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What is it about the NFC South that makes it so difficult to repeat as division champion?
It is the only one of the eight divisions not to have a back-to-back champion since the league realigned in 2002.
And unless the Atlanta Falcons don’t reverse things in a hurry, that NFC South oddity figures to hold up once again.
After amassing a 13-3 record in 2012, tied for the best mark in the NFL, Mike Smith’s team is suddenly 1-3, following Sunday night’s 30-23 home loss to the New England Patriots. Certainly the team didn't expect to be in this position so early, but safety Thomas DeCoud knows there's a lot of season left.
“This is new territory for us,” said DeCoud, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re a resilient team and we’re up to the challenge. Although we have some injuries, we are a veteran team as well. We have the guys and the leadership to get this job done.”
For the fourth time in as many games this season, the Falcons scored the first points of the game. This season, Atlanta has outscored its opponents a combined 34-0 in the first quarter.
But the Falcons have been outscored a combined 104-60 the rest of the way.
That question of balance that was a bugaboo in 2012 has reared its ugly head this season. Smith’s team has run 255 offensive plays in four games, with 75 rushing attempts and 180 passing plays.
Yes, the absence of running back Steven Jackson hasn’t helped. But it’s not like Atlanta was pounding the rock when he was in the lineup.
A win by the New Orleans Saints on Monday night would put the Falcons three games out of first place just four weeks into the season. That’s not to say they can’t bounce back.
Then again, we know what happens when you assume…and don’t consistently run the football.