Falcons get a chance to clinch division and quiet critics

After last week's win in Seattle, the Falcons are one celebration away from clinching the NFC South.

After Brent Grimes secured last week's win in Seattle, the Falcons are one celebration away from clinching the NFC South.

After a 12-2 record, the clinched playoff berth, the likelihood of a division title, the likelihood of home field through the playoffs and several thousand more fans suddenly following Roddy White on Twitter, the Falcons may actually be close to securing their greatest achievement of all: Acceptance.

They’ve beaten New Orleans. They’ve beaten Baltimore. They’ve beaten Green Bay. If they defeat the Saints for a second time, shouldn’t that smother the lingering doubts?

They’ve won games running. They’ve won games passing. They’ve won games with their 5-foot-10 cornerback (Brent Grimes) and their 5-9 kick returner (Eric Weems) and their 35-year-old, 5-9 kicker (Matt Bryant) and, yes, maybe the winning lottery numbers.

They haven’t always been impressive. But doesn’t it say something when a team just keeps winning, like at no time in franchise history since the season it went to the Super Bowl?

Will there come a point at which everybody suddenly agrees: “OK, forget about style points and the fact Michael Vick dominates the first 27 minutes on SportsCenter. The Falcons might just be the team to beat”?

Here’s one more chance and one more national audience. The Falcons play host to New Orleans on Monday Night Football. Win this, and they’ll clinch the NFC South. They won’t have to pack a suitcase again until Super Bowl week.

Also, maybe everybody shuts up.

“I’ve said that all along that we don’t need anybody patting us on our back,” linebacker Mike Peterson said. “We’ll take that underdog role. We’ll take it all the way to Dallas.”

There are advantages to being 12-2 and having people doubt you. It keeps a team on edge. Players are less likely to get too comfortable when they’re basically being told every week that they’re a house of cards.

That happened again this week. Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now of ESPN, likened the Falcons to the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 13-3 in the regular season, only to get bounced in their first playoff game. Dilfer said he could easily foresee the Saints winning this game and then returning to the Georgia Dome in the playoffs and winning again, this despite the fact the Falcons are 19-3 under coach Mike Smith at the Dome (6-0 this year) and quarterback Matt Ryan is 19-1.

There’s at least one significant flaw in Dilfer’s comparison. Those Chiefs started 9-0, then faded in the last seven games of the regular season (4-3), allowing 90 points in losses to Denver (45-27) and Minnesota (45-20). These Falcons are on the up-tick. They have won eight straight since a blowout loss at Philadelphia.

That said, the Saints obviously are capable of winning twice here. They are 10-4 and the defending champions. These teams are long-time division rivals. Home field tends to be an afterthought. But the difference between the Falcons and the Saints — and even the Eagles, New York Giants and Chicago Bears, to a degree – is the Falcons sense they aren’t being given the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that’s a statement on franchise history. Maybe it’s just that some of their wins haven’t been overwhelming.

Regardless, when Dilfer said what he said, White blew up on Twitter, later commenting: “I just don’t like the fact that he said that about my team. I guess we’ll have to show him. … Everybody wants to doubt us. That’s fine. We’ll just keep winning and do what we’re supposed to do. It’s not about the other teams. We feel, whether we win or lose a game, it’s really up to us.”

Three months ago, the Falcons won at New Orleans 27-24 in overtime to improve to 2-1. We wondered about potential. Now they’re 12-2 and some still are wondering. Unfair?

“That’s cool,” Grimes said. “It just gives something extra out there, not that we need it.”

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204 comments Add your comment

retired

December 26th, 2010
1:29 pm

gonna enjoy monday night

SECya

December 26th, 2010
1:35 pm

Trent Dilfer has absolutely no room to comment. He happened to be the QB on a team ran by Ray Lewis. He always champions Brett Favre every chance he gets. He is and idiot. I have no doubt that his name will be brought up once again as we are making our run to the Super Bowl.

Dr. Phil

December 26th, 2010
1:38 pm

Who can criticize this team? This is the best team the Falcons have put on the field. Let’s beat the obnoxious Saints and keep winning.

1990_Champs_GT

December 26th, 2010
1:41 pm

Doubt them. Doubt them this week, doubt them against every team in the playoffs. Doubt them in Dallas.

They are already erasing the memories of (among others) Jerry Glanville, June Jones, Jeff George, Eugene Robinson, Jim Mora Jr., Bobby Petrino and, of course, Mikey Vick.

