published Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Atlanta Falcons excel in fast starts

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) plays during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012 in San Diego.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) plays during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012 in San Diego.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

To Atlanta Falcons/Georgia Dome officials:

My name is Danielle Strader, and I am writing in regard to the Monday, September 17, game against the Denver Broncos. I had a terrible experience within your facility and I was assured I would get a call shortly after my complaint was taken by a Mr. Serah Creasman. However, it is now Friday, September 21, and I have yet to receive any type of response.

While attending the Monday night game we had a few rowdy men behind us yelling profanities and demanding/threatening that my boyfriend and I sit down. About 10 minutes into the game while standing up (along with other fans), my boyfriend was pushed and told again to sit down. He did respond with "Do not touch me," and we again went back to watching the game.

Another five minutes into the game a security personnel from the Georgia Dome approached my boyfriend and asked to speak with him; the men behind us had filed a complaint. After he left I was harassed by the men, now yelling profanities at me, asking if I was going to stand up now and what was I going to do now that my boyfriend was gone. At 9:15 I sent a text to my boyfriend (that I do have a record of) stating that I was scared and the men had begun bothering me. At that time a lady from the row below told me to come sit by her until security or my boyfrend came back.

Finally about 10 minutes later a security guard and two other security-type people dressed in brown approached me, very rudely asking who pushed my boyfriend, why was I crying and did I move seats. I told the cops I never once turned around to see the men behind me but that they were now screaming profanities at me, so I moved because I was now alone. I was told to get back to my seat or I would be asked to leave, so I walked down to the concession-stand area until I finally got hold of my boyfriend. When meeting back up with him, he told me how the cops and security did nothing and then he was thrown against a wall by a cop named D. Paige. However, we decided to let it go and try to enjoy the rest of our time.

We stood in the entrance at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third when yet another security guard told us we could not stand there, and as I explained about our night she shrugged her shoulders and told me to "Go!" pointing her fingers in the direction of the stands. We did go back to our seats, and as we approached them the rowdiness started all over again. This time we did not say a word, did not make eye contact and did not respond in any way to the fans. However, again the security guards asked us to come with them and rudely told us they had had enough and we were going to be escorted out. We asked why and they took our tickets and said, "Let's go."

As we continued to ask for an explanation and try to find out exactly what we did wrong, we were told the guy who sent multiple complaints was a cop and it was time for us to go. We asked why that was relevant and continued to ask for an explanation, and then we were told we were about to be arrested if we did not come on. We did comply with them, but we asked for their names because they had their name tags covered by objects I could not identify, and the lady security guard yelled, "Don't worry about my name!" and the male in a brown uniform just stared at us. We realized at this time it was pointless and finally left the stadium.

Once outside, I immediately found a cop and told him of our issues inside the premises, and I also stated that I knew a GBI inside and that I needed to speak with someone who would do something now. He was very compliant and got some sort of official named Sherah Creasman to listen to us. I stated all the above to Mr. Creasman and he took all my information, assuring I would receive a call and he was so sorry but he could not let us back in. We left after this and decided to make the long trip back home to Chattanooga.

I am a Peyton Manning fan, which in turn makes me a Denver fan. This horrible experience was my first NFL game and a gift from my grandmother, who is a much bigger Manning fan than I am. I am a medical assistant who went into work early so I could make it to Atlanta in time. My intentions were to go to my first NFL game, see Peyton Manning play for the first time and come home to Chattanooga, where I had to be back at work at 7:30 a.m. I have never in my life been so mad, disgusted, harassed and embarrassed as I was this night.

I probably never will attend another NFL event and especially not at the Georgia Dome, or get to see Peyton play, in fear that I will have another terrible experience like this. I am hoping you never received any word of this incident and that is why I never got a response. I would greatly appreciate a reply for a compliant paying customer.

Danielle Strader

Chattanooga

ATLANTA — Strong starts on offense have helped the Atlanta Falcons remain one of the NFL's three undefeated teams.

Poor starts on defense have left the Carolina Panthers in an early hole in the NFC South.

Each team is placing an emphasis on a successful opening series when the teams meet today.

Quarterback Matt Ryan's accurate passing is a big reason the Falcons (3-0) are the only NFL team to score touchdowns on opening possessions of the first three games.

The Panthers (1-2) have allowed opposing teams to score on the first possessions of all three games.

"We have to come out with better intensity and understand the situation and know that we need to go out and set the tone early and not try to wait until the second series," Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis said. "We have to go out and jump on these guys and not try to do too much."

Fast starts always have been an emphasis for Falcons coach Mike Smith. Atlanta is 37-9 in five seasons under Smith when scoring first.

Ryan was viewed as a rising star in his first four seasons. Now he is being mentioned among the league's top passers as he has flourished in first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's system.

The Falcons no longer are a run-first team. Ryan is the NFL leader in passer rating and completion percentage, and he's tied with Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger for the league lead with eight touchdown passes.

Ryan said he's just having fun.

"I think obviously winning is what it's all about, and we've done a good job of that so far," he said. "It's a fun game. It's fun to play. We've got great teammates, we have good camaraderie and it's a fun team to be a part of."

Receiver Roddy White said aggressive play-calling is keeping the Falcons out of third-down situations.

"Dirk always says that if you stay out of third downs, then you don't have to complete them," White said. "Just staying ahead of the chains. I think we're doing a good job of play-calling on first and second down, and Dirk's doing a heck of a job just being aggressive, getting us chunks down the field. I think every time we get chunks down the field and get some explosives on those drives, we're going down and scoring points."

The Panthers can't blame all their troubles on early defensive lapses. Second-year quarterback Cam Newton completed only 16 of 30 passes with three interceptions and no touchdowns in last week's 36-7 home loss to the Giants.

"It's a loss," Newton said this week. "I don't like losing, and hopefully we can come back and I can do my part Sunday."

Veteran receiver Steve Smith said he didn't like seeing Newton sulking on the bench at the end of the game. Smith's comments triggered questions during the week about the relationship between the two.

Smith is a five-time Pro Bowl selection who has assumed a big brother role in the development of Newton, who was The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Newton has five interceptions and two touchdown passes so far, but all the news isn't discouraging. Despite his poor numbers last week, he has completed 63.9 percent of his passes and has 81 yards rushing with a team-leading two touchdowns.

The Falcons, who have won their first three games for the first time since 2004, have feasted on the AFC West, beating Kansas City, Denver and San Diego. Atlanta beat the Chargers 27-3 in San Diego last week as Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 275 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

Ryan has only one interception with his eight TD passes.

"Ryan is playing extremely well and making a lot of good decisions," said Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson. "He's not turning the ball over. We have to put a lot of pressure on him, because he's just not turning the ball over."

Ryan gives credit to Atlanta's defense for setting up scoring chances.

The Falcons lead the NFL with 11 takeaways and 40 points off turnovers. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore have combined for five interceptions, three by DeCoud.

"They're playing like ball hawks in the secondary, coming away with a lot of picks and fumbles," Ryan said. "So that's certainly helped us out the first couple of weeks."

All the news hasn't been good for the Falcons, who have had prominent players arrested in each of the last two weeks.

Atlanta police said defensive end John Abraham was "obviously intoxicated" when he was arrested on two misdemeanor obstruction charges Monday night. The police said Abraham refused repeated requests from firefighters and police to move behind a taped-off area where a woman was threatening to jump out of a hotel window.

Abraham practiced this past week.

His arrest came one week after running back Michael Turner's drunken driving arrest. Turner ran for 80 yards with a touchdown last week against the Chargers.

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