Falcons’ stability, resiliency will aid them in playoffs

The Falcons have been an emotionally stable team since coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over.

The Falcons have been an emotionally stable team since coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over.

In their final game of the regular season, the Falcons face an opponent with a record of 2-13 that has been outscored by a cartoon-like margin of 174 points and already has fired its head coach (if John Fox seems a little detached Sunday, that’s why).

There are 31 NFL teams and then there are the Carolina Panthers, who exist largely to make the Buffalo Bills feel good about themselves and provide the rest of us comic relief.

Can this be that easy?

Six days after losing to the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons can render that result meaningless by beating the worst team in football. A win over the Panthers in the Georgia Dome gives them everything they wanted to accomplish in the regular season: 1) a return to the playoffs (already secured); 2) the NFC South Division title; 3) the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

All they have to do is step over this corpse without tripping – and hope that some hand doesn’t punch through the dirt and grab them, like in the final scene of “Carrie.”

Coaches, by nature, are a paranoid lot. They hate games like this. Sports is the greatest, kookiest reality show because it yields so few automatics. It follows that Falcons coach Mike Smith probably has spent most of this week worrying about what might go wrong. Like: What if a sinkhole opens right where Matt Ryan is standing?

But if there’s something the Falcons have shown in the Smith-Thomas Dimitroff era, it’s that they’re generally an emotionally stable lot and they respond well to adversity – if the loss to the Saints even qualifies as adversity.

If you’re looking for a reason why the Falcons could go far in this postseason, that’s the biggest one. Traditionally successful playoff teams like New England and Pittsburgh have something other than talent and intelligence: They have resolve and aren’t prone to emotional ups and downs.

“Your level of resiliency increases and improves the longer you play in this league,” said Dimitroff, who spent several years with the Patriots. “It becomes easier to bounce back from things. That’s a testament to maturing and coaching. I’ve been very impressed with how we respond to things.”

It was almost amusing to see how some fans panicked over the Falcons’ 17-14 loss to New Orleans. It was a one-play game, and the Falcons had a few one-play moments that went wrong (starting with a Michael Turner fumble at the New Orleans’ 3). Fact is, that game answered more questions about the team in a positive way than it did create doubt, Dimitroff said.

“I want to be careful about saying this,” he said, not wanting to suggest he was happy about the defeat. “But going into that game, there were a number of members of the national media suggesting we didn’t have much of a chance [in the postseason] because our defense would come up short. I was very encouraged by what I saw. Everybody thought it was an off night for the offense, but I’m not concerned about that because we can rebound offensively. We lost the game. But let’s just say that if our offense had produced more points and our defense had allowed more, it would’ve been less comforting.”

Still, Dimitroff isn’t assuming victory over Carolina. He said the Panthers will play relaxed because they have nothing to lose. When asked if he could relate to a situation where something was expected to go a certain way and things went horribly wrong, he cracked, “There was that time when I had expectations of landing that 360 [on a snowboard] and landed on my head. That didn’t work out.”

But don’t expect that to happen Sunday. The Falcons appear closer to the 360 than the faceplant.

– By Jeff Schultz

While you were hungover . . .

Richt gives no reason to believe he can turn Georgia around

Florida, Muschamp close to hiring Charlie Weis as assistant

Weekend Predictions: Falcons, Dogs win; Fox playing human ‘Frogger’

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

245 comments Add your comment

fairplay

January 1st, 2011
2:47 pm

Jeff Schultz

January 1st, 2011
2:50 pm

Fairplay — Still up for debate.

Larry

January 1st, 2011
3:01 pm

Happy New Year, Jeff!

Joe Tess Fish House

January 1st, 2011
3:03 pm

Yeah rite……This team has lots of wholes in it, No 1 has yet 2 explane why Perrier Jerry is such a bust. He was drafted in the fist round, yet is 2nd on the depth chart. What a waisted draft pick.

@DanWeiner

January 1st, 2011
3:03 pm

The even keel attitude can take them very far that is without question. The problem Atlanta has is a lack of explosiveness on offense. What’s going to make it tough for opponents to beat Atlanta is that steady hand that they have game in and game out, however every potential playoff team (I refuse to count the NFC West champion as a playoff team) has more potential for explosive play making than Atlanta does.

