Falcons bounce back against Titans, as they always do

Michael Turner ran over and around Tennessee defenders and the Falcons rolled over Tennessee. (Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner ran over and around the Titans, and the Falcons rolled to a win (Curtis Compton)

Let’s put aside for a moment that the Falcons set out to serve us a gourmet meal Sunday but their quest for perfection was slightly marred by the overcooked lobster and then dropping the dessert in our laps.

They won again. That’s what they do after losses. No matter how physical or emotional it was. No matter how long public debate seems to stretch into the following week. Of all the things this regime has achieved, one of the most remarkable is that the team’s ability to rebound after defeats.

The latest illustration was Sunday’s 23-17 win over Tennessee, which came on the heels of last week’s overtime loss to New Orleans. The game may have left an after-taste, the result of the offense turning six red zone possessions into only two touchdowns. But there’s something to be said for this team’s resilience.

Under coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are now 16-3 after losses, eight straight wins and 4-0 this year.

“It says a lot about the team,” Smith said. “Regardless of the outcome, we know it’s a long season, we know we have to move on to the next game. From the first day we talked about what the formula is for a successful football team. Part of that is putting defeats behind you. We don’t let things linger.”

Mike Smith inspired Falcons' players with his words the night before the game. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Smith inspired Falcons' players with his words the night before the game. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Smith hammered it home again Saturday night. His speech to the team, while short on pyrotechnics or even some great revelation, apparently struck the right chord with players.

“It wasn’t anything big, but I think what he said went to everybody’s heart,” center Todd McClure said.

“We’re at a point in the season now where we really need to start hitting our stride,” said tight end Tony Gonzalez. “We’re almost there — we’re not there yet. As Smitty said, we have to start putting things in overdrive. When we have a team down, let’s step on it.”

For most of Sunday, the Falcons looked like the kind of team Smith embraces: physical on both sides with a dominating running game and a stout defense.

Michael Turner, who rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown, said, “Sometimes you have to remember why this team was put together. You have to play smart and play physical. We haven’t been doing that lately. We were losing focus in games.”

The Falcons opened the season with a borderline humiliating loss at Chicago, but rebounded with an emotional win over Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. Losses to Tampa  Bay, Green Bay and New Orleans were followed with wins over Seattle, Carolina and Tennessee, respectively.

They haven’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 6 and 13 of 2009, a streak that has reached 29 games.

“I don’t think it’s arrogance or overconfidence,” Gonzalez said, “but every game we’ve lose this year we felt, ‘Man, we could’ve had that one. Even the Chicago game.”

This isn’t to say the Falcons don’t have flaws. They do. The offense walked over Tennessee with 432 yards. They had a 100-yard rusher, a 316-yarder passer (Matt Ryan) and a 147-yard receiver (Roddy White).

But the result of six red zone possessions were two touchdowns, three field goals and a fumble. Maximum potential: 42 points. Falcons’ net: 23. Great teams don’t leave so many points on the field.

This should have been a lopsided win. But when Titans rookie backup quarterback Jake Locker threw two late touchdown passes, there were a few tense moments on the Atlanta sideline.

But the Falcons played with an attitude and a physical edge they sometimes have been missing. Titans running game Chris Johnson (12 carries for 13 yards) was outgained by one Matt Hasselbeck scramble (17 yards).

That kind of defense will serve this team well. So should the schedule. The Falcons’ 6-4 record doesn’t sparkle but the final six games present great possibilities. Three of their remaining opponents — Minnesota (2-8), Carolina (2-8), Jacksonville (3-7) — have a combined record of 7-23. If the Falcons sweep those, that gets them to nine wins before even addressing the other three opponents (Houston, Tampa Bay, New Orleans).

It all sets up for a nice playoff run. They could use a few more touchdowns. But at least we know resilience isn’t an issue.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

186 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

November 20th, 2011
9:34 pm

Schultzie:

You the man!

HT

Chris

November 20th, 2011
9:40 pm

Schultzie:

You are the man indeed!