But when it’s all said and done, this team will hold up the trophy and erase all doubt and bad memories.

Mike A$am$

December 26th, 2010
1:41 pm

Dilfer is a dodo.

Big Country

December 26th, 2010
1:44 pm

The Birds are just going to have to keep taking care of business all of the way to Dallas. Maybe then they can earn something north of Fox’s #3 announcing crew to call their games. Still can’t understand why the team with the best record in the NFC keeps drawing lower profile announce crews. Just a thought.

Stinger2

December 26th, 2010
1:45 pm

Jeff: I believe some of the critics who doubt the Falcons as a legitimate contender do so Because:
1. The majority of the doubters are from the highly populous regions where their readers pull for the Bears,Giants,Eagles,Patroits,etc. This group of media cannot stand to see a team like the Falcons being better than the teams they must be loyal and hype. Therefore they will look for every reason the can to discredit and downplay the Falcons success.
2. Fortunately the games are played on the field and there unless there is a complete colapse, the Falcons must be recognized as the champions of the NFC South and the team with the best record in the NFC.

Dawg Days

December 26th, 2010
1:55 pm

It is fine with me if we keep on quietly winning all the way through the Super Bowl…. It will just KILL the doubters, quietly. It is all the more painful that way.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
1:56 pm

“1. The majority of the doubters are from the highly populous regions where their readers pull for the Bears,Giants,Eagles,Patroits,etc.”
No, because the Falcons have once shown an ability to transcend their history… Then they promptly went out an laid a egg on the biggest stage in the sport…
“2. Fortunately the games are played on the field and there unless there is a complete colapse, the Falcons must be recognized as the champions of the NFC South and the team with the best record in the NFC.”
Yep, and if they (the Saints) pull a repeat of January 4, 1980. Don’t expect the naysayers to go silent into the night…

Really, the worse thing about the Falcons is that whole existence has evolved into trying to silence the ghosts of seasons past… Wow, it much like Dickens!

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 26th, 2010
1:57 pm

The job for the Falcons is very obvious. The stage is of their making.

Trent’s comments make for interesting midweek conjecture but nothing more.

A win, whether dominate or not is spelled the same.

Tonyb

December 26th, 2010
1:58 pm

Let them keep putting us down. Let them keep loving all over Vick, Brady, the Jets..whoever. This Falcons team loves the underdawg label. Last thing I want to hear is how we are the team to beat. In the NFL, if you want the big trophy, you have to beat whoever they put in front of you. Its gonna take an incredible effort to beat this team, especially in the playoffs at home. Remember, the media pegged the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Vikings for the NFC title at the beginning of the year. We all see how that worked out.’

GO FALCONS.

SickandTired

December 26th, 2010
2:02 pm

Dilfer is a jerk and self righteous dog. This Falcon team is the very essence of class and being built the right way. They are still a work in progress and will be even better next year. Home field advantage is huge. Bring on the Saints, bring on the Eagles and the criminal Mike Vick to the Georgia Dome and let’s get it on with that creep.

1990_Champs_GT

December 26th, 2010
2:05 pm

SickandTired, I agree. Poetic justice is to go through Vick and the Eagles on the road to winning the Super Bowl.

Sports Review

December 26th, 2010
2:10 pm

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Stinger2

December 26th, 2010
2:13 pm

JSS: No disrespect to your opinions but how can a comparison of the accomplishments of the 2010 Falcons be made to a Falcons team 30 years ago? Totally different coaching and ownership along with where they play and the differing abilities of the players themselves.

Remarkable

December 26th, 2010
2:15 pm

We all must admit that the breaks have gone the Falcon’s way. In almost every game we have gotten calls, fumbles, and catches that could easily have gone the other way. The Falcons are a good team because they have found a way to win when they were behind, when the game was on the line, and when people outside of the Ga. Dome didn’t believe in them. The Falcon’s will be a great team if they believe in themselves, play tough and continue to win.
I hope to see them in Dallas but we must find a way to beat the Eagles. Motivation is there for one player on the Eagles and for an entire Falcons team. Who will seize the opportunity?

