Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVER 9@9: The movie 'Concussion' is a must see

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter & CineSport’s Noah Coslov chat about what’s ahead for the Falcons this week against the Panthers, what the locker room is like at the moment & Dan Quinn’s message.

1. CONCUSSION IS A MUST SEE. The movie “Concussion” will shine a new light on the rugged world of the NFL and the health of all of those who play the game on all levels.

It’s a “must see” for all football players and families from Pop Warner to the Pros.

The movie, which moves kind of slow, starts with the love of football in Pittsburgh and the death of Hall of Fame center Mike Webster.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was flawlessly played by the great Will Smith, discovered the brain injury and the results of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The movie reveals the battle that he had convincing the NFL that repetitive head blows and concussions were linked to brain injuries resulting from playing football.

After studying Webster, the doctors were looking for more former NFL players dying. The suicides of Andre Waters, David Duerson and Junior Seau are in the movie.

The league didn’t start moving until Duerson, a former league official, shot himself in the chest and left a note requesting that his brain be examined for CTE.

Dr. Julian Bailes, a former team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was played by Alec Baldwin. He helped Omalu battle through the NFL’s maze and hierarchy, which was slow to acknowledge the link.

Since the CTE link has been established, the NFL has settled a class-action concussion lawsuit and has revised its concussions testing and protocols.

“The science did prevail, and it has led to significant changes in the NFL and in all sports where players are susceptible to concussions,” Bailes said.

The movie will raise awareness about concussion in all sports.

“Because of this greater understanding of the impact of brain trauma, there should be a focus on reducing concussions in all activities, including football, but also sports like soccer and lacrosse,” Bailes said. “In football, there are many steps being taken now, from the NFL down to youth football to reduce the risk of concussion.”

The movie comes out on Christmas, Dec. 25.

Here's an opinion piece from Dr. Omalu that was published in The New York Times on Sunday. He's not an advocate of kids playing football.

2. RED ZONE WOES: The Falcons have struggled to score in the red zone and for some bizarre reason have elected not to throw the ball to their best receiver, Julio Jones.

After the game, Julio Jones admitted to being confounded by the play-calling in the red zone.

Jones has been targeted 16 times in the red zone and has nine catches (56.25 percent) and scored four touchdowns this season, according to advanced analytics site

He hasn’t scored a touchdown — red zone or otherwise — over the past four games as the Falcons have dropped five straight.

By contrast New England has thrown 35 passes to Julian Edelman (12 of 17) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (9 of 18) in the red zone. They’ve figured out how to get their main targets the ball when defenses are scheming to take them away.

Here are the Falcons’ red zone targets:


Jones 9 catches, 16 targets, 4 touchdowns.

Leonard Hankerson 6-10-4

Roddy Whtie 2-5-1

Justin Hardy 3-4-0

Nick Williams 2-2-1


Jacob Tamme 4-6-1

Levine Toilolo 0-1-0


Devonta Freeman 7-10-3

Terron Ward 1-2-0

Tevin Coleman 0-2-0

3. POWER RANKINGS: The Falcons continue to slide down the AJC's power rankings.

4. MEET THE CHEERLEADERS: Meet Cayla who's featured in this week's segment of "Meet the Cheerleaders."

5. QUINN ON JONES IN THE RED ZONE: I asked Falcons coach Dan Quinn about Julio Jones wanting to be a part of the solution to the team’s red zone woes.

“Yeah, I’ll have to check with Julio on that one,” Quinn said. “There’s certainly some that we did take some shots to him (against Tampa) in the red zone. One that I think was going to go his way, and he got sacked on another one. We’ll go back and look at that. It was one that I haven’t discussed with him specifically, but we’ll go back and see if there are different things that came up in the game.”

Quinn believes the Falcons are making progress in the red zone.

“Well, I think number one, the biggest fix for us, from the percentage while you looked at it, was the turnovers,” Quinn said.”That’s where it started, so we improved in that area, but there are still opportunities for us to go and attack.”

Quinn is also providing his input to the play-calling.

