NFL Nation: Jim Hart

Reflecting on the Falcons' victory

November, 30, 2012
ATLANTA -- With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the Falcons’ media relations department, let’s take a by-the-numbers look back at how Atlanta defeated the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night:
  • The 23-13 victory put the Falcons only a Tampa Bay loss or tie at Denver on Sunday away from clinching the NFC South title. The Falcons also can clinch a playoff berth with a loss by Seattle on Sunday.
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez's first catch of the game was his 70th reception of the season. Gonzalez now has 10 straight seasons with at least 70 receptions. That ties the NFL record set by Tim Brown. Gonzalez also now has 13 seasons in which he has caught at least 70 passes, which ties him with Jerry Rice for the NFL record.
  • The Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive. They have scored an NFL-best 26 touchdowns on opening drives since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan now is 32-4 at home in his career. Ryan’s home winning percentage is .889. That’s second only to Tom Brady (.933) since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards. His 1,572 yards in November established a new franchise record for passing yards in a month. Steve Bartkowski set the previous record with 1,494 yards in November 1981.
  • The Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times. That ties the franchise record for interceptions in a game. The last time the Falcons recorded five interceptions in a game was when they picked off Jim Hart five times in 1980.
  • Although Atlanta’s running game has been mediocre much of the season, the Falcons got off to a great start on the ground. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined to average 13.6 yards per rush between the tackles in the first quarter. Atlanta had 95 yards rushing between the tackles in the first quarter the third-best total by any team this season. The Falcons had averaged only 3.2 yards per carry coming into the game. The Falcons finished the game with 122 of their 126 total rushing yards (not counting kneel downs) between the tackles, after averaging only 59 yards between the tackles per game in the first 10 games.
  • Strong safety William Moore had two interceptions and free safety Thomas DeCoud had one. They now have combined for 10 takeaways this season and those have resulted in 30 points.
  • Turner’s 3-yard touchdown run on the opening drive established a new franchise record for touchdowns. Receiver Terance Mathis had the previous record (57).
  • Defensive end John Abraham recorded Atlanta’s only sack and it came in a crucial spot in the fourth quarter. That gives Abraham 10 sacks on the season. He now has 10 or more sacks in seven seasons.
  • Abraham is the NFL’s active sack leader with 122 in his career. He now is tied with Simeon Rice for 14th place on the NFL’s all-time sack list.

Best Cardinals Team Ever: 1947

June, 24, 2010
Notable players: Charley Trippi, Elmer Angsman, Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Stan Mauldin, Chet Bulger, Billy Dewell, Mal Kutner, Boris "Babe" Dimancheff, Jeff Burkett, Marshall Goldberg

[+] EnlargeCharley Trippi and Jimmy Conzelman
AP PhotoCharley Trippi, right, signed a four-year contract to play for Jimmy Conzelman before the season began.
Analysis: The Pro Football Hall of Fame describes Jimmy Conzelman as a "newspaper publisher, playwright, author, orator, actor" -- and the only head coach to win an NFL championship with the Cardinals. (The team was based in Chicago from 1920-59. It played in St. Louis from 1960-87.)

Conzelman's brilliance as a coach shined through before and during the Cardinals' 28-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL championship game. Conzelman initially refrained from reporting the Eagles for illegally filing down their cleats to better cope with the icy conditions at Comiskey Park. Conzelman instead reported the Eagles on a player-by-player basis, and only after Philadelphia had made significant gains. Officials wiped out the gains and penalized the Eagles, forcing players to leave the field to replace their equipment.

The Cardinals had addressed the footing issue by changing into sneakers before the game. Angsman scored twice on 70-yard runs. Trippi scored on a 44-yard run and 75-yard punt return.

