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Chris Gay: Dear Atlanta teams, stop choking

Posted: October 18, 2017 - 12:48am

Folks, brace yourself. There's fewer than 10 weeks left until Christmas. Maybe we'll get some cold weather by then.

I only bring this up, because I want one thing for Christmas. I want my Atlanta pro sports teams to stop choking. Is that too much to ask?

As you know, the Falcons blew chunks in the second half Sunday, watching a 17-point lead disappear in a loss to Miami. The defeat comes on the heels of this week's visit to New England, a Super Bowl rematch where all the annoying folks on social media and in regular media will gladly remind us of Atlanta losing a 28-3 second-half lead to the Patriots in February. If you're brave enough to watch the game, do so on mute.

The Falcons are starting to worry me, and it all points to the coaching. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel don't look like they're ready for prime time. Through five games, the offense hasn't looked quite as sharp as it did a year ago, when it led the NFL in scoring (33.8 points a game) and was second in yards per game (415.8). This year, Atlanta is 11th in scoring (24.2) and fifth in yards per game (378.4) - despite returning the same all-star cast. And if you haven't heard by now, star receiver Julio Jones has yet to score a touchdown this season.

The offensive game plan in the second half Sunday looked like this: First down, run play. Second down, run play. Third down, pass play.

It doesn't get much more predictable than that. No wonder Atlanta struggled to move the ball.

If you thought the offense was bad, the defense looked undisciplined at times and unprepared after halftime. The Falcons allowed the worst offense in the league to score 20 points in the second half. Miami improved its season scoring average to 12.2 points a contest. That's how bad the Dolphins have been.

Atlanta and its zone defense allowed Jay Cutler to look like Joe Montana. Is Manuel allergic to the blitz? Does he think sitting back in a zone and getting attacked all game is the way to go? That's what got the last guy fired. If Atlanta doesn't implement a "Gritz Blitz" this week and learn to put pressure on the quarterback, Tom Brady will throw for 1 million yards Sunday night and thoroughly embarrass the Falcons (again).

Atlanta has plenty of pieces in a place to turn this season around and make the playoffs, maybe even win the division. What I've seen so far hasn't impressed me, though. It all comes down to coaching. And these coaches (coordinators) don't look like they know how to get it done. I hope they prove me wrong. I hope Atlanta gets that offense rolling. I hope the defense stops relying on that zone/prevent defense, which is getting them killed more times than Freddy Krueger.

I've seen this play before one too many times - and not just with the Falcons. Atlanta pro teams never seem to have a throat lozenge ready when the choking starts to occur. Maybe one day they'll figure it out.

 

CLUTCH PERFORMERS: I can think of several clutch performers in Atlanta pro sports history, though none with the Hawks. Here are my top five:

- Morten Andersen kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, sending the Falcons to their first Super Bowl.

- Francisco Cabrera hit the game-winning single in the 1992 NLCS Game 7. Whatever happened to him anyway?

- Tom Glavine tossed eight innings of one-hit ball in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, clinching the last Atlanta pro sports title.

- David Justice hit a solo home run in Game 6, the difference-maker. He was traded a year and a half later to Cleveland, where he hit 33 homers and became an All-Star in 1997.

- Ryan Klesko hit .313 with three home runs and an eye-popping 1.296 OPS in the 1995 World Series. He was traded to San Diego after the 1999 season and hit 26 or more homers three seasons in a row.

 

BYE WEEK, FELICIA: Georgia is No. 3 in the nation with a 7-0 record. The Bulldogs should defeat the bye week, but there's always the lure of outside influences (alcohol, drugs, crazy ex-girlfriends).

Thirty-five years ago, No. 3 Georgia defeated Florida, 44-0. Fifteen years ago, No. 5 Georgia (8-0 at the time) lost to unranked Florida, 20-13. So don't get ahead of yourself thinking about the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Still, there's a different feel about this season's Bulldogs squad. We'll know more when the oddsmakers release the line. If it's not at least two touchdowns in favor of Georgia, be concerned.

 

PRAYERS, PLEASE: If you believe in the power of prayer, send one along for The Augusta Chronicle's Glynn Moore. In his column in Monday's edition of The Chronicle, Glynn mentioned needing a bone marrow transplant to help in his fight against cancer. You can read the column for yourself: http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/2017-10-15/glynn-moore-my-leukemia-gav...

Glynn is one of the nicest people you'll meet at The Augusta Chronicle, if not Augusta media. He's just one of the nicest people around, period.

There are some folks with quirky personalities in the media business. Not Glynn. He's always been quick with a smile, quick with a laugh.

Many of you will not know that Glynn is our grammar gatekeeper at the newspaper. I still have an email of his from last year with the subject line - Style and Grammar notes: Lead and led.

Here's a sampling of that email:

"Folks,

We had a typo in a headline on the Sports front Tuesday. It read: Howard believes past will led to success.

Obviously, it should have read: Howard believes past will lead to success.

Typo or not, we've noticed that many people have trouble with the verb lead:

Headline: Cowboys lead Bears for three quarters. This is correct. Sentence: He will lead the procession in Latrobe. Also correct, and in both cases, lead rhymes with Snead.

Led is used only as the past tense or past participle of lead:

The Cowboys led after three quarters before falling behind in the fourth. He has led the league for years. Those are the only correct uses of led. ...

If you ever have questions, please ask.

Thanks,

Glynn"

If you have a minute, take it to pray for the grammar guru and all-around good guy. Pray for comfort. Pray for healing. Just pray.

I'm praying for you, Glynn. Keep up the good fight!

 

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