JSS

December 26th, 2010
2:16 pm

“This Falcon team is the very essence of class.”
I don’t care if you’re a Falcons fan or a pure homer; nobody who has been a witness to Roddy White’s side shows (on and off the field) this season and especially this past week can make or respect that statement. The whole head coach showing no restraint last season when DeAngelo Hall showed his own immaturity spoke volumes…

tjhook

December 26th, 2010
2:18 pm

can anybody qualify New England’s chances during the 2001 season. Did anyone pump the Patriots that year, especially when the playoffs began.

JSS

December 26th, 2010
2:33 pm

Because as fans, you are making statements with the same bravado that were made leading up to that game (the 1980 Divisional Playoff). The Cowboys (of that era and even now) and their fans make what the Saints fans say about the Falcons seem like playground taunting… Falcons fans never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever learn… Some people seem to confuse that with being a “diehard fan.” This team is eerily similar to the 1980 team. They were balanced (in their mind); they beat the vast majority of the teams in front of them; but when pudding was pulled from the oven, it came back tasteless at the biggest meal… You people are obsessing over best record and that home field advantage. The lone glory of this franchise came at the expense of a team (the Minnesota Vikings) that hadn’t lost on their home field either… I’ve said it all along regarding this team, until the clock shows 0:00:00 in Dallas I will not waste a minute of belief in them…

Supes

December 26th, 2010
2:36 pm

You want real NFL analysis…listen to Hodge and Jaws.

Either way, I’m proud of my FALCONS and what they’ve done so far, I don’t need the talking heads on TV’s approval on my FALCONS.

Don’t talk about us, that’s fine…we don’t care just keep WINNING is the only thing that matters.

FALCONS are gonna humble the Saints and their fans come Monday Night at the GA Dome!

NCBravesFan

December 26th, 2010
2:38 pm

The Saints weren’t exactly world beaters late last season and could have easily lost in the playoffs save for bonehead Brett. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_New_Orleans_Saints_season

Which is to say that parity is rampant in the NFL and Dilfer is dead wrong about the Falcons – that is, unless he’s right. :lol:

JSS

December 26th, 2010
2:45 pm

@ TJ…
No, but when they (the Patriots) beat the “chokers” of that era (The Cowher Steelers), the ears went up. The “Greatest Show on Turf” had one great flaw, Mike Martz… Go back and look at the coverage of Super Bowl week. He was as much of a question mark as the AFC champs. Everyone knew that Belichick was off the Parcell’s tree, and every intangible played into their hands. If you are hanging your hat on that or the Giants victory, good luck with that…

Michael Scharff

December 26th, 2010
2:56 pm

We have to keep our eyes on the prize, and New Orleans at the Dome tomorrow night is a serious challenge.

Stinger2

December 26th, 2010
3:20 pm

Michael Scharff: The content of your post is correct.
However, even if we lose against the Saints, if we beat the Panthers next week, we have the division title and home field throughout the playoffs.

rm

December 26th, 2010
3:22 pm

@JSS

So Roddy talking smack is classless. I dont care for much talk but I dont think what Roddy said was cause for anger. What did he say that was so bad… Please tell me. Id love to hear your reasons.

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K

December 26th, 2010
3:32 pm

Just stay focused falcons. We are behind you. Let’s go falcons!

real falcon fan

December 26th, 2010
3:36 pm

THE 2010 FALCONS ARE A GREAT TEAM! NO MATTER WHAT SOME PEOPLE SAY,THEY PLAY TOGETHER,PLAY SOUND,SMART FOOTBALL,AND THEY USE THE NEGATIVE COMMENTS TO KEEP ON WINNING.RODDY CAN SAY ANYTHING HE WANTS,BECAUSE COME GAME TIME HE WILL PRODUCE.AND HE LIVES IN THE WHITEHOUSE! GO FALCONS!

JSS

December 26th, 2010
3:39 pm

@ RM…
It was tasteless! Roddy is grown man, not a teenager… It was crass, and without bearing on what he should have been addressing… If the American people would have treated Roddy’s hometown of Charleston as remotely without aid in the years, month, days and weeks following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 or after the 1886 Earthquake; well you most likely would have never heard of Sharod White. There is Old Low Country saying among the Gullah about not having empathy even when the time has passed in the eyes of others. “You might not feel the pain, but your sons or their sons will feel the pain of a wicked tongue.”

