As the Atlanta Falcons put the finishing touches on a 31-3 obliteration of the hapless Buffalo Bills today, the broadcasters discussed the Falcons season. One, while saying the Falcons are a top-flight NFL team when healthy, nevertheless called their season a tremendous disappointment.
And while on the surface, a team going from 11-5 and a playoff berth to a possible 9-7, despite a markedly weaker division, could be seen as a disappointment, I disagree.
I think this could be one of the defining seasons in the franchise's history.
A lot has been made of the Falcons never having had back-to-back winning seasons. Although that is an embarrassing factoid to live with, this season will be a success even if Atlanta loses next week to finish 8-8.
The injuries are well documented and not worth repeating, but the Falcons showed a lot of heart rallying against the Jets on the road in poor weather and then not experiencing a letdown against the over-matched Bills.
There was some talk that with the playoffs out of reach, the Falcons would rest both Turner and Ryan to avoid risking further injury.
Turner may not be salvageable this season, but Ryan was and there's no question playing him is the right choice.
Injuries are unpredictable. Sure, Matt Ryan could get hurt in what is technically a "meaningless" game. He could also get hurt tomorrow getting out of the shower. Provided that simply playing wasn't going to make his toe worse, the Falcons owed it to their fans to put him on the field.
Too often, the mentality that there's one winner and 31 losers in the NFL every year clouds judgment. Yes, only one team reaches the ultimate goal of being Super Bowl champion each year, but there are varying degrees of success.
And spare me the "get a better draft pick argument." The NFL Draft is a crapshoot, and picking six spots higher in rounds does not guarantee a better player.
For the Falcons, getting back-to-back winning seasons, is important to the franchise. It would have been very easy for the Falcons to pack it in at 6-7 and limp to the finish with a mentality of "we'll get em next year."
But for the players to rally for two straight weeks and head into a final matchup with what looks like a tough Tampa Bay team with a chance for a franchise milestone, shows a lot of heart and lets you know they won't be a team that folds the second things get rough.
Whether it's Kory Biermann kicking off, Michael Koenen and Matt Bryant racing all over the field to try and prevent a fluke touchdown, or Ryan having one of his best games of the season, the Falcons showed their fans this current group of players are different from ones in the past.
Sure, it would have been great to go 11-5 or 12-4 this year, and who knows, if healthy, maybe the Falcons could have been a Super Bowl contender, but I think we've learned more about the team from the injury-plagued season, than we would if a healthy team had lost in the second round of the playoffs.