Atlanta Falcons: Shrugging off skeptics

They loved Matty Ice at Clifton Elementary. (Photo: Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

They loved Matty Ice at Clifton Elementary. (Photo: Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The students and faculty at Clifton Elementary School were uninhibited in their enthusiasm for the Falcons who dropped by Tuesday for a surprise visit.

The exuberance for the team seems to be more measured among NFL watchers.

The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history and the only team in the NFC with a perfect record. Their star players get their due, and various media power rankings have them near the top.

Yet there might be nagging skepticism about the Falcons’ staying power, as illustrated during ESPN’s pregame show Sunday. Studio analysts answered the question that probably is on the minds of more than a few Falcons fans.

Can you trust this team?

“Sounds good … smells bad,” Keyshawn Johnson said.

“Unless you win in the playoffs, you’re going to be known as ‘next year’s champions,’” Mike Ditka said.

Johnson and Ditka made their comments before the Falcons defeated the Redskins, but it’s doubtful that the victory changed their views. The proof will come in the playoffs for the Falcons, who have provided plenty of reasons to doubt them after they flopped in three of the past four postseasons.

Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said the team doesn’t talk much about such skepticism, but called it “a good thing.”

“I would rather be the underdog team or the team that everybody is doubting vs. a team that everybody is pampering and pumping it up,” he said. “Inside that locker room, we know what we have to do.”

The Falcons have to keep winning games to secure their third consecutive playoff berth. Winning the NFC South is a goal, too, because it would assure them at least one postseason game at the Georgia Dome.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said the Falcons’ recent playoffs failures serve to remind them that they can’t be satisfied just because they are winning now.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We have players and guys that have been around for a long time and understand what it is that we need to do. And, at the same time, I think we have guys that feel like we haven’t played our best football yet.”

The contrast between the Falcons’ regular-season success and postseason failures has forged their reputation.

Since Ryan, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith arrived in 2008, the Falcons are tied for the second-most victories in the NFL. But in the postseason the Falcons haven’t measured up to the other teams in the top five in victories since then: New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

“I don’t really think about it too much or worry about what the outside perception is,” Ryan said. “For us, as players and being a part of the team, it’s just all about trying to win games and giving ourselves a chance at the end of the year.”

Falcons players and staffers fanned out in the area Tuesday for the annual NFL-United Way Hometown Huddle, a league-wide volunteer program. The Falcons said they had full participation among their players.

At Clifton, Falcons players, cheerleaders and the team mascot participated in a physical-education class with students. Team owner Arthur Blank couldn’t join them as planned because of a scheduling conflict.

294 comments Add your comment

JSS

October 10th, 2012
9:49 am

The players on the team get they haven’t done yet, but it goes over the head on their fan base… Of course the recrimination posts and name calling to will follow this statement. Ledbetter, good luck with moderating this one!

Ramblin Black Jacket

October 10th, 2012
9:50 am

Glad to see the team go to less known schools instead of these schools up in Gwinnette County like the Braves.

JSS

October 10th, 2012
9:51 am

Correction: “The players on the team get they haven’t done (a thing) yet…”

REAMing aints

October 10th, 2012
9:59 am

Well, they’ve done 4 more things this year than the aints have. I suppose the aints will always be harping on their Tonya Harding Memorial Trophy they got in 2009 by dropping to the lowest level any team in the NFL has ever gone. I guess living in the mud and stink makes anything else smell sweet. Congrats for winning a subpar bowl, PiSS.

Falconbikerdude

October 10th, 2012
9:59 am

As a die hard loyal Falcons fan, I love my team, but we have major issues on defense. Our cornerback play really has been good, but our defensive line struggles at times and we give up way too many yards on the ground to be a top-notch team that will win consistently in the playoffs. In my humble opinion, I believe the defense needs to out perform the offense on a consistent basis (i.e. if your an A- on offense you need to be an A+ on defense to win). What are your thoughts on this?

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

October 10th, 2012
10:00 am

People have to also remember that the talking heads on these shows need to make statements that are sometimes perceived as negative/controversial in order to pump up their ratings…….just the way it works.

I think it is a good thing that the Falcons are flying under the radar of the national media talking heads. If they keep wining games nothing else will matter and the naysayers will continue vanish. GO FALCONS!!!! Let’s rock the Dome again this Sunday!!!!!

PMC

October 10th, 2012
10:12 am

I really do prefer it this way. It’s really less stressful. I’m just enjoying the season.

For that matter Keyshawn Johnson hasn’t really ever done anything either and it’s been an incredibly long time since Mike Ditka did anything of merit. He destroyed the Saints with one of the stupidest trades in NFL history since.

ESPN’s like a bording house for NFL washouts.

