As the playoffs progress to the quarterfinals, we still have a few more posts to cover our Falcons performance from the 2009 campaign before we officially transition over the 2010 off-season. Many seasons can turn on one game or even one play, and examining 16 games may not be easy, but a few games must stick out and certainly may be different from one fan to the next. In that spirit, what game was your favorite of the year, least favorite of the season, and which game changed the season, in other words which one had the biggest impact on the Falcons finishing with a winning season but still missing the playoffs.
This one could be broken into several categories. On one hand, fans can look at the 4-1 start and the positive victories that came out of that: the opening wins against the Miami Dolphins and 2008 #2 seed Carolina Panthers at home seemed to potentially set the tone on a year with one of the league’s toughest schedules, but looking back after the end result doesn’t lend to much at this point. Even though the Panthers and Dolphins finished somewhat strong at the end of the year, the Falcons caught them when they were not exactly a top-tier team. The San Francisco game definitely was the most complete game to that point where everything seemed to click, but the terrible streak that awaited seems to tarnish that one a bit. The Chicago Bears game on Sunday Night Football was tons of fun and saw a very exciting game, but knowing what became of Cutler and Bears takes that one down a good bit as well. Might be a stretch to think that beating the Redskins and Bucs at home was a favorite, but if you hate Deangelo Hall or the rival Bucs, than maybe so. The Bills game can surely fall into this category as well.
The Bucs game in the Dome was a really ugly win, but it did show a team that refused to quit that had been virtually beat the entire game. Knowing what we know now about the Jets, was the victory in New York your favorite, with the Falcons staring down the red-hot Jets, standing at 6-7 on the year, and having serious injuries across the board? This one kept alive the chance to break the curse. Or was the final game in Tampa Bay to break the curse once and for all your favorite? Especially the way the Falcons won, tied 10-10 and just turning the ball over to the Bucs, ceding all momentum to them? Now, obviously listing your favorite win over all teams that didn’t have a winning record save for the Jets, is like listing the best interview to a job you didn’t get, but might be fun to at least acknowledge which game gave you the most joy.
My Pick – At the time, the Bears win was a big one and seemed to cement the fact that the Falcons were headed for big things in 2009, but its impossible to list that one knowing that the Bears fell apart from that point on. The Bucs game to end the curse certainly gets consideration, but the come from behind victory over the Jets in the Meadowlands was a huge win in many ways. The Falcons were anemic and had pretty much been dominated the entire game, but the team found a way to win. The defense stood tall at key moments and it made the death of the curse possible.
There are so many to choose from this year that saw the Falcons underachieve somewhat. When the Falcons came out flat against the Patriots in New England and waited for Tom Brady to put them away, that’s a nominee. The beat-down in Dallas certainly should get consideration, particularly after looking fantastic on the opening drive and completely collapsing after that. Was it the Saints game in New Orleans where the Falcons had every chance to win the game, but blew it as well. Losing to the Panthers in Charlotte, who were seriously struggling at the time, was ridiculous to watch. Many fans just kept waiting for the Falcons to let them get hot, and sure enough they did. The Birds came out flat again in New York against the Giants, but battled back, only to lose in overtime. Probably the biggest “least” favorite had to be the worst butt-whipping of 2009, and the widest blowout in the Coach Smith Era when the Eagles came in and stomped the Falcons to the dirt, not to mention the toxic environment that ensued. The Saints game in the Dome was a hard-fought effort, but again saw them blowing it in the end. Many losses and it’s really hard to decipher which one was the worst because they all sucked.
My Pick – Might be a crazy pick, but losing to the Panthers in Charlotte when they were down in the dumps was ridiculously insane to watch. The Falcons were 5-3 and had to have that game to keep pace in the playoff hunt. The Panthers were 3-5 and seemed to have their season quickly unraveling. The Falcons came out and let the Panthers get into rhythm and they did. A big injury to Michael Turner, a missed field goal, and game-killing interception is not hard to see why this was a least favorite. Granted, a win here may not have made a difference in the grand scheme, but this was legitimately a game the Falcons had to win and should’ve won.
Which game had the biggest impact on the Falcons not making the playoffs? Was it the game in Dallas that started the 2-6 stretch that the Birds were about to start? Was it the failure of the Falcons to shock the world and beat the Saints in the Superdome, something the Bucs (and Panthers and Cowboys) were able to do? Was it the Panthers game which the Falcons definitely should have won? Or was it the failure of the Falcons to close the deal against the Giants in New York after fighting like mad to come back? So many to choose from.
My Pick – Dallas game that saw the Falcons come out and march down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive only to completely collapse the rest of the way. The Cowboys opened a serious wound that teams exploited for the rest of the year in totally destroying the Falcons secondary. Tony Romo had a huge day and Miles Austin torched the cornerbacks all day. Not necessarily that the Falcons lost, but the way they were pummeled set the foundation for the 2-6 streak the Birds were about to embark on.
Pour over all the games from the season and decide on your favorite, least favorite, and game-changer of the season. This week and next we’ll finish up review from the 2009 season discussing some different topics before we embark on the long drive towards the Scouting Combine, Free Agency, and Draft.
Wins (in order)
Dolphins 19-7, Panthers 28-20, 49ers 45-10, Bears 21-14, Redskins 31-17, Bucs 20-17, Jets 10-7, Bills 31-3, Bucs 20-10
Patriots 26-10, Cowboys 37-21, Saints 35-27, Panthers 28-19, Giants 34-31, Eagles 34-7, Saints 26-23
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