored. By a field goal, which is the standard home-field allowance. They lost 27-13. They scored one touchdown. They yielded 478 yards. There were long moments when it seemed the Bears could name the score, and they essentially did. There have been more lopsided losses under Mike Smith, but there has never been one in which the Falcons appeared [More]

Live from the Dome: Will Falcons find a Bear market?

  • 3:46 pm Sunday, October 12th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Here's the touchdown that made the Birds 2-3. (Seth Wenig/AP photo)

Not to belabor the blatantly obvious, but the Atlanta Falcons need to win today. They’ve lost two in a row. This will be their last home game until Nov. 23 against Cleveland. (Unless we count the London date with Detroit as a “home” game, which the NFL does but I’m sure Mike Smith does not.)

Lose today and the Falcons could go a while longer without winning. Next up are the Ravens in Baltimore, and then the Lions at Wembley, and then Tampa Bay and Carolina on the road. Lose today and the wondering about Smitty’s job — and Thomas [More]

Don’t fret over the Falcons’ O; worry about the D

  • 9:10 am Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"Young man, have you given any thought to playing safety?" (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

I wouldn’t give up on the Atlanta Falcons’ offense. The line is in disarray, but it’s not as if the line has ever been in array. Joe Hawley, lost for the duration, was starting at center only because Peter Konz wasn’t ready. Lamar Holmes, also gone for the season, was starting at right tackle only because Sam Baker was hurt in preseason and Jake Matthews had to switch sides.

My point being: No matter how that starter happened to get his assignment, you never want to lose one — but it’s not as if the Next Men Up are replacing All-Pros. [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]