Freddie the falcon

November 20th, 2011
9:41 pm

I’m glad they won. It was ugly. They did enough not to lose.

bucket

November 20th, 2011
9:47 pm

On this Thanksgiving week I am just thankful for a win. The schedule sets up nicely for the Falcons and if we can get Julio to stay healthy who knows how far we can go in the playoffs!

Jamaaliver

November 20th, 2011
9:54 pm

Man, I really wish we would just embrace us being a smashmouth, physical RUNNING team.

It’s nice to see Roddy make some big plays and Ryan get back to back 300yard passing games to quiet some of his critics. But this team is at its best when we are dominating the line of scrimmage and keeping the other teams’ offense on the sidelines.

it’s our best shot at beating the Saints and Packers of the world. Punch them in the mouth and run all over them. With timely passes from Ryan when the defense allows it.

iTiSi

November 20th, 2011
9:59 pm

Don’t revel too much or too long. The Falcons just beat one of the worst teams in the worst divisions in the NFL. The Titans are not the team nor the organization they use to be. After all who would go out and pay $13M per year ($815K PER GAME) to a running back like Chris Johnson. They let Legarette Blount go 3 yrs. ago and he just ran over 6 would be tacklers in a game today. They are a totally inept team and organization right now.

Haveabrain

November 20th, 2011
10:01 pm

Where are all the turkeys that said Ryan was a bum. C’mon you whiners – I read it all. Spaghetti arm, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn door if he was on it. Well he threw 4 balls late today, two were caught and two were not. Thank goodness for Gonzalez and his hands. While Ryan has not been stellar, all in he is one of the best in the league. There isn’t a team that wouldn’t take him. As for your savior and CURRENT No. 1 receiver, he needs to catch more with his hands than his mouth does flies and the Falcons’ odds will increase accordingly.

oldfart

November 20th, 2011
10:02 pm

I said during the game that I would be happy with a tepid win and overall that’s what they gave us.

Choking on my hate.

November 20th, 2011
10:02 pm

BUT BUT BUT, Ryan has not won a playoff game..

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:04 pm

Haveabrain. I was a 5-4 team that had a lot to play for.

Had we lost, we would have added to our streak of losing to winning teams. But we won, so they are not a winning team anymore…Funny how that works.

Hindu Elvis Pimp

November 20th, 2011
10:04 pm

OK….I still see too many missed tackles and all too often, opponents converting third and long.

This has to be fixed or post season play will be a pipe dream…..

I dream of pipes myself.

day old fries

November 20th, 2011
10:06 pm

AP and Cutler got banged up…that helps

Larry

November 20th, 2011
10:07 pm

Roddy White has now become as predictable as the sun rising. Every game he makes a nice catch, every game he has a ball go right though his hands (cast the the game last Sunday) and almost every game he gets a stupid and sometimes costly personal foul penalty.

A Jerry Rice or Lynn Swann he isn’t!

Larry

November 20th, 2011
10:08 pm

(cost them the game last Sunday)

FalconJim

November 20th, 2011
10:30 pm

Thought the “D” was gonna give it to ‘em in the 4th, against a rookie QB. Gotta find a way to get better in the red zone, too. But all-in-all, a great win for the Birdz!!!
Now, if we could “win out”, we just might win the division, or at least a wild card berth.
GO FALCONS!!! .

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
10:30 pm

weakest 6-4 team in this league..

2-5 last 7 against the winners.. Great job Coach. Just joking… lol

TruthSeeker

November 20th, 2011
10:32 pm

The Falcons play so well after losses because Smith’s attitude is always the same. He’s the anithesis of Jim Mora. Mora’s teams woud go on long winning streaks, but they’d also go on losing streaks. They took on his personality, just as this team does Smith’s.

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
10:32 pm

When the Falcons get blown out on the road in this coming playoffs, Mr Charlie will blame MV7? Hugh? LMBO…..

He’s over the top with him….lol

I’ll just say Mr. Blanks is shooting Blanks! lol

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
10:34 pm

White= Jenkins with a large mouth!

FalconJim

November 20th, 2011
10:34 pm

CGD…..I’d say we’re the strongest 6 – 4 team in the NFC, and are just hitting our stride. And NO WAY we go 2 – 5…..that RIDICULOUS!!! Hahahahaha!!!!!!

