Big Jerry is probably smiling from above right now.
Jerry was a doorman at a couple of clubs that were clients of mine over the years. He was big and intimidating – thus the nickname “Big Jerry”. No one wanted to mess with him and if they did they were sorry. Despite being an imposing figure he was one of the kindest and soft-spoken people I ever met. And to top if all off he was a Jay Cutler fan. A big Jay Cutler fan.
Years ago after I shot the Falcons game against the Broncos in ’08 I came into the club and Jerry stopped me. He asked me if I had gotten any good pictures of Cutler. Of course I did I informed him. Kind of passively he asked me if he could have a print and that he was a big fan. I of course said yes and asked him what size print he wanted. He kind of sheepishly asked, “How big can you make?”
I went to my printer and told him I wanted to make a big print of a specific picture and how big I could make it. The printer told me he could print any length I wanted and 30 inches wide.
And that’s what I did. I got Big Jerry this huge monstrosity that was so long I could not fit it in my car. I literally had to strap it to the roof of my car.
I still remember the look on his face and those in line at the club when I brought this six-foot high poster to Jerry. Jerry was at a loss of words and thanked me profusely.
The next season of course Cutler was traded to the Bears. When the Bears came to Atlanta I got a text from Jerry asking me if there was any way I could get him an updated Cutler picture. How could I refuse? It was Big Jerry, one of the best guys I ever met working in an industry full of shady characters. I brought Jerry an updated Cutler pic in a Bears uniform – not as big as the last and he was flabbergasted. He gave me a bear hug.
Unfortunately Big Jerry passed away a couple of years ago. Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium I felt a little wistful as I began shooting. I kept thinking as I looked at my camera, “Big Jerry would like that one.”
Well, Cutler made Big Jerry and Fins fans happy as he rallied the Dolphins from a 17-0 deficit to win 20-17.
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it and written it here many a time covering the Falcons that this was a game of two halves. Falcons coach Dan Quinn even said the same thing. He’s obviously read a number of my pieces about the Falcons over the years as well.
The Falcons looked like the old Falcons from last year as they moved the bal at will and even stretched the field as Marvin Hall making his first career catch caught a 40-yard bomb from Matt Ryan in the first quarter to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead. And in the second quarter Tevin Coleman extended the lead to 17-0 with a six yard run. Just before the half ended the Falcons intercepted Culter deep in Atlanta territory ending the Dolphins only real threat in the first half.
And then the second half happened.
The Dolphins took the second half kickoff and used eight minutes and 43 seconds to get on the scoreboard as Cutler hit Kenny Stills from 11 yards out to make the score 17-7.
The Atlanta offense that moved the ball at will in the first half was non-existent in the second half as drive after drive was either three or four and out. Passes were dropped, blocks were missed and the passing game forgot how to stretch the field. Add to that a special teams blunder that ended up giving the Dolphins the ball back at midfield instead of pushing them into the shadows of their goal posts.
After another Falcons drive stalled at midfield for the Falcons I got a strange premonition as they were clinging to a 17-14 lead at this point. I thought to myself that punter Matt Bosher has had a punt blocked every season except for last year. Bosher’s punt wasn’t blocked but he didn’t get to try either. The snap hit the up back and Bosher grabbed the loose ball and tried to run to no avail giving the Dolphins the ball in Atlanta territory.
Miami used that to their advantage as Cutler got the Dolphins in field goal range to tie the score. And after another three and out by the Falcons the Atlanta defense was definitely on their heels. Jay Ajayi’s 18-yard run and a key Cutler reception to Jarvis Landry set up what ended up being the winning field goal.
The Falcons looked to rally with 2:30 to go on the clock as they swiftly moved deep into Miami territory as Ryan completed clutch throws to Taylor Gabriel, Julio Jones and Justin Hardy before his pass to Austin Hooper was intercepted ending the rally and giving the Dolphins the win.
There has been a lot of pissing and moaning about the game as a lot of pundits are trying to throw Ryan under the bus for the loss. However there were a lot of things that went wrong that led to the loss for the Falcons.
The Atlanta defense has been hyped as being almost invincible coming into the season. They were up and coming last season and with a good draft and free agent acquisitions on paper they looked intimidating. And to be honest, they were the main reason the team started 3-0. Sunday however they forgot how to tackle and put pressure on the quarterback. Miami’s running back Jay Adjayi has had a Jekyll and Hyde persona since coming into the league. Last season he either ran for 200 yards a game or only 30. Not much has been heard of him this season. He ran for 130 yards against the Falcon defense that hadn’t given up a 100-yard rusher since the loss to the Eagles last season. If the Falcons had tackled him he wouldn’t have gained so many yards. On multiple runs three, four five – six guys missed tackles on the second year running back.
And back to Cutler. Cutler had an okay game under center – not great. He only made the one mistake at the end of the first half and managed to control the game as he threw for two touchdowns in the third quarter and took advantage of a short field twice in the fourth to set up the game winning and tying field goals in the fourth. And with supposedly an intimidating defensive line the Falcons have he was not sacked – the first game since last season they missed out on a QB sack. Penalties also negated two big plays that kept scoring drives alive for the Dolphins as well.
And for the offense. Matt Ryan has caught a lot of flack for the outcome of the game. He was intercepted on the last offensive play for the Falcons and pundits are already sounding an alarm how he is already one interception away from his total for all of last season. Once again I am coming to his defense. Unlike the rest of you bandwagoneers I have no intent and have been pro Matt Ryan since his first pro pass back in 2008. There are a lot of glitches in the offense but Ryan isn’t one of them. It’s the new play calling.
Atlanta is blessed with tremendous talent at all marquee positions, which is really rare. And they are all young. It is going to take time to figure this stuff all out for any coordinator no matter how good they are or think they are. It took Kyle Shanihan a few days into his second season to figure this out. The play calling this season however does seem way more conservative than last year to date. The Falcons have only tried to stretch the field only a couple of times all season – and usually with good results of at least two touchdowns that I can recall so far. Being more conservative with the pass routes will end up bottling up the run game, which is exactly what has been happening. Both Coleman and Devonta Freeman have had some good plays but nothing like last season as the aggressive play calling of last season kept defenses on their heels.
There have also been a lot of early injuries five weeks into the season with you top two receivers in Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu missing time. Sure you have a lot of talent in the receiver corps but they were meant to be options to you main receivers and don’t have the time put in to really fill those shoes as needed. Add to that an offensive line that has been unexpectedly porous. Ryan was sacked again twice Sunday and was under pressure when his pass was intercepted ending Atlanta’s rally.
Oh yeah, like when I began writing this diatribe… Jay Cutler’s a pretty good quarterback. He was the third quarterback drafted out of his draft class and the least touted behind Vince Young and Matt Leinart. But I didn’t see anyone calling to ask them unretire. And both of those guys have already been out of the league longer than they were in. Cutler, sure he has made some bad decisions, as do most gunslingers. But his issues under center are poor offensive coordinators and head coaches who had a different offensive mindset for his tools. Sure he may not be the “leader” a traditional quarterback supposedly has and at times appears to have a lackadaisical attitude that makes one scratch their head but the arm strength is there and a lot of times it’s being in the right place at the right time. Adam Gase seems to be the right coach but unfortunately the wrong time.
The Falcons return to the road Sunday night for a rematch of their Super Bowl meltdown as they head to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots who have struggled a bit this season as both teams come into the fray with matching 3-2 records. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30pm and will be aired on NBC.
And Big Jerry… I sure miss you and I even got a great picture of Jay Cutler I wish I could give you to add to your collection.
– Dave Weinthal
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