Mark

December 26th, 2010
4:00 pm

Who cares what others say. We know what kind of team we have. This is a team of SUBSTANCE not FLASH. We’re the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL. Unlike the other teams in our conference we are SMART, DISCIPLINED, AND WELL COACHED which all equals a team of SUBSTANCE. We may not be BEST at on given category, but we are SOLID across the board. We unfortunately live in a society that only loves flash rather substance. We once had Flash, but the team had no substance and we saw what happened.

falcons86

December 26th, 2010
4:08 pm

Trent Dilfer is a douche. He was lucky to be the QB on a team with one of the most dominant defenses ever. That was the sole reason they won that Superbowl. He doesnt know what hes talking about. And really is annoying to listen to and look at. He will SHUT UP after this game and eat his words. I’m glad Roddy spoke out on twitter about it, backing up the team. Go Falcons! Dirtybirdtodallas!!

BirdDawg24

December 26th, 2010
4:10 pm

the falcons have not given us much in the past to make us believe they wont blow it in the play-offs,through the years its been fairly bad. when they did get in the play-offs or the big game. booooom, they self destructed. that being said ,i believe they can beat the saints twice if they have to, i believe they just might could beat the patriots in the superbowl.but it doesnt matter what i think, they have to believe it.do they?we will have to wait and see but its gonna take some luck too.roddy needs to stop getting them ticked off . he better be able to back up his talk because the saints are a really good team and it aint like they needed more incentive to beat the birds, and who cares what tent dilfer says,

Mark

December 26th, 2010
4:21 pm

For all you stupid, insidious, pathetic band wagon Vick/Eagle fans and even for you New Orlean Aints fans here this story. Once upon a time in there was a team from Boston that played this team from St. Louis. The team from St. Louis was flashy, entertaining, and even former super bowl champion while the team from Boston was disciplined, boring, and were underdogs. The team from St. Louis was very popular with names like Warner, Faulk, Holt, and Bruce. The team from Boston had no names like Bruschi, Johnson, and a no named backup quarterback named Brady. The team from St. Louis came out as most teams did when being introduced, while the team from Boston came out as a TEAM. The team from Boston were big underdogs against the team from St. Louis. The point of this story for all of you not too smart Vick/Eagle fans and even you Aint fans should realize that football is a Team Sport and one player who may be good and even flashy cannot beat an entire team. I am not sure that the Eagles and Saints are as good as the Rams, but this Falcon team may be as good as that Patriot team. We’ll see. Go Falcons!

DC Falcons Fan

December 26th, 2010
4:36 pm

The NE Corridor (DC, Baltimore, Philly, NY, Boston), plus Chicago and Dallas dominate the NFL media and have a ridiculously condescending view of anything outside these cities and / or anything that doesnt have anything to do with Bretty Favre. To wit, on DC radio the other day one of the radio announcers professed that his top 3 teams in the NFL right now in order were: Patriots, Eagles, Falcons.

When asked why he put the Eagles ahead of the Falcons, he proclaimed: “because of the division the Falcons play in. They dont have to compete week in and week out in the NFC East.”

Lets forget for a second that no one competes “week in and week out” in the same division. You play 10 games against non-division foes, but never mind.

You mean the vicious NFC East with the Redskins? And Cowboys? Both 5 – 9 at the time (the Cowboys have since lost to the Cardinals, who are the bottom of the worst conference in football). No, the Falcons just have to play in the NFC South with three playoff contenders.

No awareness of the idiocy of the comment. None.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 26th, 2010
4:37 pm

All I know is it is HARD to beat a team any team 3 times in one year. I would like to beat the Aints and have Da Bears takeout Philly. We would play Da Bears here and that would be fun. The Blogs would be done with the MV7 and Aint Lovers for a while. Thank God and please let it happen Starting Tomorrow night. Go FALCONS.

FALCONSSTINK

December 26th, 2010
4:51 pm

The Saints are coming to stink smelly Atlanta and leaving victorious , granted , Atlanta is having a good season and got lucky and beat the Saints earlier this season , But Guess What Dirty Birds,that ain’t happening twice in one year , The dirty birds win streak will end Monday night and all the dirty birds fans will go home crying ,,,,WHO DAT ! WHO DAT!

Asheville Dawg

December 26th, 2010
4:51 pm

You got some long winded folks, so I’ll keep it brief.

For my favorite Falcon team “I’d rather be lucky than good”.

Maybe they are both good and lucky!

