First Player Drafted By the Falcons, Tommy Nobis, Passes Away at 74

Tommy Nobis, the first player drafted by the expansion Atlanta Falcons and a hard-hitting middle linebacker who was never fully recognized for his talents on a struggling franchise that failed to make the playoffs during his long career, died Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. He was 74.

The team said he died at his suburban Atlanta home after an extended illness with his wife, Lynn, at his side. Nobis was among hundreds of ex-NFL players who struggled with physical and cognitive ailments after their careers ended, having played in an era when no one paid much attention to the long-term impact of concussions nor thought twice about groggily going back on the field after taking a shot to the head.

When the Falcons reached the Super Bowl last season, his wife told the Houston Chronicle that she wasn’t sure if Nobis had any idea what his former team had accomplished.

“We’ve told him the Falcons are in the Super Bowl, and we wear red and black,” Lynn Nobis said. “But it doesn’t seem to click. I don’t know if he understands.”

A native of San Antonio, Nobis starred on both sides of the line at the University of Texas and, despite being slowed by a knee injury during his senior season, he won the Maxwell Award as the best all-around player in college football and the Outland Trophy as the top lineman. He finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting — the top finisher among those who played defense — and appeared on the cover of Life and Sports Illustrated.

“The best defender in college football,” SI declared.

He was drafted first overall by the Falcons and also picked by his home-state Houston Oilers of the American Football League, leading to a spirited bidding war that drew interest as far away as outer space. While orbiting the Earth in his Gemini spacecraft, astronaut Frank Borman — whose two sons were ball boys for the Oilers — urged Nobis to sign with Houston.

“I hope he comes here,” Borman said as his spaceship flew over Houston during its 59th orbit.

Nobis wound up signing with Atlanta, becoming the first player in franchise history and a beloved figure would forever be known as “Mr. Falcon.” He earned NFL rookie of the year honors and the first of five Pro Bowl berths in 1966, and would go on to spend his entire 11-year career with the Falcons. His No. 60 has never been worn by any other Atlanta player, and he was among the initial inductees into the team’s “Ring of Honor” in 2004.

As a rookie, Nobis was credited unofficially with a staggering 296 solo and assisted tackles — an average of more than 21 per game. It remains the franchise record, and he would lead the team in tackles a total of nine times. The only exceptions were the 1969 and ’71 seasons when injuries limited him to a total of nine games.

Nobis also had 12 interceptions in his career, returning two of them for touchdowns.

After his playing days were over, Nobis had a long career in the Falcons front office and also became well known in the Atlanta area for running a charitable organization that provided job training to people with disabilities.

“Tommy’s legacy began as the first Falcons player in team history, was built over 40 years with the organization and will live on for years to come,” team owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. “Mr. Falcon is rightfully beloved by generations of Falcons fans and we will always be grateful for his many contributions to our team and community.”

A Stiff Test for the Falcons Thursday Against the Division Leading Saints

Thursday night the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons have a critical NFC South matchup in New Orleans against the upstart New Orleans Saints, a team that has played better than most expected they would in 2017.

The Falcons enter Thursday’s huge game at 7-5, two games back of the first-place Saints for first in the division. A loss with four games left and you can pretty much kiss a repeat of winning the division good-bye.

The fact the Saints have played so well at home is probably part of the reason they sit at one-point favorites for Thursday’s huge game with the Falcons.

Keep up with that line and get updated on the latest NFL matches at William Hill.

On Monday Falcons coach Dan Quinn said starting left cornerback Desmond Trufant has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to return to practice, a huge lift for a team that has at times had major issues stopping the pass.

The good news is that Trufant will play against the Saints on Thursday night, this after missing Sunday’s 14-9 loss to Minnesota after being hit by teammate Keanu Neal in a win over Tampa Bay back on November 26th in a win.

Seldom-used cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson started at left cornerback for the Falcons, and while he hung in there, it will be a lift for the defensive secondary to get Trufant back.

The other key will be the Falcons ability to stop the two-headed monster at running back for the Saints – that being out of nowhere star in the making Alvin Kamara and former first-round pick Mark Ingram.

These two backs have made the Saints maybe the best running team in the league in 2017, something that no one could have ever seen coming for a team with Drew Brees at quarterback.

What the run game has done for the Saints is open up Brees to throwing more short passes, and also it’s taken the heat off of him from a standpoint of putting the pressure on the offensive line protecting Brees.

Atlanta will have to come up with schemes on defense to take both Ingram and Kamra and make them as ineffective as possible. If they can do that, it will put the pressure back on Brees, and will give the Falcons the best chance to win.

Each week is a playoff game now for the Falcons, and Thursday’s game is by far the biggest of the season for a team that has by many accounts underperformed in 2017.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan Says Bringing Up 2016 Does the Team No Good

After returning nine of 11 starters from 2016, most expected the Falcons to seamlessly transition under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

The change has been anything but smooth as Atlanta has been particularly inefficient during the latest three-game skid, scoring 13.7 points per game.