Those teams also have WAY more potential to flop (do you really trust Jay Cutler in the playoffs?), but if any of those teams play to their potential, Atlanta could be in serious trouble. The Falcons don’t have the firepower to keep up if they aren’t at their complete best.

Brother Bill

January 1st, 2011
3:04 pm

The Falcons can win just by showing up.

Larry

January 1st, 2011
3:08 pm

Guys…..CHILL!

The Falcons have three losses: Pittsburgh, Philly and New Orleans, all solid, playoff teams!

And for you eeors that always see the glass half empty…they have won 12–soon to be 13–games. 13-3 is a good thing, got it?

Whew!

Kane337

January 1st, 2011
3:13 pm

Go Falcons!!!!

UGABugKiller

January 1st, 2011
3:16 pm

Jeff, and fellow Falcons fans, the Falcons success in the postseason this year and in years hence depends on one thing and one thing alone:

Is Mike Smith going to stop being Marty Schottenheimer and start being Bill Parcells.

We all know Smith prefers to run the ball. So did those two coaches.

The difference, however, in Schottenheimer and Parcells, and the reason why Parcells won two Super Bowl rings with run-first offenses and Schottenheimer is largely seen as the biggest postseason loser in NFL history, just a shade underneath Bobby Cox for playoff coaching pestilence, is because Bill Parcells, while embracing a conservative, run-first offense, coached his team to WIN.

Marty Schottenheimer coached his team NOT TO LOSE.

And that is why Parcells has two rings and Schottenheimer’s name lives in NFL Postseason Infamy,

Mike Smith has shown that when it comes to this offense, he is MUCH more a Marty Schottenheimer and much less a Bill Parcells, and it is because of this that I don’t give the Falcons much of a chance in January, unless he changes and becomes a Parcells.

Yes, he’ll go for the occasional 4th down, but when it REALLY matters (see Pittsburgh game and see the last game) he demands his offense play not to lose and won’t take any chances.

HOW many times did we see the Falcons line up in a 3-tight formation, with 8 blockers for Turner, and then see the Saints stack TEN MEN IN THE BOX???

And the offense STILL ran the running play!!! How STUPID is that?

WHY wasn’t Ryan allowed to check to a pass, with a single-covered Roddy White with NO safety help?

Mike Smith and his play not to lose offensive philosophy, carried out by his silent disciple, Mike Mularkey, cost the Falcons a game they SHOULD have won against the Saints if they just allowed Ryan to play his game, as they did against the Ravens.

And Smith & Mularkey’s play not to lose offensive philosophy will severely cost this team this year, and in years ahead, in the postseason, much like Marty Schottenheimer caused his really good Kansas City and Chargers teams to lose in the playoffs.

How many times did we see the Kansas City Chiefs with a home playoff game in the 1990’s under Schottenheimer LOSE a game they had NO business losing?

Unless Mike Smith discards his loser offensive philosophy and embraces his inner Parcells, this is what awaits the Falcons in this year and in the future.

What needs to change is an offensive guru must be brought in to coach this offense who will not allow Smith’s play not to lose nature derail this team. Mike Mularkey is NOT that guy. He’s a yes man and doesn’t make waves.

Mularkey needs to go and Dimitroff needs to go out and hire Josh McDaniels and the Falcons offensive coordinator.

The Falcons have ALL the pieces needs to be a dominant and explosive offense. McDaniel’s offenses in Denver were superb (his failings were in personnel and on defense) as were his offenses in New England.

Josh McDaniels can make the Falcons truly great, and truly unbeatable.

The combination of Mikes Smith & Mularkey, at least on the offensive side of the ball, are a liability that will handcuff this team to being like the Chiefs of the 1990s under Marty Schottenheimer.

NO ONE wants that.

Frozen Rope

January 1st, 2011
3:18 pm

Wow,,, Joe Tess was almost Fist

Enemas for Christmas

January 1st, 2011
3:22 pm

Josh McDaniels is high on crack in case you haven’t noticed.

Jeff Schultz

January 1st, 2011
3:36 pm

Thanks Larry. Happy New Year to you and everyone.

@DanWeiner

January 1st, 2011
3:40 pm

Bug Killer made some good points until the Josh McDaniels thing at which point it became a five spiral crash.

Sports Review

January 1st, 2011
3:45 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Willy

January 1st, 2011
4:01 pm

BugKiller never can go too long without saying something utterly asinine.