“The best way I can help the guys is I can help looking at the other team’s defense,” Quinn said. That’s generally how I try to help support the guys in the best way is looking at their defensive side first.”

6. PLAYOFF LONG SHOTS:  After losing to the Buccaneers, the Falcons are going to need a lot of help to make the six-team NFC playoff field even if they win all of their four remaining games. They have a 13.9% chance of making the playoffs, according to

That would increased to 86 percent if they could win all four of their games.

The Panthers clinched the NFC South division and have a 99.7 percent chance of earning a first-round bye. No other team has clinched a playoff berth after week 13, although the Patriots (99.97 percent), Bengals (99.997 percent), Broncos (99.6 percent) and Cardinals (99.9 percent) are very likely to clinch after week 14. The Browns are the only team that has eliminated after week 13.

The Falcons have lost five straight games and six of seven since a 5-0 start.

In addition to trailing the Seahawks by two games, the Falcons have a worst record against NFC opponents (4-5 vs. 6-4). The Falcons and Seahawks don’t play one another so conference record is the first tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same records.The Seahawks have two games against NFC teams remaining (Rams and Cardinals) while the Falcons have three (two vs. the Panthers and one vs. the Saints).

8. TOP 50 COUNTDOWN PICKING UP STEAM: The top 50 countdown is in the teens. Former defensive end John Abraham was 20th followed by George Kunz.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 19 is defensive tackle George Kunz.

7. RYAN, SHANAHAN ON SAME PAGE: Ryan gave offensive coordinator Kyle a vote of confidence during his radio show on 680 The Fan on Tuesday.

“I believe we’re going to win a lot of games together,” Ryan said.

The Falcons started the season 5-0, but have dropped 6 of 7 as teams have adjusted to Shanahan’s play calling and have taken away the team’s key weapons, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman.

Jones has not scored a touchdown over the past four games and questioned the play-calling in the red-zone after the 23-19 loss to the Bucs. Freeman missed a game with an injury, but hasn’t scored a touchdown over the past six games.

“Kyle and I have done a great job or working together all year,” Ryan said. “I feel really good about where we are at. Our production hasn’t been there, but in terms of plays and all that kind of stuff I feel really good about how Kyle and I have worked together this year.”

There have been adjustments for Ryan and the new coordinator, who goes into game with more plays on his call-sheet than Ryan is used to.

“It’s different,” Ryan said. “There are more plays that’s for sure. But it’s different. In the past, we probably had a smaller plan, but we had so much no-huddle volume that it ends up being about the same number of things. It’s just different.

“That’s the thing people have to realize. Everybody has a different playbook. Everybody has a different style. Kyle’s is a little bit different from the guy’s that I’ve worked with in the past. With that said, I feel really good about it. I feel like he’s going to be a guy that I can learn a ton from.”

9. DEPTH CHART: There were no major changes this week, but I suspect rookie Justin Hardy to get more action as the third wide receiver after Nick Williams dropped a key third down pass against Tampa Bay and got chewed out by Ryan.


WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 17 Devin Hester

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 Jake Long

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 62 James Stone

C 68 Mike Person, 66 Gino Gradkowski

RG 65 Chris Chester, 62 James Stone

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 81 Tony Moeaki

WR 84 Roddy White, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 33 Terron Ward

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 99 Adrian Clayborn, 71 Kroy Biermann

DT 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 97 Grady Jarrett

NT 96 Paul Soliai, 95 Jonathan Babineaux

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 93 Malliciah Goodman

LB 52 Justin Durant, 51 Philip Wheeler

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 54 Nate Stupar

LB 50 O’Brien Schofield, 56 Brooks Reed

CB 23 Robert Alford, 32 Jalen Collins

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 20 Phillip Adams, 28 Akeem King

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie, 30 Charles Godfrey

S 25 William Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Shayne Graham

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher


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Julio Jones vents about red-zone play-calling

Somehow, Winston gets away from the Falcons

Ryan's late interception sinks comeback bid

13 comments from Falcons coach Dan Quinn on the loss

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After 5-0 stater, steep climb to playoffs for Falcons

Ryan looked good running the no-huddle

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.