FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons owner Arthur Blank should not start printing playoff tickets after the team’s 2-0 start.
Usually, a 2-0 start in the NFL is an extremely positive indicator of success. In addition to Atlanta and San Diego, who play at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, Houston, Philadelphia, Arizona and San Francisco are 2-0.
The Falcons have not opened a season 3-0 since 2004, when they started 4-0 on their way to a 11-5 season.
Four of the past six Super Bowl winners started the season 2-0. All six of the most recent Super Bowl runner-ups started the season off 2-0, including New England last season.
However, the Falcons have been 2-0 eight times, and only two of those teams made the playoffs — in 1998 (Super Bowl team) and 2004 (NFC title-game team).
In 2009, the last time the Falcons were 2-0, injuries to quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner derailed their playoff bid.
There was the collapse of 1986 by then-coach Dan Henning’s team. The Falcons were 4-0 but won only three of their last 12 on their way to a 7-8-1 mark.
Jim Mora’s 2004 team was 4-0 on its way to an 11-5 mark that included a loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game.
The Falcons will take their wins over the Chiefs and Broncos, but know there’s plenty more work left in the 2012 season.
“It’s a much better situation, but it’s a long season,” center Todd McClure said. “We still have 14 games left. When you look over the history of the NFL, a lot happens during an NFL season. It may start off one way, a team might look good at the beginning or may look bad at the beginning, but they turn it around. It’s all about staying consistent and being consistent for the long haul.”
McClure, who’s in his 14th season in the league, has seen his share of 2-0 starts.
“One year we went 6-2 and then we went 2-6,” McClure said of the 2005 season.
He expects the current team, which is coming off the franchise’s first back-to-back playoff appearances, to handle the relative prosperity.
“With the makeup of this team, I think we’ve got all of the right guys,” McClure said. “If we can stay healthy, we’ve got all of the pieces, and this coaching staff is going to stay on top of us. It should be a fun year.”
Linebacker Mike Peterson, who’s also in his 14th season, was a part of 2-0 starts in Jacksonville (2004 and 2006) and Indianapolis (2001).
“It’s just kind of early in the season, where you just want to take it one game at a time,” Peterson said. “You’ll appreciate them more later in the season than you will right now.”
The Chargers have been notorious slow starters under coach Norv Turner.
“We are all trying to get off to a good start,” Turner said. “Someone mentioned it was the first time since 2006, and you kind of go back in your mind and think about going Week 2 to New England two times over the last five years and some of the ‘Monday Night Football’ games we’ve played on the road.”
The Chargers didn’t have to travel far for their two wins this season. They won at Oakland and at home over second-year quarterback Jake Locker and the Tennessee Titans.
“We were able to get off to a good start, but obviously this game is quite a challenge, quite a test for us,” Turner said. “This Atlanta team is awfully good.”
Like the Falcons, the Chargers are not putting too much stock in their 2-0 record.
“We know it’s a week-to-week league, and you’ve got to be able to put them on top of one another,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge against Atlanta this week. Getting to see them on “Monday Night Football,” it was an impressive team to watch. And now, preparing for them, it’s going to be a challenge.”
Both teams have won with their passing attacks. The Falcons hope that Michael Turner, who was charged with driving under the influence Tuesday, can get the rushing attack moving.
San Diego is banking on the return of running back Ryan Mathews to help balance their offense.
“It’s just a good start as far as I’m concerned,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “That’s the mindset of this team. We’ve got a long season.”
Gonzalez was on two 2-0 teams in Kansas City (2003 and 2005) before joining the Falcons in 2008.
“I’ve been on teams where we start out great and then end up, and you don’t even make the playoffs,” Gonzalez said. “There is no way that we can allow ourselves to even think that we’ve arrived, or anything like that.
“It’s just a good start. It’s what we wanted to do. It’s what our goal was. We just have to keep building on this.”
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