Willy

January 1st, 2011
4:03 pm

And Dan, your point seems to be that Atlanta’s offense, if they’re off, isn’t as good as other offenses if those other offenses have their A game going. Not really much of a point there, either.

Ted Striker

January 1st, 2011
4:11 pm

You can recognize the author of some posts by their length alone.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
4:15 pm

Hey Jeff,

I still predict an upset in the Dome this weekend, especially since John Fox knows this is definitely his last game at Carolina.

His playbook will be emptied this weekend and you best believe Steve Smith will be running his share of screens, runs and reverses.

They will be going for it on 4th downs also – nothing to lose mentality. Dangerous position to defend.

Carolina would love nothing more than to STICK it to the Falcons and they will be loading the box and daring CHOKE to beat them, just like the Saints did.

Arno

January 1st, 2011
4:32 pm

The M&M offence has put the team in the best position in Falcons’ history. To complain about it is like saying, “That barbeque has too much pork.”

robertussen

January 1st, 2011
4:33 pm

choke just cause you want the falcons to lose doesnt mean if will happen, in fact no way the worst team in the nfc beats the best team in the nfc. all your worst fears are coming true, matt ryan is a pro bowler, we will have another winning season making mike smith the best coach in out history, we will win the south, we will be the #1 seed in the nfc, we will host all play off games we play in. and sorry you wont get to see the eagles they wont make it the the dome. sorry man we’re just too good this year. i know you hate it and we all like that. so suck it up and be a man and admit when you’re wrong. we made the right choice at qb who none of us would trade for anybody else. other than that you have a happy new year, and try to come up with something new this year cause the whole choke thing is old and holds no bearing anymore. you cant have that many come from behind wins and be a choke. time to man up dude.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

January 1st, 2011
4:48 pm

Falcons 88

Panthers 0

You saw it here first, folks.

the Boss

January 1st, 2011
4:51 pm

Hey “Choke”, I have a deal for you so listen up.
I have a signed Vick jersey from back in the day before the world learned what a moron he was. ( yes I was a big Vick fan)
I also have a signed Matt Ryan jersey. How about I give you the Vick jersey, in return you will come to the game on Sunday with me (no cost to you), wearing my Matt Ryan jersey!
Now what unit off Bankhead Hwy are you in again?

chalkdawg4

January 1st, 2011
4:51 pm

Worried about this game. History show the Falcons crap the bed when we least expect it. Hope to be wrong. If the weather is good I have tennis practice tomorrow from 1-3. I will TIVO the game and hope all is good when I get back in the car after practice. GO FALCONS!!!!

UGABugKiller

January 1st, 2011
5:01 pm

Anyone who claims to know anything about football and then says that Josh McDaniels isn’t an outstanding offensive coordinator is a moron who knows NOTHING.

The guy was a tire fire as a head coach, true. So was Charlie Weis at Notre Lame. So is Wade Phillips anywhere.

But they’re ALL great COORDINATORS.

JMcD’s problems in Denver had NOTHING to do with offense. They had everything to do with his horrible personnel decisions and his defenses.

But his offense in Denver, as it was in New England, was OUTSTANDING.

If JMcD can take KYLE ORTEN and have throw 4000 yards and 30 TDs, imagine what he could do with a QB like Matt Ryan?

What’s asinine are the people who speak before actually knowing what the hell they’re talking about.

Frozen Rope

January 1st, 2011
5:05 pm

Thats a pretty sweet deal Boss,,, If I were Choke I would jump on that.

Mr Charlie

January 1st, 2011
5:12 pm

Bold prediction Choke, just have the Kahones to show up here after the game win or lose.

I noticed you were suspiciously absent then the Vikes and their 3rd string QB took the Feables to the woodshed. I am still laughing about that one.

i heard

January 1st, 2011
5:15 pm

they are giving away SNUGGIES tomorrow!!

Mr Charlie

January 1st, 2011
5:31 pm

OK, Choke, just have the brass to show up after the game, I noticed you were absent after the Feebles got spanked by the Vikes.

lanier

January 1st, 2011
5:50 pm

even though im afraid of this game im gonna double load on my bet tomorrow. some of the previous negitism above could happen but i dont think so because the birds are too SOLID

willy

January 1st, 2011
5:51 pm

Right BugKiller. Everybody in football talk about what a masterful job Mularkey does with game management, but you’re smarter than Billick, Gruden, and all the guys at NFL.com. Changing offensive coordinators would be a very good move right now.