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
10:37 pm

“Under coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are now 16-3 after losses, eight straight wins and 4-0 this year”

2-5 against the best in the last 7= Pretenders right Coach? lol

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
10:39 pm

That rookie could have thrown for 374 and 4 TD’s if he had played the 1st half too. He looked like Rodger @ times..Scary…………….

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:41 pm

Yawn. And they have not lost a playoff game either, lets bring up something relevant. Yawn.

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:42 pm

Actually, looks live Vick packed it in for 2011. maybe next year. So now VY is playing, ohh look, nice pick in the endzone when he had a chance to put the game away.

Falcons GM aint that smart

November 20th, 2011
10:47 pm

Ive dissed and will continue to dis Ryan. He cant consistently hit the deep ball; the pass to White being the exception– we need more exceptions.

When safety injuries forced Christopher Owens into the game, I knew we were screwed. And sure enough, both Locker TDs were to the guy Owens was covering. All of Locker’s big passes (save the bomb against Duanta) were against Owens … just like the Green Bay playoff burning.

Why does Owens still get a paycheck?
How can Bosher still be on this team?!?!

True champs demand perfection — love the Falcons but they’re too soft

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:48 pm

Please don’t compare rookies to Rogers, you show your ignorance. Anyone knows that unknown rookies can light teams up until they get some tape. I mean, even Tebow can move a team.

Look at what Scam did today, I think he put up a buck seventy five and a few picks. But he is Superman, but I guess he needs to be remembered for something.

dawgforlife

November 20th, 2011
10:49 pm

CGD…go back to the Saints board please…if your a Falcans fan, the woods are full of them…I am so thankful I have enough of a life not to have to troll on a opposing team’s story

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:50 pm

He did NOT just say that the Eagles D is “built to protect a lead”. Man, these guys just love to hype losers.

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
10:54 pm

LOL, yep, that Philly D just protecting the lead again. Man, they are so bad, Vick quit, and I guess that is not a big surprise, you cant buy character.

Eric C.

November 20th, 2011
11:00 pm

Yep, Moore and Hayden need to be healthy when the Falcons play at NO

Mr. Charlie

November 20th, 2011
11:03 pm

My obsession with MV7 continues.

Dr. Warren

November 20th, 2011
11:03 pm

Smith’s call to go for it on 4th down at the end was inane. Even though they made it on an offsides penalty, Turner fumbled two plays later. We could have put the game away with a simple field goal. It would have been a 3-score lead with about 5 minutes left. What was the coach thinking? Or was he not?

Mr. Charlie

November 20th, 2011
11:04 pm

Wait, the Falcons played today? oh who cares! I wanna talk Eagles so this blog will have to do!

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
11:05 pm

Mr Charlie= YAWN YAWN YAWN………………………………………………..

Eric C.

November 20th, 2011
11:05 pm

Dr. Warren, it would have been a potential 2 score lead because of the 2 pt conversion attempts

Eric C.

November 20th, 2011
11:07 pm

In any case, the play was designed for an offsides

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
11:08 pm

“Smith’s call to go for it on 4th down at the end was inane. Even though they made it on an offsides penalty”

Mr Blanks great Job Hiring 3 Norv Turners in a row……

Been a while since ya won something meaningful hugh?

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
11:08 pm

What do you think you prove by using my screen name? LOL..I could not think of more loser thing to do.

CGD..

November 20th, 2011
11:12 pm

You sure do know a thing or two about losing being a FALCON Fan for 5 decades….lbmo….^^^^^

Mr Charlie

November 20th, 2011
11:14 pm

Dr Warren, if Turner can fumble, they can miss a FG. You never know what will happen.

Plus, a FG puts them up 16, still within 2 scores. It was a good play to draw them off, you could not have forseen the end result.

WeBurn

November 20th, 2011
11:21 pm

10-6 might not get us in. That loss to the Bears looms large.