SimpleDawg

October 10th, 2012
10:12 am

Well, I’m happy the Falcons are winning…I hope they keep it up.

Beat the good teams when you play them – that’s how you prepare for the playoffs.

….unlike the Dawgs who cringe at the sight of a strong opponent.

But then….the Falcons have a full time, committed Football Coach who’s only focus is on making the players reach their maximum potential so they can collectively achieve the team’s goals.

Seems like a good recipe.

Turtle Man

October 10th, 2012
10:14 am

I agree with @FalconBikerDude on the defense. The defense has played good at times but hasn’t shown the consistency yet. To counter that, they’re an opportunistic type of Defense that is causing a bunch of turnovers. Every time a tackle is being made, the players are trying to swat/strip the ball, which to me is something that never happened when BVG was here. Besides when the Falcons blitz, they don’t have a pass rush whatsoever, which is really disturbing. Has anyone seen Ray Edwards? He must be working part-time for us because the only time I saw him was when he got an Unsportsmanlike Penalty against the Broncos. Please let me know if you’ve seen Ray Edwards. Will the real Ray Edwards please stand up! I guess I’m more of the old school type and go by the mantra ‘Defense Wins Championships’ but the NFL has changed. It’s a passing league and it’s now the offenses that are winning the championships.

I do like that the talking heads aren’t giving the Falcons any credit. Dirty Birds flying under the radar is a great thing. RISE UP!!!

Bill

October 10th, 2012
10:14 am

Past champions show that a great defense can compensate for a mediocre offense, ie Ravens, Steelers. The reverse is true too, ie Patriots, Cardinals (NFC). The Falcons offense can score and dominate time of possession. That will help the defense. The D will get some turnovers and put the offense in good field position to score. Special teams will do their share, too. Falcons are a really good team.

PMC

October 10th, 2012
10:16 am

I think I like this team more because they are focused on the things they can change. These analysts were salivating over the Panthers this summer… hows that working out? The Packers… hows that working out? The Saints….hows that working out?

These guys are mad because they were wrong.

Surg

October 10th, 2012
10:17 am

The defense has struggled up front, Babs is a good pass rusher but is just ok against the run, Jerry has gone quiet after being good the first couple of weeks, but last game wasn’t a good showing for anybody but Tony G. We can’t have too many games like that and expect to win. Luckily they get a bye after next week because they need it…

PMC

October 10th, 2012
10:23 am

Corey Peters should be back sometime after the bye.

cowbellhell

October 10th, 2012
10:28 am

Polished start for the coons, still got some work to do in the secondary…

D Money

October 10th, 2012
10:31 am

I think Corey Peters will help in stopping the run when he returns. Not to include that he makes plays consistently, (i.e. interceptions, collapsing the pocket). We also have to remember that Dent is still learning this defense and will hopefully step up soon.

Joe

October 10th, 2012
10:32 am

Let na sayers have the moment in the sun, keep your head down and keep chopping wood. Go Falcsons.

Falcon James

October 10th, 2012
10:34 am

All I will say is this. We are still in October. The playoffs are still 12 weeks out. If the playoffs were next week, I am sure we would have clinched home field advantage but its a little soon to be worried about it. All I want is another win against the Raider come Sunday. There will be plenty of time to worry about the playoffs

Fan since 66

October 10th, 2012
10:35 am

@JSS…Looks like Dled is doing a jam up job deleting the responses you expected. Or could it just be that you are trolling in a lake with no fish? Seems to me that your visits to these blogs are just a little less humorous this year. Really???? You are hanging your hat on a Superbowl ring from years ago, while your team this year resembles the Bad News Bears???? Hmmm…let’s see….Yeah, I’ll take 5 & 0 over 1 & 4 any day. I find that pretty humorous. Go 5-0 Falcons!

DaculaJones

October 10th, 2012
10:39 am

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Teams today, under the cap rule, can’t have multiple talented players on both sides of the ball. If you have many talented (High Paid) players on the offense, like the Falcons do, means less cap room to fill the defense with talented (High Paid) players. So, the defense is going to have holes based on the imbalance. Teams like the Ravens are imbalanced leaning to the defense. The Falcons, imbalanced leaning on the offense. JMO

Hugo

October 10th, 2012
10:40 am

I guess I haven’t noticed but you got a bunch of so called experts on the ESPN show that dont know didley. Tom, Key, and Mike need to go to prep school to be nonjudgemental. I dont listen to them anymore. They are not equipped enough. Guess that is why i dont see Bill on there. Listen to FOX Sports announcers and learn something.

RobbE33

October 10th, 2012
10:42 am

Who cares if they fly under the radar as long as they peak late in the season when it matters?