You speak way too much, so even when you are half right on something, you come out sounding like you always sound. Like a pompous blowhard.

willy

January 1st, 2011
5:54 pm

And aren’t you the same guy that sits on the blog every game day and proclaims that Atlanta has already lost the game, from about 7 minutes into the 1 st quarter until about 45 seconds left in the game? Yeah, you’re one of those know it all guys. Brilliant.

FrontRow

January 1st, 2011
5:57 pm

@willy – even a busted clock is right twice a day.

Barkin'Dog

January 1st, 2011
6:25 pm

robertussen – DAMN WELL SAID. Happy New Year, all… and Go Falcons – win it all!!

UGABugKiller

January 1st, 2011
6:32 pm

Willy, Jon Gruden doesn’t say anything true about anyone. His persona on television is geared towards him getting another coaching job.

And again, you just attack me without the ability to refute ANYTHING I’ve said about JMcD or how Smith (and Mularkey) are like Schottenheimer and not Parcells.

Facts are facts. And when people like you can’t argue facts, you resort to name-calling and mud-slinging.

I was right about Willie Martinez. I was and am right about Mark Richt.

And I’m right about this. And I’ve never once said the Falcons were going to lose a game because I’ve always believed Matt Ryan could overcome his head coach’s play not to lose offensive philosophy.

Until now.

the Boss

January 1st, 2011
6:41 pm

Hey “Choke”,
I made you a sweet offer but to quote you all I hear are “crickets!”

Hindu Elvis Pimp

January 1st, 2011
6:42 pm

What amuses me is the fan that can watch games ONLY on TV and somehow become more knowledgeable than the assistant coach who spends upwards to 16t hours a day, reviewing game film, game plans, meeting with position coaches and players. Yeah, you Mr Bugkiller. I agree the name calling is uncalled for here. I won’t resort to that. I will ask you for your coaching credentials. What background and or knowledge base do you have that can make your opinion relevant?

wxwax

January 1st, 2011
6:46 pm

I see there are still a lot of doubters here.

Makes sense, I guess, given Atlanta’s miserable pro sports history and the Falcons’ mostly awful record over the years.

Thing is, even if the team doesn’t go to the Super Bowl this year, you still have to concede that the organization is better managed now than at any time it its entire history. Good management doesn’t always bring immediate results but over the long term its effects are unstoppable,

So a defeat Sunday, and in the playoffs, won’t really discourage me. All I have to do is look at my Washington Redskins for a reality check in what matters for a successful pro franchise.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 1st, 2011
6:56 pm

My biggest concern about the Falcons is that their GM wears a watch that looks like THAT.

UGABugKiller

January 1st, 2011
7:10 pm

Hindu Elvis Pimp… and there’s the other thing people do when they can’t argue the FACTS.

They attack the questioner. “You’re not a coach, you’re not a player.”

That end-around is even weaker than the obvious ones that Mularkey frequently call that never gain a yard.

Because, you know, Jeff Schultz was a starting QB with 10 years coaching experience, and Peter King played 15 years in the NFL as ProBowl center, and Mike Silver was a five-time Super Bowl Champion wide receiver.

I played football. I know football. I understand the game well enough to be able to make a very easy and obvious judgment call, such as, Mike Smith has Mularkey coach the offense in a way that is very Schottenheimer-like, and NOT Parcells-like; meaning he coaches SCARED. He coaches NOT TO LOSE.

As opposed to, you know, Payton, or Parcells, or Belichick, who’ve ALL won Super Bowls, who coach AGGRESSIVELY and to WIN.

How many Super Bowls does Marty Schottenheimer have again?

When you coach scared and you coach your offense not to lose… you will NEVER win when it matters.

Take your weak-sauce “attack the questioner” bull somewhere else, please.

extremus

January 1st, 2011
7:58 pm

You don’t overlook ANY team in the NFL. I’m sure that Mike Smith knows that and has been drilling it into his players all week. From this point on every game is for all intents and purposes a playoff game, the one against Carolina simply because of the seeding ramifications. I look for this team to become even more focused and be very dangerous for the foreseeable future.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
8:31 pm

robertussen

January 1st, 2011
4:33 pm
choke just cause you want the falcons to lose doesnt mean if will happen, in fact no way the worst team in the nfc beats the best team in the nfc. all your worst fears are coming true, matt ryan is a pro bowler,

________________________________________________________

First of all, “your pro bowler” is backing up the NFL MVP :)

Here are some stats for your MVP – The stats can be verified at espn.com

- 4 Straight games with less than 200 yards passing.

