Do not despair, Atlanta Falcons fans. For while a loss to your most bitter rivals, the New Orleans Saints, always stings, you can take solace in the fact that this loss may actually do the Falcons a lot of good.
The chances that Atlanta was going to go 16-0 in the regular season and then still make it through the playoffs and Super Bowl unscathed were miniscule at best. Only one team has done it in the history of the NFL–the 1972 Miami Dolphins–and nobody has done it since the league moved to a 16 game schedule.
Every week that the Falcons went on without a loss, the pressure mounted, whether the team wanted to admit it or not. You can’t help but think about it when you are in that position. It’s compelling. Now the release valve has been opened on that problem, and Atlanta can go about their business of just securing home field advantage in the playoffs.
The loss also may have further opened head coach Mike Smith‘s eyes to a problem that many have been pointing to since week one. The Atlanta running attack is putrid. The offensive line isn’t opening up holes, and Michael Turner isn’t bullying his way through defensive lines the way he once did.
If the Falcons are going to win the tough, close games against quality opponents, then being able to at least run the ball successfully at the goal line is imperative. It’s now up to Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to figure out how to get this done before the Falcons find themselves on the losing end of yet another playoff game.
The last, and most important thing that this loss may have done for the Falcons is re-ignite their engines. It was obvious over the past few weeks that the team had become accustomed to winning, and was going into each game expecting to win. That kind of confidence is great, but it can also come with a price of losing some fire and passion (just ask the Atlanta Braves).
A loss to the Saints is the one thing that really (pardon my French) pisses this team off, and rightfully so. The Falcons are a better team than the Saints this year, and should have won that game. Now the Falcons will more than likely steamroll through the next few games, circling the date on the calendar (11/29) when the Saints come marching into the Georgia Dome.
No, losing to New Orleans is never ideal for the Falcons or their fans. But in this case, I think it may be just what the doctor ordered for a team that had begun to sleepwalk.