Falcon James

October 10th, 2012
10:43 am

The reason JSS posts are not getting any responses is that people know to scroll past them. The only thing a Saint fan talks about is winning a Super Bowl that was served up to them on a silver platter. Its like reading news about OJ Simpson. Irrelevant. Now if they want to talk about Breezie needing a milk crate to see over the line or the fact they have won only 1 game all year,now that would be entertaining and worth commenting about. Other than, they can stay irrelevant just like Cleveland.

mike27

October 10th, 2012
10:49 am

Is Corey Peters slated to return this year. We need him on defense

SeenThisBFalcon

October 10th, 2012
10:53 am

I love my Falcons but I think we need to get homefield advantage because once again our defense is going to be our achilles heal when we get into the playoffs…were going to have to get pressure when the times comes hopefully when we do meet the 49ers in the NFC Championship in Atlanta we will have corrected this……

Roger

October 10th, 2012
10:54 am

@JSS
This is the thing. Every real Falcon fan knows that in the past the team hasn’t did much and has failed for the most part in the playoffs.
The difference is because we know this, we don’t need to keep being negative and hammering this obvious. Point home over and over whenever the Falcons do something good. We are able to get pumped up, overjoyed and live in the moment, which is something that people who are not depressed are able to do.
In addition, the past failures have no bearing on what the birds do or do not do now. Different players, ages and experiences of the players and coaches. If the past is so overwhelming important as some of the doomsday Sayers think, ask the saints fans how that Super Bowl win is helping them this year,
If you think the falcons fans have no basis for being happy about the team and can seem to keep the fact that they could stumble and probably won’t win the superbowl( which every team can also say) out of EVERY post they make here, I’d say that’s a healthy, normal way to live.
Just come off the idea that you are in the know on something that other people aren’t. We just prefer to have fun, enjoy the ride and hope that it works out and don’t have failure on our mind every moment and a doom and gloom attitude about our team.

D man

October 10th, 2012
10:55 am

Any true Falcon fan that has followed this team for 51 years is a skeptic. Will they win a playoff game? I believe they can and will this year. Will they win the Superbowl? I’m a skeptic because this is my Falcons who have always found a way not to win it all. One game defines my skepticism best. 1980 Atlanta vs. Dallas in the game we were supposed to win easy and blew it.

ItsMe

October 10th, 2012
10:57 am

Who cares what anyone says. We all know the Falcons need to win in the post season but to get that chance we must in during the season. So far we have accomplished that. Ditka and Johnson comments are about as valuable as a bag of sh**.

D man

October 10th, 2012
11:00 am

46 years, not 51. I can’t add…

Bulletin:

October 10th, 2012
11:00 am

Attention Drew Brees, please report back to the factory, Williy Wonka is looking for you, that is all.

Bulletin

October 10th, 2012
11:02 am

Super Bowl Shuffle

October 10th, 2012
11:04 am

When a team starts to win on a regular basis, such as the Falcons, expectations go up also. As a looong time Falcon fan AND season ticket holder, I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of going through some bad seasons and some good seasons, however, the ultimate goal is winning championships. Until the Falcons win one, there will be a certain level of doubt. I say, we should all enjoy what they are doing on the field this season and try (and I mean try) not to look ahead to the post season. But Mike Smith & Co. know what the ultimate goal is. And in turn, eliminate the haters!

Answer This

October 10th, 2012
11:05 am

We have done nothing but go 5-0…its only a good start! Yes we have to win the playoffs! And we will! Enough said……..

JSS

October 10th, 2012
11:09 am

There goes the fan like “66.” What’s “1-4″ got to do with any of this? Now come the playoffs, because you see that home field means nothing unless you’ve a team to back up the advantage, it is where they’ll be judged… “Fishing?” Nope, it is a simple statement, they are now being held with their feet to fire for their past. No amount of high school rah-rah or throwing your fantasy rivals under the bus in blogs is going to change that point..

At Falcon James… Please scroll on, your brain might explode, don’t want that on my plate…

Answer This

October 10th, 2012
11:10 am

@Roger
GREAT POST!
One more comment….it really matters not what we do…when we lose it will be we are not ready because we lost to____________(fill in the blank). Keep winning and we have to win in the playoffs….granted…but we got to get there first! As much as I dont want to point this out I will…for years the Aints lost but when they had the miracle run they were everyones darling….and much like what the Falcons are doing…..putting up points, capitalizaing off of other teams turnovers……it all will come down to the playoffs! No worries….see you guys in 14 weeks!

LAFalcon

October 10th, 2012
11:11 am

I’ve been watching football since I was a little kid (over 30 years). Critics and talking heads are almost always right. Especially the radio guys. They watch so much football and study every game that they can almost always predict who the best teams are. Remember when Warren Sapp had a pre-game premonition that the Falcons would crush the Chiefs 41-0. He was dead-on about that. Oh, wait…..

