Befittingly, I wasn’t aware of the date 9-11 (911). I was so excited to be standing on the sidelines with my beloved Atlanta Falcons for Opening Day of the NFL Season. The Seargent started to sing the National Anthem. The gigantic flag seemed to float with a special glide as the wind was flickering through it. The red vibrating, the blue shivering, and the white just accenting the colors it was extraordinarily beautiful. I stood there rotating my head from left to right glancing up at the jumbo screens. I stared up at the ceiling, then I perused the crowd, and took in a deep breathe, there was a different atmosphere. I sucked in my fat tummy feeling more fit as my chest poked out a bit. I was consumed by my blessing, “just to be here, to be there, standing proud and happy with my opportunity to be doing what I love to do, cover NFL football”. I was exactly where I wanted to be on this wonderful day, camped out behind the lens of my Nikon D4s Camera anticipating the action shots. I was seeing something special, I was feeling special, and I was feeling proud, proud to be an American.
President OBAMA appeared on the jumbo screen with a speech about unity, and the Kick Off to the 2016 NFL Football Season “the American Way”… Tell me what other sport brings people together like football. Some people come to the game just to tailgate and don’t even go inside the stadium. The music is blaring, and we don’t have to concern ourselves with the noise ordinance, it’s implied, its ok to blast your favorite songs, R&B, Rock n Roll, Country, Rap, who cares just let it all hang out. Black, white, purple, blue, or green, it doesn’t matter the skin color, it’s your favorite football team, collectively, if you are a fan you just want to share in the thrill of victory. If they lose, well at least you had a great time hanging with your family and friends sharing in the exciting atmosphere called the Game Experience.
Fans come from near and far. If you want to see something beautiful wear a team’s paraphernalia, have a beer in your hand, approach another fan wearing the same teams’ jersey or hat, talk about the star player, question the coach’s decisions, and watch what happens. You will be offered a snack “oh just grab you a plate over there, we got plenty”, then you will hear the joyful sound of laughter. It’s the American Way, be nice, respectful and honorable, don’t act like a fool just have fun.
Case and point attend a free cookout, go to a night club and witness the drama. Go to a large outdoor party called a “tailgate” rarely do you hear of any crimes. In football you can sit enemies next to each other, and they just heckle a bit during the game. Example: Several years ago I was a spectator at the FSU vs Clemson game. This was back when Peter Warrick was there. It was his return game after the famous shopping spree. I was chopping up the Orange-n-White doing that War Chant. Yes, I was feeling pretty good if you get my hint. I mean, I was in a sea of Orange-n-White. The guys around me were so much fun. They were feeling good as well. We went back and forth. I chopped and they booed. They cheered and I booed. Then they united, during the War Chant instead of OH, OH, OH, they went “let’s go Crim-i-NOLES”. OMG, we laughed our heads off, while slapping hands signaling high fives. We became fast friends they even invited me to their table after the game.
Granted we have issues in this country, and yes somethings need to be changed, like it or not, good, bad, or indifferent, thanks to Colin Kapernick there are discussions going on that probably wouldn’t be, had he not sat to stand for others.
However, today it’s just beautiful being here soaking up the atmosphere at the Georgia Dome. Appreciating the moment as the Anthem was belted out so eloquently by the Seargent.
The next time you go to a football game, at its conclusion, toss a football out on the field allow the kids to go out there, watch what happens, children of all races will start to play, first a few then others. The next thing you know a team will be formed, someone will be throwing the ball others will be running a route trying to catch it as others defend. One team will score and kick off to the other. Just sit back and watch what America should be.
PHOTO 99 diving at Winston
Atlanta received, and did a quick four and out. Thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty that resulted in a 25 yard gain, Tampa was first to hit the scoreboard on a successful 43 yard field goal by (19) Auto Arguayo, his first official in the NFL. On their second possession, the Falcons came out fired up. Matt Ryan slung a 59 yard bomb to (12) M Sanu that landed deep in Tampa territory down to their 16 yard line. The Falcon fans didn’t need to be told to rise up by team hype guy Samuel Jackson on the jumbo screen they were already up. Exactly what the faithful wanted, but unfortunately they ran out of gas moving the ball forward for only 4 yards down to the 12 yard line. On 3rd and 6 ( 91)R. Ayers sacked Matt Ryan for a 4 yard loss. A 59 yard pick up that went nowhere. The drive ended with a 34 yard field goal by (3)M. Bryant.
The next two possessions resulted in four and out’s by both teams, they seemed to be sparring like boxers. The falcons drive stalled on an illegal use of hands penalty by (70) J Mathews. Sounds bad, not really, they got something good out of it, a 49 yard punt by (5)M Bosher that put Tampa back to their own 9 yard line.
