Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Real Georgia Peach, Falcons Style!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
ATLANTA, GA

I've always been enamored in seeing new stadiums and do everything I can to get to them when the situation presents itself.

In this very city on September 6, 1992, I saw the first game ever at the now demolished Georgia Dome. This facility cost $214 Million which would equate to $382 Million in 2018.

It hosted two Super Bowls and 23 SEC Championship Games along with 25 Peach Bowls.

What it wasn't was the home for Brett Favre, who was traded to the Green Bay Packers on February11, 1992.

It was demolished on November 20, 2017.

The Atlanta Falcons hosted the New York Jets.

Bruce Coslet was the head coach of the Jets while Jerry Glanville roamed the sidelines for the Falcons.

Browning Nagle was the QB for the Jets while Chris Miller was the signal caller for Atlanta.

The Falcons had a 20-3 lead but the Jets lost the game 20-17. A Norm Johnson 54-yard field goal in the second quarter was the difference in the game.

What made this trip possible to Mercedes Benz Stadium was a pre-planned family trip that started out on December 8, 2019 when we covered the Jags contest against the LA Chargers in Jacksonville.

After the game, we drove to Racine, WI and spent 12 days with family. We departed Wisconsin on December 20, 2019 and visited another family member in Nashville, TN then took the five hour trek to Atlanta on December 21, 2019.

There were lots of things that made this visit different.

First of all the cost to build this incredible facility was $1.6 Billion and it's only two years old.

Second, unlike my first NFL appearance in Atlanta where I was a neutral writer, I have a vested interest in this game. I'm covering the contest as a writer working with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Third, there is an actual first since this is the Jaguars inaugural regular season appearance in this venue.

What made this such a fascinating experience is there were no game notes as this Press Box is totally paperless as my monitor demonstrates. I wouldn't be surprised to see more teams going paperless in this fashion.

Before the game, I joked with Jaguars Director of Public Relations Tad Dickman and he was enlightened about my previous visit. He hadn't heard of some of the players and coaches that I mentioned.

The head coaches for this game are Dan Quinn of Atlanta and Doug Marrone of Jacksonville.

Each team was 5-9 going into the game. We'll know whether these coaches will be employed by their current teams in the coming weeks.

The signal callers are Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Gardner Minshew II.

The key players to watch are wide receiver Julio Jones for Atlanta and running back Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars.

Unlike other venues around the country to make a return appearance here is easy as the Jaguars face each other every pre-season. Jacksonville is scheduled to return to Atlanta in 2020.

When we left here, the Peach Bowl is one of the College Football Playoff Games.

On December 28, 2019, (4) Oklahoma 12-1 squares off against Fournette's Alma-Mater (1) LSU 13-0 which will showcase Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow.

Today, it was raining outside so if there is an incentive to come back, which there is, I can only imagine what this Jewel would be like with the roof open. From our place to this stadium is about a nine-hour drive up I-75 so it's very doable.

Unfortunately for Jacksonville it rained hard in the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Atlanta put together an opening drive that went six plays, 83 yards and took 3:33 to complete. Davante Freeman scored on a 17-yard run.

If you had Freeman on your fantasy team, he exceeded his projection by the 9:28 mark in the first quarter as a Jacksonville turnover led to another touchdown.

The Falcons had a four play, 25-yard drive that took 1:50 to complete. Freeman caught an eight-yard touchdown from Ryan.

Two touchdowns early in the contest for Freeman. With 2:19 left in the first quarter, Freeman had amassed 20.90 fantasy points and was projected to get 15.72 in Yahoo Leagues.

The Jags trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter each team traded field goals and Atlanta took a 17-3 lead at halftime.

This score is similar to the one when the Falcons hosted the New York Jets.

Unfortunately, for Jacksonville, when it was all said and done, the Jaguars built themselves too big of a hole to get out of.

The Falcons would pull out a 24-12 win and Ryan, Freeman and Jones were the three-headed monster that doomed them in Atlanta's home finale.

The Jaguars defense yielded 518yards. Including this game, they've given up over 500 twice and 11 in the teams' history. Somewhere out in Los Angeles, Jalen Ramsey must be smiling.

Ryan was superb by throwing for 384 yards and a touchdown. Freeman was a dual threat by rushing for 53 yards and adding another 74 via the air along with two touchdowns. Jones had 10 catches for 166 yards.

Freeman's final fantasy total was 33.70.

The end result was another Jacksonville loss. The team dropped to 5-10, while while Quinn, whom many perceived to be on the hot seat has watched his squad improve to 6-9.

Quinn would retain his job as he'll be roaming the sidelines for the Falcons in 2020. Atlanta won it's last game 28-22 in OT at Tampa Bay to finish the year 7-9.

At the post- game press conference you can tell that Marrone was mentally drained. He's dealt with injuries, off the field controversies, the firing of his boss Tom Coughlin and most of all, a season that lacked wins.

After the press conference, Owner Shad Khan was in there meeting with him with the door closed.

The Jaguars defeated the Indianapolis Colts 38-20 on December 29, 2019 and concluded the season 6-10.

Black Monday on December 30, 2019 was not the end of the Marrone era. Khan gave him and GM David Caldwell one last year to figure this out opting for continuity rather than house cleaning.

Although the Falcons will return to this Palace in August, it was be neat watch the Peach Bowl Game as LSU hammered Oklahoma 63-28 on December 29, 2019. The NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four comes here in April.

We look forward to conquering our next stadium, I truly hope it won't be 27 years until I return since their is unfinished business with the open roof.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com and is the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and Broadcasting Network.

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