Will the Real Atlanta Falcons Please Stand Up?
Yes, I'm dating myself by quoting a famous line from a very ancient game-show, but such a line is fitting when examining the 2008 Atlanta Falcons. This team was projected by anyone who's thrown a Nerf football to fail miserably this season. Last seasons rancid display was expected to seep into this season, with the only difference being two new but inexperienced captains in GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith.
Yet, the ghosts of tortured dogs and sounds of pig calls have been put to rest. This team jumped out of the gate hot and have been the "feel good" story of the NFL since week one.
Matt "don't call him rookie" Ryan has lead this team to more than double last seasons win total and has the Birds on the cusp of a winning season and possibly the playoffs. Rookies Sam Baker, Harry Douglas, and Curtis Lofton have also matured fast enough to be real assets to the team. Seasoned veterans like John Abraham and Lawyer Milloy continue to lead and prosper behind the Coach Smith's mentoring. Add Roddy White and Michael Turner into the mix and you have all the ingredients for the Falcons' sudden resurrection.
Despite all the media attention and fan fervor over the Falcons, they seem to be suffering from an identity crisis. Is this team really a playoff team or just pretenders who make things exciting, but all for naught?
Each week fans have to wonder which team will show up. Will it be the team that held LaDanian Tomlinson to 24 rushing yards and blanked the Raiders in their own house, or the team that gave up a mile of rushing yards to New Orleans and choked against Denver?
Will Michael Turner bust out for another 200 yards or be held to minuscule gains, while being tackled behind the line of scrimmage? Can John Abraham record another three sack game or will he be neutralized all day by triple teams?
Yes, the Falcons are a feel good story and it feels good to be a Falcon fan, but what we all saw happen in New Orleans gives even a life-long Falcon fan reason to wring their hands.
Yesterday's loss was a combination of things. Special teams allowed some lengthy returns, the pass rush was non-existent, and the lack of take-aways all contributed to a costly loss. More obvious to me was how flat the Falcons played. Were they looking past the Saints to this weeks game vs. division leading Tampa?
Whatever reagents combined into the formula for failure, one thing is abundantly clear; The Falcons need to spend the offseason acquiring the personnel which will stabilize this team and bring consistency to the forefront.
So far, most of the Falcons' naysayers have spent the season eating crow. An even bigger accomplishment would be for the team to continue to serve up those meals season after season. One more win and the Falcons are on the path to breaking one of the NFL's most miserable records: no back-to-back winning seasons, and with the right moves this team can toss that monkey off their backs.
The Falcons are young, inexperienced, and raw. They are on the right path and with a few adjustments, and another great draft, the real Falcons will not only stand up, but stand atop the NFL.
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