Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Overreaction Monday: Ryan's off, Tech's alive and Georgia . . .


The Falcons are 6-1 and everybody’s unhappy . . .

FALCONS

Skinny: 6-1 (2nd place, NFC South). Last week: defeated Tennessee 10-7. Next week: Home vs. Tampa Bay (2-4).

Overreaction narrative: “The offense stinks. Matt Ryan looks average. We’re doomed, I tell you, doomed!”

Reality check: Let me start with Ryan. I agree – he hasn’t been great. He had his third two-interception game of the season against the Titans and completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the second time. At times, he does great things (as evidenced by the fact the Falcons have won four games in the fourth quarter) but at other times he just looks off. Some have been critical of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan – and yes, I have no idea what prompted Shanahan to NOT give the ball to Devonta Freeman on either of two plays from the Tennessee six-inch line when the Falcons were trying to expand their lead in the fourth quarter. Shanahan called for a handoff to fullback Patrick DiMarco on third down (no gain) and a pass to tight end Jacob Tamme on fourth down (Ryan forced it into coverage, the ball was tipped and intercepted by Avery Williamson in the end zone). Sometimes, simple is better near the goal line. Ask the Seattle Seahawks. But overall Shanahan is doing a good job in the offense and players should get more comfortable in the zone-blocking scheme as the season goes on. That said, the Falcons rank fifth in the NFL in total offense (403.1 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (27.6). So slow your roll about how bad Shanahan is. One other thing: Tennessee’s defense is pretty good.

Georgia Tech's Lance Austin gave his team an upset win over Florida State with this return of a blocked field goal in the final seconds. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

GEORGIA TECH

Skinny: 3-5, 1-4 (seventh in ACC Coastal). Last week: upset No. 9 Florida State 22-16. Next week: at Virginia (1-2, 2-5).

Overreaction narrative: “Great win but I still want to fire Paul Johnson.”

Reality check: First, Paul Johnson is not getting fired. Nor does he deserve to be. Tech came into the season with high expectations and has had a mostly miserable season, losing five straight before the Saturday night miracle. But I mentioned this in “short takes” following the win over Florida State and I believe it’s worth repeating: Johnson’s teams, while they have the occasional dud, give players the belief they can win big games. They have won many: Florida State three times, Clemson five times, Georgia twice and No. 4 Virginia Tech in 2009, among them. There is no excuse for five straight losses. But credit Johnson for making his players believe they could win Saturday and had something to play for this season despite the fact conference title hopes were dead. Even when you take out the implausible ending of Lance Austin returning a blocked field goal 78 yards for the winning touchdown, Tech outplayed FSU for much of the evening and was surprisingly strong defensively. Under Johnson, Tech wins games that often nobody thinks they will. Now it needs to win games everybody thinks it should with far more consistency.

Georgia's best chance for a win over Florida is a great performance by Jeremy Pruitt's defense. ICurtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

GEORGIA

Skinny: 5-2, 3-2 (second in SEC East). Last week: Off. Next week: in Jacksonville vs. Florida (6-1, 4-1).

Overreaction narrative: “We beat Missouri. Big whoop. We’re still dead.”

Reality check: Yeah, probably. Nothing in Georgia’s 9-6 win over Missouri suggests this team will finish strong. It’s still a team with a one-dimensional offense with limitations at quarterback and a defense that hasn’t beaten a strong opponent. But these are the facts: If Georgia sweeps Florida, Kentucky and Auburn (road) in the next three weeks, it wins the East and will play for the SEC championship. Do I see that happening? No. This isn’t a great Florida team but it’s far better than the one that steamrolled the Bulldogs for 418 yards rushing in a 38-20 upset last year. The Gators destroyed then-No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 and in its last game gave No. 6 LSU problems in Baton Rouge, losing only 35-28 despite having  quarterback Will Grier suspended earlier in the week for violating the NCAA’s drug policy. Backup quarterback Treon Harris wasn’t always accurate against LSU but he threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns against LSU. He can make plays. This is another game when the Dogs' quarterback issues can come back to bite them. If I'm Mark Richt, I don't give Greyson Lambert a lot of rope in this game. Georgia's best chance for a win is for the defense to come up with its best effort of the season and shut down Florida.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.