They moved the ball out to the 21 gaining 5 yards on the first play of the drive then 7 on the next, things were looking good. They earned some operating room taking their backs off the wall. Then it went disastrous on a holding penalty by (74) A. Marpet. (3) QB, Jamies caught rookie-I-tis losing track of the time clock resulting in a delay of game penalty that moved the ball half the distance back to the 7 yard line.
(21) D, Trufant landed the first big punch of the match by stepping in front of the receiver for an interception giving the offense a gift of a very short field in the red zone at the 9 yard line. (83) J. Tamme got a little too excited false starting. The Tampa defense stood strong making them fight for every inch then (2) Matt Ryan hurled a fast ball to the back of the end line to (12) M Sanu for a 5 yard TD reception. It was exactly the result desired from your offense when the defense gives you a gift that close to the goal line, you don’t need a full tank of gas it’s just a short drive to pay dirt. The score board looked just the way the home crowd wanted ATL 10, Tampa 3. The dreamer in me says “Just end the game now”. Unfortunately there were three more quarters to go. For Tampa, that was perhaps the play of the game. Allow me to explain. After the interception (3) QB Jamies went to that zone “it’s that place where great athletes go” they have the ability to dig deeper to get to that next gear. It’s like once he makes that mistake it lights his fire he dialed it in with a different focus like he needed to redeem himself and that he did. I asked “what is that and where does it come from”?
“I think it’s just that I’ve got tremendous faith in my teammates to help me get through that. We always talk about how love is the reason for the fight, and I love this game so much. I don’t want to let my guys down and I have to bounce back.
The quarterback’s got to have its snap and clear mentality. Nothing can phase me. It doesn’t matter if I have three picks in the first quarter like I did before. We have to bounce back.” ON their next drive he went a laser focused 5 for 5 for 55 yards with a pass to (82) B Myers for a 4 yard touchdown. The drive lasted 9 plays 75 yards and 4:35. After a successful try by Auto Aguayo the score was tied up again 10-10. Redemption for #3.
That goes back to his days at FSU where he could stink up the field in the first half, but when he came out for the second half he was a totally different guy. If I was his coach I would say go ahead “make that mistake in the first quarter so I will have the best of you the rest of the game”. In gazelle like fashion, (11) Julio Jones showed up at the party with a 14 yard catch at the 9:47 mark of the second quarter. After the two minuet warning (3) M. Bryant managed another field goal leaving 1:45 on the clock. Like a man possessed Famous Jamies returned in attack mode marching his team down the field connecting on 7 of 10 passes for 75 yards, the last to (34) C Sims for a 23 yard touchdown with .24 remaining. His stellar play since the interception was 15-18-140 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, most importantly grabbing momentum for his team going in at the half.
If you went to the restroom, you probably missed it. He came out of the OK Corral still firing hitting (13) M. Evans twice, one pass for 15 yards another for 27 yards before a knockout punch to (87) A Seferian-Jenkins on a 30 yard touchdown. Just like that it was 24 – 13 in favor of Tampa Bay. Atlanta came out with the idea of getting their all world WR Julio the ball hitting him short up the middle for a 19 yard gain, but that was all they could get positive before that man could strike again. This time a 45 yard bomb to his favorite target (13) M. Evans (4 of 4, 95 yards in the 3rd quarter) for their final touchdown of the game on this 8 play 92 yard drive giving them 31 points. Atlanta didn’t go away easy (2) Matt Ryan answered with a 25 yard touchdown to (11) Julio. Playing the odds they went for and converted the 2 point conversion making the score 31-21 Tampa. Atlanta could only manage another field goal late in the fourth quarter.
If there is such a thing as a good loss this was it. I saw fight, determination, and grit. They could have folded after the dagger coming out of the half, but they continued to fight to make the game interesting going down the stretch. They went for and converted the two point conversion giving themselves the best opportunity to be in striking distance, just in case. Good coaching. Good thinking. Good football. Wrong result.
Tampa takes round one 31 – 24 maybe the Falcons can take round two.
Interesting Stats of the Game
- Jamies Winston 23/33 for 281 yards, 1 interception, 4 touchdowns
- Evans 5/7 for 99 yards
- Matt Ryan 27/39 for 334 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Julio 4/8 for 66 yards.
- Julio targeted twice in the first half
The Falcons offense finished the day with 374 total yards, including 334 yards in the air. QB Matt Ryan finished the day 27-of-39 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 112.6. This is the 33rd time Ryan has thrown for 300+ yards and the fourth time he’s done this against the Buccaneers. This was also Ryan’s 40th straight game with 200+ passing yards – 20th straight at home.
RB Tevin Coleman finished the day with five receptions for 95 yards. Those numbers are a career high for the second year running back out of Indiana. He also tallied 22 yards on the ground, totaling 117 total yards of offense.
WR Mohamed Sanu had a 59-yard reception on his first catch in a Falcons uniform. He also caught a five-yard pass for a touchdown in the first quarter to put the Falcons ahead 10-3. Sanu finished the game with five receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown.