SAN DIEGO — Welcome to the city where it’s impossible to miserable, or so would you think. Great restaurants, a revitalized downtown, beaches, Shamu — what more could anybody want? But temperatures have been in the 80s lately and people are complaining that it’s too hot. (They should try Georgia in August — and this little thing called humidity.)
Folks here don’t seem to have embraced their NFL team, either. The San Diego Chargers are 2-0, like the Falcons, but they couldn’t sell out today’s game and the contest is blacked out locally. It’s not an unusual occurrence. That fan apathy has fueled the organization’s public relations battle against the city for a new stadium deal.
It’s similar to the Falcons’ situation. Chargers owner Alex Spanos says he needs a new venue to generate more revenue and stay competitive. If he doesn’t get it, it’s possible they will be the team that moves two hours north on I-5 to Los Angeles (assuming that stadium deal ever gets done). The only difference between Spanos’s complaints and those of Falcons owner Arthur Blank is Spanos has a more legitimate gripe: The Chargers’ stadium was built in 1966, the Georgia Dome in 1992.
Back to football. We’re going to find out something about the Falcons’ resiliency today. They are a better team than San Diego but there are three significant factors they’ll need to overcome to start 3-0 for only the fourth time:
• 1) They’re playing in a short week, having beaten Denver Monday night.
• 2) They’re playing on the road and far from home. (Though the Falcons are 5-0 on the West Coast under coach Mike Smith, including a win at San Diego in 2008, they have never had to make this trip in a short week.)
• 3) They’re pretty banged up, particularly defensively, where cornerbacks Brent Grimes (torn Achilles) and Chris Owens (concussion) both are out and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (thigh) is questionable (although he’s expected to play). Right tackle Tyson Clabo (hip) also is questionable. I’ll post the inactives when they’re available.
It also will be interesting to see how running back Michael Turner performs in his return to San Diego. Turner, signed as a free agent from the Chargers, ran for 120 yards in the Falcons’ 22-16 win here four years ago, but those were far different circumstances. He is off to a poor start this season (28 carrries for 74 yards, a 2.6 average) and was arrested for speeding and suspicion of DUI in the early morning hours following the Monday night win over Denver.
Even with the early success of the passing game, the Falcons will need to be able to run the ball at some point this season to be successful, certainly late in the year and in the playoffs.
If you missed it, here’s a link to a column I wrote on the Falcons’ defense, where players have taken to the “calmer” ways of coordinator Mike Nolan and suggested they had burned out on Brian VanGorder’s screaming.
One last thing: If you missed it, the barrister, D. Orlando Ledbetter, broke down the Falcons’ previous 2-0 starts. In a statistical anomaly, they have made the playoffs only two of the previous seven times (the 1998 Super Bowl team and the 2004 NFC title-game team). The Falcons have started a season 3-0 three times: 1981 (started 3-0, finished 7-9), 1986 (started 4-0, finished 7-8-1) annd 2004 (started 4-0, finished 11-5 and went to the NFC title game).
That’s all for now. Weigh in with your thoughts about today’s game and I’ll be back shortly.
By Jeff Schultz
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