Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning. Next week, we be live each morning with the Super Bowl edition of Cover 9@9!
1. FAVRE RESPECTS RYAN’S CLASSY STYLE: Chris Chandler was the first quarterback to guide the Falcons to the Super Bowl back in 1999.
He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 1988 draft.
The Falcons were his sixth team when he arrived in 1997. He had his two Pro Bowl seasons with the Falcons in 1997 and 1998.
Brett Favre could have been first quarterback drafted by the Falcons to guide the team to the Super Bowl, but his career didn’t take off until after the trade to Green Bay.
Favre, perhaps out of allegiance to his old Green Bay teams, picked them to beat the Falcons in the NFC championship game. He clearly picked with his heart.
He’s been a late convert to the Matt Ryan MVP camp. Ryan will become the first quarterback drafted by the franchise to guide it to the Super Bowl, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in Houston.
“(Matt Ryan’s) so deserving,” Fave said on his weekly SiriusXM NFL radio channel show on Tuesday. “And, you know I say that it’s not that I’m pulling for him or against him, but he’s always handled himself in a respectable, classy manner win or lose.”
Favre acknowledged that Ryan has now shattered the “can’t win the big one” label that went with his 1-4 playoff record.
“He has been labeled with ‘yeah, but’ and that’s not the case anymore,” Favre said. “And so kudos to him. And quite frankly you have to admire the way he played in really up to this point the most pressure packed game he’s ever played in.”
Favre was in Ryan’s shoes back in the 1990s. The Packers had to get by Dallas and the San Francisco 49ers to earn supremacy in the NFC. They didn’t make their push until the defense was improved and strongside linebacker Wayne Simmons improved opposite of Reggie White, while tossing around tight ends.
With a credible ball-hawking defense, Ryan was able to take another step in the playoffs.
“And I don’t care how good you’ve played up to that point, again, the pressure builds and I say this all the time, and a guy like Aaron Rodgers, he would know what I’m talking about, Tom Brady, Big Ben (Roethlisberger), (Drew) Brees, you know, all these guys, what happens is when you set the standard, a level of play that is like astronomical, I found that each week it’s hard to live up to that and play to that capability,” Favre said. “…And so you gotta feel like playing at a level that really is untouched by many guys is hard to keep up week in and week out.
“And you throw in the element of the defense and just the factors of the game – a guy trips and falls, you throw a pick that was a perfect pass – there’s so many factors that go into it and so when it’s really hitting on all cylinders, and not just one game, but week in and week out, it’s really impressive.”
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2. MACK ATTACK: Perhaps the major key to the Falcons surprise climb to the NFC title is the fact that none of the offensive linemen missed a start over the 18 games.
That’s called a football miracle.
So, it makes perfectly good sense for the Falcons to rest center Alex Mack before the Super Bowl.
Mack, a second-team All-Pro pick, injured his left ankle in the NFC championship game. He left the game for one play in the second quarter after running back Devonta Freeman rolled over it on stuffed running play.
Mack played 67 of the 73 offensive snaps (92 percenter) in the 44-21 victory over the Packers on Sunday.
Mack will join All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones in the limited participation group this week, according to Falcons coach Dan Quinn. Also, veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney will get his normal rest days.
The NFL media report said that Mack has “a swollen, painful sprained ankle.” He expected to be healed in time to play against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, which is set for Sunday, Feb. 5 in Houston.
3. MACK ATTACK II: Mack went on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio and declared himself fit for kickoff.
“We’re doing good,” Mack said during an interview on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. “We’ll be there on game day.”
Now, if Mack isn’t 100 percent that will certainly hurt the Falcons’ rushing attack. He’s a key figure in the outside zone blocking scheme, which was stuffed by the Packers.
New England was tied for third against the run in the regular season, giving up 88.6 yards per game.
With Mack, leading the way with his combination blocks on linebackers, the Falcons averaged 120.5 yards rushing, which ranked fifth in the league.
4. RBs NEED TO BE SUPER: The Falcons rushed for 99 yards on 29 carries for a paltry 3.4 average per carry against Seattle and rushed 30 times for 101 yards for that same 3.4 per carry against Green Bay.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 25 carries for 102 yards for a 4.08 per carry average against Seattle. Against Green Bay, they were stuffed for 71 yards on 25 carries for a sub-par 2.84 yards per carry.
Coleman had the longest run of the playoffs, a 15-yard gain against Seattle. Freeman and quarterback Matt Ryan had 14-yard runs against Green Bay, which was the quarterback’s mad dash to the end zone in the second quarter.
5. BACKUP MACK ATTACK PLAN: Ben Garland, a converted defensive lineman, is the backup center.
He played six snaps against the Packers.
Garland, 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds, has been more helpful playing on the defensive line this season. He recorded the safety against Russell Wilson in the divisional round.
Garland, who played at Air Force, has played 42 snaps on offense, 42 on defense and 160 on special teams. He’s considered a potential future starter either at center or guard.
6. FROM GEORGIA TO THE SUPER BOWL: Ever year there are nearly 30 players from Georgia invited to the combine. High school coaches in the state do an excellent job and the colleges snap up a lot of talent.
Jonathan Jones, DB, Carrollton HS
Justin Coleman, DB, Brunswick HS
(IR) Tre Jackson, G, Wayne Co. HS
7. NO WATCHING PARTY AT THE DOME: The No Fun League strikes again. It seems that Mayor Kasim Reed thought it’d be a great idea to host a Super Bowl watching parting at the Georgia Dome.
8. TIME TO FORGIVE EUGENE ROBINSON?: Back before Eugene Robinson was with the Falcons, he was a member of the Green Bay Packers.
I covered those teams and Robinson was always gracious with his time and provided insight into the operation of the defense. He was smart and articulate.
At the time, it was thought that when Robinson retired, he’d be one of the top television analyst in the game. But then Super Bowl episode happened and he’s had to spend his broadcast career mostly doing radio for the Carolina Panthers.
To his credit, Robinson still comes around. Ran into him and Santana Dotson on media row in San Francisco last year.
With the Falcons back in the Super Bowl, Robinson’s whole solicitation story will be retold ad nausem.
9. FALCONS ARE WEARING RED: The Falcons, who are the home time, are set to wear their red jerseys when they face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl Feb. 5, in Houston, the team confirmed Wednesday.
The NFL alternates between the AFC and NFC every year to determine who is the home team. Last year, the AFC champion Denver Broncos were the home team when they defeated the Carolina Panthers.
As the home team, the Falcons got to choose which uniform they wanted to wear. There was likely a vote amongst the Brotherhood to determine the pick.
The team in white has won 11 of the past 12 Super Bowls. Overall, the team in white has a winning record of 32-18 in the big game.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: FALCONS 44, PACKERS 21
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: FALCONS 36, SEAHAWKS 20