- Ranks 15 in NFL in passing, Vick ranks 3rd and Flacco 7th.

- Ranks 28th in NFL in ypa at 6.44, Vick ranks 3rd & Flacco 10th.

- Flacco has more passing yards, yet CHOKE has 70 more attemps.

Yep, those are numbers that prove me wrong :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
8:37 pm

Mr Charlie

January 1st, 2011
5:12 pm
Bold prediction Choke, just have the Kahones to show up here after the game win or lose.

I noticed you were suspiciously absent then the Vikes and their 3rd string QB took the Feables to the woodshed. I am still laughing about that one.

____________________________________________

Unlike you I am no coward, and don’t make mistakes for poor qb play. I did post my comments after the Vikes game, but maybe you had a problem with your read comprehension, so I’ll repeat it again.

Vick played horrible vs the Vikes, but a horrible game for Vick would be a great game for CHOKE. Vick was 25 for 43 263 yards and 2 total tds, compared to 14 for 29 and 148 – I think you can do the math, well then again maybe not :)

CHOKE is still a JOKE – Nothing new here :)

Frozen Rope

January 1st, 2011
8:45 pm

Choke,,, Michael Pick will not win the MVP,,,, and, Stats are for losers,,, Loser

Katherine

January 1st, 2011
8:46 pm

the boss…I’ll take the deal :)

Frozen Rope

January 1st, 2011
8:48 pm

And,, MV will get hurt running the ball and fumble….Carries the ball like a loaf of bread…..

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
9:12 pm

“You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”

Just as Michael Vick tortured animals for money through gambling, Edison tortured animals for money to sell his inventions and protect the value of his patents (must resist tangent to reference Napster!).

Alternating current however became the predominant form of transferring electricity. Any time you use an outlet in your home, that is the result of alternating current. Thus, all those dogs died in vain.

Without recorded music, we never would have had this song
It seems that electrocuting dogs was not only part of Michael Vick’s culture, it is integral to the foundation of American culture since the beginning of the 20th century.

By transference, I would think that Mr. Carlson would also believe, being the good Christian that he claims to be, would also suggest that Edison should have been executed for electrocuting dogs. Yet, had that been the case, we wouldn’t have the light-bulb, recorded music, or motion pictures.

Motion pictures would inspire the television, which of course, is the invention that Mr. Carlson used to express his opinion.

Perhaps, Tucker Carlson should consider a new career by leaving a mainstream media rooted in the acts of a cutthroat dog-killer and put more time into, you know, Christianity.

Concepts like, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Either that, or Fox News should consider putting Carlson into the proverbial doghouse.

So, I want you the reader to think about that.

Every time you listen to music such as AC/DC, go to see a movie, or even turn on the TV to watch football, I want you to remember that those things would not have existed if not for a man that tortured dogs for his own personal gain and in contempt of his moral values that execution is wrong.

And then ask yourself, if you still feel the same way about Michael Vick.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
9:13 pm

Katherine you got my cookies girl? :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
9:16 pm

Dear Delusional Falcons “annual” Losers:

I don’t make requests :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 1st, 2011
9:19 pm

Eagles’ Vick picked to start at QB for NFC in Pro Bowl

Star News Services

Michael Vick’s sensational comeback season made a big impression throughout the NFL, not just in Philadelphia.

The Eagles’ quarterback, who sat out two seasons while serving a federal sentence for dogfighting, will start for the NFC in the Jan. 30 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Vick was selected in a leaguewide vote by NFL players, coaches and fans.

Vick made three Pro Bowls with Atlanta before he was suspended by the league and served jail time for running a dogfighting ring. This season, he has gone from a seldom-used backup to the NFC’s leading passer, the catalyst for Philadelphia’s dynamic offense. Besides Vick, the Eagles had four other players selected.

“AMERICA HAS SPOKEN – AGAIN, AGAIN & AGAIN” :)

Vick CHOKED on Tuesday night

January 1st, 2011
9:38 pm

John Clayton of ESPN said,

“Thanks to rhe Eagles’ clunker on Tuesday night in snowy Phliadelphia,
the Chicago Bears clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a bye week.”