Any diehard Falcons fan will tell you that Sunday's 31-27 defeat in New Orleans hurt not because the loss gave the Falcons their first blemish in the loss column, but because the loss came to the Saints.
The same New Orleans Saints that have now won 11 of the last 13 meetings in this rivalry, the same New Orleans Saints that Roddy White vented about earlier this week, and the same New Orleans Saints that all true Falcons fans love to hate. I know this rivalry's unique history, and I understand your frustration Falcons fans.
The Saints and their fans get under your skin the way that no other team or fan base can, even the thick New Orleans accent coming off of the tongue of the Saints' public address announcer was irritating me today. However, Falcons fans cannot lose sight of the big picture.
Earlier this week I stated that the Atlanta-New Orleans rivalry is unique because it is the NFL's only rivalry that involves two fan bases that are heavily invested in SEC football. In that same spirit, I think that it is time that Falcons fans (and maybe the team too) take a lesson from another nemesis to many a native Georgian: the Ol' Ball Coach himself.
When Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina, he went out of his way to shift the Gamecocks' mindset away from a sole focus on beating arch-rival Clemson. Spurrier reasoned that if given a choice between being SEC champions or beating Clemson, the Gamecocks should prefer to be SEC champions. Falcons fans need to adapt the same kind of reasoning when it comes to the New Orleans Saints.
Yes, every sports fan covets owning bragging rights over their respective rivals, but fans of championship winning-teams know that winning a title gave them THE ultimate trump card. Last year, the Giants lost twice to divisional rival Washington, and once to Philadelphia en route to winning the Super Bowl.
The 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers lost a tight game in Chicago to the Bears during the regular season. Do you think Packers or Giants fans were losing sleep over losing to their rivals during the regular season when they won championships?
Moreover, unlike Spurrier's Gamecocks, the Falcons play in the NFL where they do not have to worry about the BCS. The Saints did not ruin the Falcons' chances at a Super Bowl Championship. While the Falcons do have to live with the fact that their rival handed them their first loss, they can take solace in the fact that they are 8-1 with seven weeks left in the regular season, including a rematch with the Saints on November 29th.
Sean Weatherspoon will be back soon to help the defense, and Julio Jones returned from his early injury today. After that, hopefully these 2012 Falcons will get a shot at their real nemesis: The NFL Playoffs.
So don't overreact Falcons fans. Your team still has a three game lead in the division, and the Saints did not ''solve'' this Falcons' offense (Matt Ryan threw for a career-high 411 yards). The Falcons have graduated past the level where they only worry about beating the Saints, and you should too.
That being said, you may want to stay away from any ''who dat's'' you know this week.