The questions, the whispers, and all the rest were ready to accompany the Falcons if they were to fall short in the big primetime game against the Baltimore Ravens on NFL Network’s debut of Thursday Night Football. Many of the talking heads have been saying that the Falcons are nothing more than an average team that has gotten several lucky breaks, including the big victory over the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. Nope. The Falcons arrived on one of the biggest stages and proved that they can hang with anyone in the National Football League and win. The Philadelphia Eagles game is looking more and more like the anomaly, instead of the rule. The Falcons lost a tough game to Pittsburgh on the road and the Birds probably need to get better on the road in general, but the questions on if this team is or can be elite should be over for the time being. Yes, there is so much football left it would be ridiculous to make any claims right now, but the Atlanta Falcons have the best record in the NFC and just beat one of the perennial great teams in the NFL in the Baltimore Ravens. Five film reviews from the huge Ravens win……
Yes, it’s entirely too early to be talking about anything regarding the postseason, but the Falcons should be mentioned in every conversation about what teams are elite in the NFL. We’re talking only about this year, not any other year where teams are undefeated and the like. The Falcons are 7-2 and have beat the defending Super Bowl Champs New Orleans Saints, the Baltimore Ravens, beat the Tampa Bucs at home (who were tied for the NFC lead at the time), and played the Pittsburgh Steelers to the wire @ Heinz Field. Yes, they got destroyed by the Eagles without their MVP Michael Vick, but that game is looking like the aberration instead of the rule. The Birds could totally collapse and this be an absolute EPIC failure, as Coop noted, but with this team’s grit and the schedule, few fans expect that to happen. While they may not go 14-2, it’s not out of the realm anymore. Owning the top record in the NFC with both losses coming to two of the other best teams in the NFL makes the Birds elite, at least for now.
The reigns were officially released in terms of franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. The guy CAN win by himself if he has too. He torched one of the best defenses in the NFL for the last decade through the air by launching the ball 50 times, scoring three TDs, no interceptions, and 316 yards. What many fans have been clamoring for, let the Iceman throw the ball around and see what happens. The aerial arsenal is in place with the best wide receiver in the NFL, a future Hall of Fame tight end, and great complimentary depth with Jenkins, Douglas, and Finneran. This is not to say that the Birds should turn into the Colts or Saints, but if the running game isn’t working than fire up the passing game. The no-huddle was a thing of beauty and we should see that way more often. The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for giving Ryan plenty of time to get in rhythm and keeping him upright. The receivers stepped up as well and made some huge catches and plays. If there were any lingering questions on Ryan’s ceiling, potential, or value, the Falcons QB has evolved into one of the most consistent passer. As Deion said to Ryan, “this is your house.” Being 18-1 at home will do that for you including 11 4th quarter comebacks. What’s left to say about Roddy White? The guy is headed for his third straight Pro Bowl and is making a run at MVP of the league. Game winning touchdown against Ravens where he walks into the endzone.
The Falcons have worked themselves up a nasty little habit of allowing teams to come roaring back when they get comfortable leads. The Falcons have allowed that to happen in way too many games. They were up on the Bengals 24-6, up on the Bucs, 14-0, and up on the Ravens 20-7. Obviously, good teams will figure out how to score eventually and in the Bucs game it was mainly due to poor special teams play. But, it does seem to be an identity of the players and coaching staff to let off the gas pedal. The entire team (offense, defense, special teams, coaching) seems to hit a lull when the 3rd quarter starts. Fans aren’t expecting to rout teams by 70 points every game or rub it in, but the Falcons can’t keep playing with fire too long or eventually they’ll get burned. The offense goes into a run-out-the-clock mode, the defense starts dropping back in prevent with little to no pressure, and special teams seems to lose some aggression as well. Perhaps it’s more about the other team figuring things out in the second half, but the Falcons don’t have to make it easy.
After weeks of being harangued about giving up boat loads of points and passing yards, the Falcons rose to the challenge against the extremely talented Ravens. They had a great and versatile running back, a superb quarterback, and a very deep receiving corps. After pretty much shutting the Ravens out in the first half, they allowed them to get back in the game after Baltimore got in rhythm (see point #3), but maybe that’s a whole team downfall instead of just blaming the defense. The run defense has been one of the best of the season, but the pass D has been about where it was last year. Kudos to the entire defense for limiting one of the more prolific offenses in the league. Hopefully, that confidence and aggressiveness will only continue to grow and they’ll be playing their best ball towards the end of the season.
The Falcons have always played the underdog role much better in the past (remember the Eagles game?) and now they’re slowly being pushed into the spotlight, default by best record if nothing else. The Falcons have a nice schedule setting up for them as the second half of the season commences. They absolutely have to take of business in St. Louis before they come back home to face another NFC elite team in the Green Bay Packers before they go on a 3 game road trip, which could be worse but they get the upstart Seahawks and the former “best team in the NFC” Tampa Bay Bucs. The Falcon are continuing to enjoy the underdog role because immediately following the enormous win, the talking heads were talking all about how the Ravens messed up and still claiming that the New York Giants were the best in the NFC (Jamie Dukes), the Green Bay Packers were NFC’s best, and that the Ravens were a top 4 team in the NFL while the Falcons were not (both by Rod Woodson). Keep winning and the spotlight will be forcibly nudged in the Falcons direction.
Is there a Falcons bias with the talking heads in the NFL? Relating to point #5, the Falcons just don’t seem to get the credit nationally. ESPN and NFL Network seem to have the most issues where the talking heads literally suck up all the oxygen in a 100 mile radius. The FOX commentators seem to be much more fair and objective since they cover them on a weekly basis. Delusional or spot on?
-Simply put: How big was this game?
-Should the Falcons let Matty Ice loose and throw the ball all the time?
-How good is the Falcons franchise wide receiver and quarterback?
-Should the no-huddle be our main offense?
-What’s the problem with the gas pedal?
-Mainly defense or entire team and psyche regarding 3rd quarter lull?
-Is the defense getting back its mojo?
-Are Birds elite?
-Can Falcons handle the expectations?
-Is there a bias against the Falcons from talking heads (ESPN & NFL N)?