After soaring to an MVP with last season’s output, Matt Ryan has crashed back to Earth. Ryan’s passer rating has fallen by 27.8 points from last season (117.1 in 2016, 89.3 in 2017), the biggest drop-off of any qualified quarterback this season. The QB is tired of comparing last year’s offense to the 2017 version, Kevin Patra of reports.

“We have to find a way for this team to play the way that we’re capable of as a team,” Ryan said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We can’t worry about last year. I know that constantly gets brought up, but as players we are not thinking about last year.

“We are not playing good enough as a unit in 2017. Frankly, I don’t really care to go back to 2016. It’s not useful for us.”

Despite the struggles, Ryan insists the offense is ready to explode at any moment.

“I think we are close,” Ryan said. “Honestly, when we look at it, we are close, but you have to be precise in this league. Really precise.”

Falcons vs Jets Wednesday Injury Report

Practice Report
Wednesday LB Duke Riley (knee), LB Jordan Tripp (concussion)
Wednesday RB Tevin Coleman (knee), LB Deion Jones (ankle), DE Courtney Upshaw (ankle)
Practice Report
Wednesday TE Jordan Leggett (knee), T Brandon Shell (neck), CB Buster Skrine (concussion), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, foot)
Wednesday WR Robby Anderson (ankle)
Wednesday T Kelvin Beachum (knee), G James Carpenter (shoulder), CB Morris Claiborne (ankle), DE Kony Ealy (shoulder), RB Matt Forte (knee), S Marcus Maye (back), QB Josh McCown (back), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring), DE Leonard Williams (wrist), G Brian Winters (abdomen)

Check Out Julio Jones’ Awesome Footwear for Sunday’s Game Against the Bills

Falcons wide out Julio Jones has already won NFL week four without ever playing a down, thanks in part to the shoes he’s sporting for today’s game at home against the Buffalo Bills.

The shoes pay props to wrestling superstar Ric Flair, who is a huge Falcons supporter and recently underwent a major health scare that had him in a medically induced coma.

Jones’ shoes are sure to catch a pretty penny if he decided to sell them off to charity at some point.

Ryan Leads Falcons to Two Big 4th Quarter Drives as Atlanta Tops Chicago 23-17

It took the 2017 Falcons to look like the 2016 Falcons, but Matt Ryan played like an MVP in the fourth quarter, doing enough to lead two scoring drives to help Atlanta to a 23-17 win over a gritty Chicago Bears team.

Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and also led another drive which eventually lead to a Matt Bryant field goal, helping the Falcons get the six-point win.

The MVP from a season ago threw for 321 yards, but overall there has to be some concern about an offense that really took awhile to get going on a day when they wanted to put their Super Bowl hangover away once and for all.

“We won the game and at the end of the day that’s why we prepare all week,” Ryan said. “Can we play better? Absolutely. Are we going to try to work on that? Absolutely. But we’ll take a win every day.”

The pass to Hooper that was so wild in the fact how wide open the tight end was, it was stunning that he was sitting in the middle of the field open waiting for Ryan’s pass to get there.

“I feel like I lived a lifetime in my head when the ball was in the air. I’m not even kidding. I think I blacked out for part of it,” Hooper said.

New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has his work cut out for him in making the Falcons offense a more well oiled machine on a weekly basis, for this week they were good enough to get past a Bears team that likely will be in the rear in the NFC North.

“We knew (the running game) would be a challenge, they’re stout and they’re square,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of the Bears defense.

“We didn’t anticipate that much of a challenge, we thought we’d get it going eventually. Today, we didn’t have the space we thought we’d have.”

Hopefully that space will come more in next week’s home opener in front of a National TV audience against the Packers.

Falcons vs Bears NFL Week One Inactives

The Falcons have declared OT Austin Pasztor, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RB Brian Hill, LB Jordan Tripp, WR Nick Williams, OG Sean Harlow, S Sharrod Neasman inactive for Week 1.

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman Ruled Out for Saturday’s Preseason Game

Falcons coach Dan Quinn ruled out running back Devonta Freeman for Saturday’s exhibition against the Arizona Cardinals as Freeman goes through the final stages of the concussion protocol, Vaughn McClure of reports.

Freeman, who was injured in practice, didn’t travel for this past Sunday’s exhibition at Pittsburgh after playing in the first exhibition at Miami. He ran sprints on a side field during Tuesday’s practice.

“He’s doing well,” Quinn said about Freeman. “He’s going to visit with the independent part of the protocol come up here soon. He won’t play in this ball game. He won’t practice today. He’s back to full-speed running. But it’s soon that he’ll be back participating full speed in practice. But you won’t see him suited up for this weekend.”

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