Tony Gonzalez to make one last run?

Tony Gonzalez will go down as one of the best pass-catching tight ends to ever play the game but the man has never won a playoff game, not to mention a Super Bowl. It appears as though he’s ready to take one more crack at winning a championship before hanging ‘em up for good.

According to his publicist, Gonzo will definitely return next season. He also confirmed his intent the Jim Rome Show, so he’ll play out the final year of his contract at $5.75 million. But considering he was 50/50 on whether or not he would play past 2010, it’s probably not a stretch to think that 2011 will be his final season.

There’s no doubt that Gonzalez has lost some speed over the years, but he takes great care of his body and is always in tremendous shape. Thanks to his strict eating habits, the Falcons don’t have to worry about him wearing down throughout the course of the season. He finished with his fewest receptions (70) and yards (656) since 1998, but he still managed to haul in six touchdowns and was often Matt Ryan’s second read after Roddy White.

That said, the Packers proved that the Falcons have a long way to go in order to compete for a Super Bowl. Gonzalez was a non-factor last week, catching just one pass before suffering an injury in the second half. He can still be productive, but he’s obviously not the same player he was in Kansas City.

And while Michael Jenkins always seems to come up with a couple of big catches throughout the year and is an underrated blocker, he can’t stretch a defense. Atlanta won’t dramatically change its offense because of the Green Bay rout, but there’s no doubt that the Falcons need to add another playmaker. When teams contained White and slowed Michael Turner, they dared Jenkins to beat them one-on-one and he couldn’t. Thus, it’ll be interesting to see if Atlanta targets a free agent such as Malcolm Floyd or even Vincent Jackson now that Gonzalez is set to return.

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Ravens only have themselves to blame for loss to Falcons – not refs

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Roddy White  of the Atlanta Falcons pulls in this reception against Lardarius Webb  of the Baltimore Ravens at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Some will focus on Michael Jenkins’ catch on a 3rd and 10 that wasn’t overturned by replay. Others will talk about the pass interference call on Tavares Gooden.

Most will fixate on Roddy White’s push-off.

But they shouldn’t. The Ravens didn’t lose to the Falcons on Thursday night because of the refs. They lost because they were dominated for most of the night and couldn’t catch a break or two down the stretch.

Here’s the way I would tally the final drive of Atlanta’s dramatic 26-21 win:

Jenkins’ Reception: It was a catch. The second replay showed that Jenkins kept a kung fu grip on the ball with his fingers and secured it while getting both feet down.

Pass Interference Call: I’m surprised Gooden didn’t get stopped at the Atlanta airport and picked up for the molestation of Tony Gonzalez. It was a good call – Gooden was draped all over him.

White’s Push-Off: It was clear as day – the ref missed it. I think a stiff wind could have knocked Josh Wilson down, but nevertheless White pushed off and it was a bad no call. He should have been flagged, the Falcons should have been backed up and who knows – maybe Baltimore is 7-2 and Atlanta is 6-3.

But you know what? The Ravens have nobody to blame but themselves and here’s why:

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Don’t let New England’s win fool you – the Pats are far from fixed

Patriots 26, Falcons 10.

The Patriots are back right? They rolled over a good Falcons team today and they’re back. They’re ready to take control of the AFC East again and stomp everyone in their way.

Uh, not quite.

The Patriots definitely deserved to win Sunday because they were the better team. But the Falcons should be embarrassed by their effort, because they were outplayed and outcoached in every phase of the game. Simply put, Atlanta wasn’t ready to go into New England today and earn a victory.

This game is a perfect example of how stats sometimes lie. Tom Brady threw for 277 yards and a touchdown on 25 of 42 passing, but if he were more efficient, his numbers should have been dazzling. The Falcons were brutal defensively. They generated zero pressure, allowed Brady to sit back in the pocket for minutes at a time and were completely unimaginable in their play calling.

Brady had all day to throw and yet he could only muster 277 yards. Don’t be fooled by his stats – he wasn’t that impressive today as he consistently overthrew open receivers and benefited from the horrendous play of Atlanta cornerback Chris Houston and one of his offensive lineman holding on a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Chris Baker to seal the game. (Seriously, John Abraham was molested as the New England O-line bear-hugged him and the refs did nothing.)

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Falcons trade 2010 second round pick to Chiefs for Gonzalez

According to, the Falcons traded their second round pick in the 2010 draft to the Chiefs in exchange for tight end Tony Gonzalez.

This deal works well for all parties involved. The Falcons wanted to give quarterback Matt Ryan a target that could attack the middle of the field in the passing game and presumably didn’t want to use their first round pick on a tight end prospect like Brandon Pettigrew with so many needs on the defensive side of the ball.

Gonzalez made it obvious after last season that he didn’t want to play for a team in rebuilding mode. While Atlanta still has a long ways to go in filling holes on the defensive side of the ball, its postseason run last year indicates that they have enough talent to win now – especially on the offensive side of the ball.

At 33 years old, Gonzo is no spring chicken but he hardly shows signs of slowing down after hauling in 96 receptions for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. And that was with Tyler Thigpen taking most of the snaps under center. He might not be as involved in the Falcons’ offense as he was in Kansas City because Atlanta relies so much on Michael Turner and the running game, but he no doubt makes Ryan and receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins better around him.

The Chiefs wanted a second round pick as compensation for Gonzo and although they didn’t get it for this year’s draft, they ultimately got what they were asking for. And considering the Falcons have never had back to back winning seasons in franchise history, there’s a good chance that their second round pick will be higher next year than it is this year.

Saints find offensive balance, keep postseason hopes alive

Reggie BushNew Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton was rightfully criticized throughout the week for not maintaining enough offensive balance this season. While the Saints statistically rank as the best offense in the league, they entered Sunday’s game against the Falcons as a 6-6 team with slim playoff hopes. No offense – not even the best in the league – can win consistently if they can’t run the ball. But the Saints rushed for 184 yards and beat division rival Atlanta 29-25 on Sunday.

Their running game was essentially the key because it opened everything up for Drew Brees and the passing game. Outside of the opening drive of the first quarter and most of the third, the Falcons’ defense looked befuddled at what Payton was throwing at them. They had no answer for New Orleans’ offense and allowed Pierre Thomas to rumble for 102 yards on just 16 carries. If Payton can keep himself from going Andy Reid on everybody, the Saints are going to be tough to beat the rest of the way.

For the Falcons, their loss cannot be placed on rookie Matt Ryan (24 of 33 for 315 yards, 1 TD) and the offense. Ryan was unbelievable and got a ton of help from Roddy White (10 catches, 164 yards) and Michael Jenkins (5 catches, 69 yards), who made the rookie quarterback look good on a couple of errant passes. Outside of a rookie mistake on an interception thrown in the first quarter, Ryan was damn near perfect and constantly kept drives alive with pinpoint passes.

The Falcons really put themselves in a hole with this loss, however. At 8-5, they’re still very much alive in the playoff race, but they host a tough Buccaneers team next week and then travel to Minnesota before finishing with the hapless Rams. They’ll have to win at least two of their next three games to make the playoffs, so a win over the Saints could have gone a long way.

We’ll see what Ryan and the young Falcons are made of over these next three weeks.

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