Super Bowl Shuffle

October 10th, 2012
11:15 am

@ D man, I agree with you. The game that still sticks in my crawl is the Green Bay game two years ago. 12-4, home field advantage, playing a wild card team that barely made the playoffs. We were embarrassed at home. I just knew we were going to win that one. But, you suck it up and move on. Still here, rooting for this team. RISE UP!

ijonathan

October 10th, 2012
11:24 am

JSS, let me break it down for you real simply. As a Falcons fan, you can be both a) very excited about this year’s team and enjoy the regular season, and b) skeptical/nervous about the post-season given losses in the recent past. I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Falcons fans subscribe to both A and B. What’s so hard to understand?

DaculaJones

October 10th, 2012
11:25 am

Shoot……….Last week the Dawgs were 5-0 and now? PRETENDERS

Just sayin’ . . . 5-0 don’t mean s**t

teamguy

October 10th, 2012
11:32 am

I guess we’ll have to hear the talking heads spout their nonsense about us not having won a playoff game since 2004 for several more weeks. . .obviously, we can’t do anything about that fact until the playoffs ACTUALLY GET HERE! On behalf of Falcons fans everywhere, we get it! You don’t have to qualify every compliment you give this team by adding the dreaded “haven’t won in the playoffs”.

Johnny Mar

October 10th, 2012
11:37 am

Great post Roger !!

Greg Allman

October 10th, 2012
11:40 am

It won’t matter if the Falcons win a few playoff games, it will just be somehting else, like SB……its just how haters are, they will always look for something else, they’re professional haters.

bart

October 10th, 2012
11:49 am

The defense is a good linebacker short – I’ve watched Dent the last couple of games and he has been pretty useless on the field – a non factor. Other players are covering his shortcomings. He’s slow to react and looks lost on most plays. Tough to have a top defense when you are short a player on most running plays.

btwarren

October 10th, 2012
11:57 am

Very excited for the Falcons at 5-0,but as many have pointed out the Falcons disappoint in the playoffs. So we will see. I think we have a great shot this year with the changes we’ve seen in the secondary and the passing game, but the run defense has been suspect and is ranked near the bottom of the league. Could the loss of Curtis Lofton come back to haunt us. Akeem Dent hasn’t played a whole lot so hopefully as the season plays out he can fill that void. Falcons seem to be bringing him along slowly also dependin on the opponent. he did not play a lot against Denver, but played more against Redskins. Also when are we going to start holding Ray Edwards accountable. Barely heard his name all season. If he steps up his pass rush,we will be a better team.

warfalcon

October 10th, 2012
11:58 am

Keyshawn Johnson said.Who gives a flip what he says,he was not very good player himself,lucked and was on the right team one time.LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ONE GAME AT A TIME and after 16 games we will think about number 17,18,19 ect.

Mike Franklin

October 10th, 2012
11:59 am

The sports media has always hated the Falcons… and this year does nothing but shine a light on their bias and make it an inarguable fact.
The question now becomes, ‘why’? Did the former Smith ownership somehow sin them in another life? Did the city of Atlanta fail to produce enough caffeine-laden expressos to quench their thirst for a pregame high? Or is it because the Falcons market was so severely hit with the arrival of the Panthers, Titans and Jaguars that we just don’t mean that much anymore?
Whatever the reasons, the obvious is just now too obvious to be ignored.

JSS

October 10th, 2012
11:59 am

ijonathan…
Because you and ilk practice neither of those traits escribe… It is not about “understanding,” it’s about realizations…

west coast loyal

October 10th, 2012
12:09 pm

statistics are for losers. you can have your yardage. i will take the nolan philosophy on defense. Pressure makes it happen, folks. it doesnt matter what the RB did on first down, his QB threw a INT on second. Nolan was right, this team will succeed with his style, and its already happening.

FOLKS THE SAINTS WON A RING WITH ONE OF THE WORST D’S IN THE LEAGUE. dont worry
be happy.

GregKennesaw

October 10th, 2012
12:11 pm

No haven’t done a thing yet, they haven’t played 5 games and won all 5 at Home and away, it is all an illusion………….it is all fantasy, they aren’t really at the top of the NFC South with a 3 1/2 game lead

Wayans

October 10th, 2012
12:15 pm

JSS reminds me of that guy on In Living Color that used to try and use big words but only ended up looking stupid !!! LOL GO FALCONS !!!

birdofafeather

October 10th, 2012
12:22 pm

its the pressue of the D. heck the saints won a ring with one of the worst D’s in the league!