Let’s start with glass half full. The Atlanta Falcons are 6-0 for the first time in franchise history, and already have a commanding lead in the NFC South. They are headed into a bye week, where they’ll get some much needed rest before heading into Philadelphia, where they have had very little success in the last 30 years or so.
Big Rant Sports high-five to Falcons kicker Matt Bryant for yet another game-winning field goal, this time from 55 yards out.
Glass half empty. The Falcons narrowly escaped defeat against the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, and looked particularly beatable against the Oakland Raiders – a team they should have wiped the field with by all accounts. Now, after a week off they will head into Philadelphia, where they have had very little success for the last 30 years or so.
I know this might sound like a crazy thing to say, but the Falcons need a loss – a loss to take the pressure off even thinking about an undefeated season. The game against the Raiders would have been the perfect opportunity for that loss. To be beaten by a team at home that you were favored heavily to beat can do wonders to wake up players who are running on cruise control (I’m talking to you Asante Samuel and Ray Edwards).
Yes, Samuel had a big pick-6 in the fourth quarter, which he promptly followed-up by getting beat for a big play on the Raiders next drive. And Edwards had a big fumble recovery that, by my estimation, should have really been a touchdown, but he was tackled at the 1-yard line by Darren McFadden. Point is, the Oakland game was the first time that either of those guys had much of a positive impact on any of the Falcons’ wins to date.
But Edwards and Samuel aren’t the only culprits. The offensive line has gone from solid, to borderline good, to shaky. The secondary has gone from outstanding, to marginally good, to exposed. The lack of depth at linebacker is really starting to rear its ugly head, particularly in coverage downs.
In Atlanta’s first three games, they looked polished and sound, both offensively and defensively. They looked like a team that could go head-to-head with the league’s other undefeated team, the Houston Texans.
Through the last three games, they look more and more like the team that sputters in December and January. Routes don’t look as crisp by the wide receivers; Tony Gonzalez‘s hands of glue seem to have lost some adhesiveness; Matt Ryan‘s pinpoint passes have turned into targets for Nintendo Duck Hunt games.
This Falcons team has the capability of being the best team this franchise has ever seen, and going as far as they want to go in the playoffs. On the other hand, they also have the unfortunate possibility of being the biggest Falcons bust Atlanta has ever seen.
For them to accomplish the former, it’s going to take more focus and hard work, and less belief in their own press clippings.
Note to head coach Mike Smith: Forget banning Twitter with this group. They should all just be put into group media confinement – like a 1st-degree murder trial jury – until February.