Mr. Charlie

November 20th, 2011
11:40 pm

Now I will go troll the board of the team I really pay attention too. I’m just on the Falcons board because, well no one else is.

hawkfan

November 20th, 2011
11:42 pm

beat the aints after xmas and the falcs are in

5150 UOAD

November 21st, 2011
12:04 am

A DEAD Larry scores more hits than a Hurt Julie-O.

Dr. Warren

November 21st, 2011
12:07 am

Two 2-point conversions are highly, highly unlikely. Come on. You guys know what I mean. And a kicker like ours missing a chip shot is also highly unlikely. Finally–the play went forward as a qb sneak so you cannot assume Smith would have called timeout and kick the field goal anyway.

5150 UOAD

November 21st, 2011
12:28 am

To Hell with Georgia and Larry “Worm Food” Munson.

FemaleFalconFan

November 21st, 2011
12:32 am

Glad for Drob! Hate Grimes didn’t get an interception he plays with heart every game but happy for the W none the less.

JSS

November 21st, 2011
12:45 am

This is directed towards Charlie, Eric C., and any other clown who wants to take shots when I’m not around (I.E. Today’s Live Game Blog)…

Some of you are either mentally or just pathologically deranged. I’ve given up trying to be nice to you. Jeff Schultz, we’ve had an agreement for a number of years. I’ve gone out of my way not to try to burn one of your blogs down or search out any of your bloggers via means that aren’t will we say are not ethically correct. But you know, tonight I came on read the game blog after I finished my grad school work that took up all of my day as well doing some things at my Mother’s church down in Macon. See, I can care less about your fanatic pursuit of the Atlanta Falcons. I gave up my season tickets that I kept even when I was living across the country when they hired Bobby Petrino. The day I became just a pro football fan again instead of Falcon fan my life became a whole lot more fulfilling…

I have said on more than one occasion that Michael Vick is a grown A** man, he made a choice and he paid a price… You need to stop inferring that you know who or what I choose to like in preferences of QBs. But you can take this to the bank and cash it because the funds are there to cover the draft I’m about to write on this blog… Matt Ryan, who I have seen since was a redshirt at BC (Two of my nieces are BC grads, one was in Ryan’s class), us an average NFL QB… Not elite, not the worst, just average… He will disappoint you in every true big game… I don’t regular season, I mean playoff or a game that truly matters… Ask BC fans about Ryan when they needed him (the ACC Championship game). Now, he has a career that is what it is… I said before he took the field in first playoff game when you clowns were decrying the Cardinals as the worst playoff team in history… They waxed him! Blame Milloy, blame Brookings, but that game was in Ryan’s hands, and he put that team in a hole that they never climbed out of again…. Two seasons later, all mighty Matt Ryan did what does best in the real big game, he made Williams an All-Pro in 2 quarters and then had his jock taken when Williams carried it to the house!!! You can use 21 year old Rap songs by a one hit wonder all you want to describe him all you want… Yeah he is just like Vanilla Ice, all played out!!!

Oh Eric C… There are a lot of players on the Falcons that I like, but you’ll never catch me in the lie of saying that it is one Matt Ryan… It ain’t about race, it ain’t your phony Michael Vick excuse, it is my history of watching him fail… Now you can call me out of my name all you want tonight, get it all in… I’m going to get up in the morning and read it all, and I’ll take notes… You better make it worth your while, because the next time I see you online, and you are stupid enough to start to take a shot my way, I’m going to burn your internet house down! Not threat, not a joke, a stone cold promise! And just like January 16th, the morning after your boy went out like a Patty, I won’t be saying a thing, except I told you so… It is still satisfying to remember the silence… The same goes for any of the rest of you creeps too!

JSS

November 21st, 2011
12:54 am

And 5150…
You really need to behave, you can freak out on me for saying this to you… That was a human being with a family and he did his his job, whether he was with the Braves, Vandy, or that god forsaken school in Athens… You owe him that much simply because he was a living man until a few hours ago… Take that for what was intended to mean.. You’re better than that…

Draggin' Fly

November 21st, 2011
12:56 am

Pretty classless comment about Munson, 5150 ( if indeed you are the real 5150 ).