DollarDawg43

December 26th, 2010
5:10 pm

Watch Mike Smith on the sidelines during a game. He never loses his cool; when something goes good or bad he is already plotting his next move and is almost oblivious to the play that has just taken place. This team has taken on that part of his personality and absolutely refuses to get rattled over misfortune or overly excited about success. That ability to remain calm and collected while everyone else is going nuts enables this team to continue to succeed: the coach and the players have a single-minded focus on doing whatever it takes to succeed.

Let the national media continue to ignore the Falcons: it doesn’t matter, it has nothing to do with our preparation or winning the next game. Let the trash talkers continue to spew: it doesn’t matter, it has nothing to do with our preparation or winning the next game.

Mike Smith and this group of players know how good they can be and what is at stake. They also know they have yet to play a complete game and are on the brink of home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team does nothing but get better each week and is beginning to peak at the perfect time.

Pete

December 26th, 2010
5:16 pm

Monday night should be another great game in what is the current best rivalry in the NFL and one of the greatest of all time. I’m hopeful for a Falcons victory but grateful we can still get the top seed in the playoffs without the win. The road to the Superbowl leads through Atlanta!

BirdDawg24

December 26th, 2010
5:24 pm

yeah ashville dawg ,and id rather be good-lookin than rich.seriously luck runs out and beauty fades. new orleans will be harder to beat tomorrow night than any team they ve played so far including the saints. if they cant beat em tomorrow night then they wont beat them in the play-offs. this is the biggest test of the season. we will know if they have a fighting chance after tomorrow nite. been a falcon fan since the 70s, have learned not to get my hopes too high. the falcons will get respect if they send em home with a good beating , a lucky last minute field goal to win by 1 wont earn it.

gcs

December 26th, 2010
5:34 pm

I don’t care what the critics say. Let ESPN keep a 24/7 vigil outside Brett Favre house. Let TMZ report on Tom “Justin Bieber” Brady.

Let these pot-bellied writers sit around a write their vapid columns about the Steelers and Ravens. Let those TV morons laugh uncontrollably at their own jokes and tell us how wonderful any team with “New York” in their name is.

I will take my nice boring Falcons who don’t stir up controversy, don’t supply any stupid quotes, don’t do any moronic end zone celebrations and just keep winning.

.

Loveit

December 26th, 2010
5:59 pm

Happy holidays Keith Brookings, coming home to see the playoffs?

waynester

December 26th, 2010
6:18 pm

gcs
I heard that…the less press, the better for such a young team.
5150
Dallas beat the Eagles 3 times just last season!
BirdDawg
Either we’ve arrived or we haven”t and this game should go a long way toward proving it. Just win–ugly or not, just Win!

BirdDawg24

December 26th, 2010
6:31 pm

nester, if they dont win this game not only have they not arrived but the estimated arrival for the superbowl train will not be any time soon for the birds .and yeah brooking are ya flapping your wings now !!!!! didnt do a thing during that game and ran around like u won it single=- handedly.

Gainesville#1

December 26th, 2010
6:50 pm

I love the Falcons and Matt Ryan is pretty good even though I think he is a bit overrated. The Falcons will make it to the NFC title game but guess who will meet them there. Yes. Superman himself and soon to be Micheal Vick. Season over for the dirty birds then. Love the falcons though

Gainesville#1

December 26th, 2010
6:51 pm

I meant to say soon to be MVP

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 26th, 2010
6:52 pm

“Quiet The Critics”

Sorry Jeff – I’m here for an eternity :)

The day CHOKE…….

- Wins a playoff game

- Goes to the championship game

- Goes to the pro bowl as a non-alternate

All in the same season, if he does that, which I know he will NEVER do, I will disappear from these blogs F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

I guess you guys will be seeing me forever :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 26th, 2010
6:54 pm

Dr. Phil

December 26th, 2010
1:38 pm
Who can criticize this team? This is the best team the Falcons have put on the field. Let’s beat the obnoxious Saints and keep winning.

___________________________________________________

Traditionally the best team goes deep in the playoffs, therefore this is the most O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D Falcons team E-V-E-R! :)

Fromunda Cheese Head - Go Packers!

December 26th, 2010
6:55 pm

We about to nock off the Gints. Puckers rewle. GB WILL bee in SupperBowl. Rite it down loosers. Erin Rodders is unstopible.

Ed

December 26th, 2010
7:02 pm

This Falcons team is very focused on their goal of winning a championship. They will be pretty hard to ignore when they are hoisting the Lombardi trophy in Dallas.