Conzelman's resourcefulness reflected his varied background. His playing career included stints with Decatur, Rock Island, Milwaukee, Detroit and Providence. He had even owned the Lions for a couple of seasons in the 1920s, supposedly paying $100 for the franchise before returning it to the league. He retired as a player in 1930 and returned as a coach a decade later. But his record in three seasons with the Cardinals was only 8-22 when he stepped away following the 1942 season. The Cardinals brought back Conzelman four years later and he rewarded them by winning 27 of 37 games, counting playoffs and the only league title in franchise history.

The 1947 season produced tragedy in addition to triumph. A plane crash killed punter Jeff Burkett as he tried to rejoin the team following an appendicitis. Charles Bidwill, the team's owner since 1933, had died in April before the season.

Most impressive win: The 1947 team needed a victory over the Chicago Bears in the final regular-season game to win the Western Division title. The Cardinals picked off Bears quarterback Sid Luckman four times in the 30-21 victory, but the offense might have provided the most important contribution. Christman's touchdown pass to Dimancheff on the first play of the game set a winning tone for the Cardinals. Dimancheff had missed every practice during the week while tending to his expectant wife, preventing him from practicing a play Conzelman was eager to run. No matter. The Cardinals isolated Dimancheff against Bears linebacker Mike Holovak, a speed mismatch Dimancheff used to his advantage.

Free-spending Cardinals: The team landed Trippi before the season with a four-year contract worth a then-staggering $100,000. Trippi had been a Maxwell Award winner and Rose Bowl MVP at the University of Georgia, which retired his No. 62 jersey after a college career that later landed Trippi a spot on ESPN's list of 25 greatest college players. The move helped put the Cardinals over the top in 1947. Trippi ranked second on the team that season with 641 yards from scrimmage.

Honorable mention

2008: The Cardinals came within a defensive stop of winning the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh after Kurt Warner found Larry Fitzgerald for the go-ahead touchdown pass late in the game. This team delighted in disproving skeptics and redefining an organization known for decades of futility.

1948: A defeat in the championship game prevented this Cardinals team from challenging and probably overtaking the 1947 team as the best in team history. The 1948 team went 11-1 during the regular season as Trippi became a bigger threat.

1975: Coach Don Coryell produced an 11-3 record thanks to an offense featuring Pro Bowl players in quarterback Jim Hart, receiver Mel Gray, running back Terry Metcalf, fullback Jim Otis and offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat questions the 49ers' focus heading into their final regular-season game.  Mike Singletary's future has commanded plenty of attention. More here.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle celebrates Joe Starkey's career as radio voice of the 49ers. Starkey gave up a stable job to pursue his announcing dreams. Now he's walking away on his own terms, albeit wistfully.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' simplified approach to defense has led to significant improvement under Singletary.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee thinks the 49ers owe their good health in part to former coach Mike Nolan, who reorganized the team's strength and conditioning program.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary wants more from the 49ers' pass rush.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic puts the Cardinals' current efforts in context. He checks in with current and former Cardinals, from Jim Hart to Vince Tobin to Kurt Warner.

Carrie Waters of the Arizona Republic profiles Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, who ties team success to the construction of a new stadium.

Darren Urban of wonders if the Seahawks can bring out the best in the Cardinals' passing game. Warner put up big numbers in Seattle last month. Also, Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin says it is "vitally important" for him to enter the playoffs healthy.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals have nothing but credibility at stake against Seattle.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams players have signed a petition supporting Jim Haslett as head coach beyond this season. Said one player: "They don't pay us to make decisions on head coaches. But it's good for [Haslett] to know that we've got his back. All 53 players may not agree with it, but I think the vast majority wants this to happen."

Also from Thomas: He profiles new Rams general manager Billy Devaney, a former luggage loader at the airport in Newark.

More from Thomas, with Bill Coats: A Rams notebook with Torry Holt's thoughts on Marshall Faulk as a possible NFL coach.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says a Seahawks victory might send a competitive message about the division race next season.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at Mike Holmgren's options once the Seahawks' season ends. Sleeping in is one of them.



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