If last week’s Falcons were for real, we’re about to find out

If Julio Jones, Matt Ryan can Falcons can avoid letdown at Detroit, they'll really have something to celebrate. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Falcons can avoid letdown at Detroit, they'll really have something to celebrate. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Online readers: I’m taking the risk of posting this before 11:59.59 p.m. Friday on the assumption the world will still be here at 12:00.01 a.m. Saturday.)

DETROIT — Imagine if the world actually ended on Friday after everybody had finally started to buy into the Falcons?

Alas, life goes on. The Mayans are left to seek a refund from their director of world predictions, Danny Sheridan. The rest of us now watch and see how the Falcons react to acceptance.

That was no small victory last week when the Falcons doubled-over the New York Giants 34-0. If they couldn’t quite make up for last season’s 24-2 playoff loss at New York, they at least finally gave a glimpse of their ceiling. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, came up big in a big moment. Their offensive line neutralized one of the best front fours in the NFL. Their defense, even without safety William Moore, one of its most important players, and a banged up Asante Samuel and Jonathan Babineaux, handed the Giants their first shutout in 16 years.

But it is equally important how they respond to that victory.

The Detroit Lions are not nearly as bad as a 4-10 record or a six-game losing streak would suggest. They have a dangerous passing connection with local appeal (Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson) and talent on both sides of the ball, even if the locker room is a dysfunctional mess and Ndamukong Suh, for all of his skill, seems to have a cranium full of nougat. But this is a game the Falcons should win, especially knowing that a victory (or a tie) would clinch at least a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Great teams don’t just respond well to adversity. They respond when everybody is telling them how great they are.

“This is not the time to go cool,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “It’s not the time to think you’ve arrived. Actually, it’s the worst time to have that attitude. You’ve got to make sure we go to the playoffs and keep that same kind of momentum. Maybe we learned that against Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us.”

“I think we learned our lesson from the Carolina game,” running back Michael Turner said. “We are not taking anything for granted. We’ve still got work to do. We’ve still got things to get better at. They are going to give us their best shot. We know that.”

Anybody guaranteeing another first-round exit for the Falcons had their eyes closed last week.

Anybody guaranteeing a Super Bowl had their eyes closed in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Both qualify as silly drivel.

Bottom line: We still don’t know what to expect. We saw both ends of the spectrum in consecutive weeks: falling behind 23-0 and losing to a 3-9 Carolina team, then blowing out the defending Super Bowl champions.

Do you really want to take a strong position one way or the other?

But the Detroit game will tell us something. This is the time of the season when title contenders come together. The carrot of a victory securing a first-round bye — and therefore a week for the Falcons to rest some regulars in the final game against Tampa Bay — should provide all the motivation they need.

Gonzalez again: “I’m anxious to see how we respond after last week. … You can’t dwell on what you’ve done in the past. We set the standard of what we can do against a really good football team. We have to make sure we duplicate that week in and week out. Our focus going into that game was the best it’s been all year. We have to have that type of effort the rest of the season. That’s what good teams do in December.”

And so far, the Falcons are 1-1.

By Jeff Schultz

From the music jukebox, just in case we all are going bye-bye

Otherwise, some recent clicks from my archives

Falcons’ line on a roll, now gets rematch against Suh

Haters’ roundup: National view on Falcons has changed (including video)

Ryan asks for more, gives more at right time for Falcons

Falcons, Smith know now is time they’re going to be judged

SEC’s decision to not suspend Dial sends wrong message

Dale Murphy sounds off on steroid users in Hall of Fame and his own candidacy

Bobby Petrino finds a school willing to sell its soul

Falcons give a performance that leaves us wondering again

“Sack Schultz” unveils Bowl Blowout Contest (from Potato to BCS)

291 comments Add your comment

Skillet

December 20th, 2012
12:55 pm

JSS

December 20th, 2012
1:05 pm

It is already tomorrow in the Pacific realm, I think you’ll be OK… And you’ll find out nothing until the weekend of January 12th…

Jason

December 20th, 2012
1:06 pm

They’ll be 2-1 Saturday night. Go Falcons! 13-2, #1 seed!

JSS

December 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

And as far as their defense is concerned, the Lions go as Avril goes…

Dawglasville

December 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

The disclaimer at the beginning, “head full of nougat,” line… very funny. Had plans to run the REM thing on FB but a few had already jumped on it.

I agree with you JS. We need to have a sense of urgency. Take care of business and then struggle next week with the best route to take as far as resting players. That is what a great team would do.

J'Dinkalage Morgoone

December 20th, 2012
1:35 pm

It’s funny to say this, but this game is a must win for the Falcons. Having the #1 seed is critical to their playoff success and having the starters rest and be well prepared is way more important than having them have to play against Tampa Bay. Wouldn’t it be nice to see what our backup QB and other players down the depth chart can do?

Jason

December 20th, 2012
1:43 pm

Skip Bayless just said “It’ll come down to two teams in the NFC: San Fran and Green Bay.” Totally discounting the Falcons, but I understand why. We are going to shock a lot of people. It’s almost like that 34-0 win over the Giants meant nothing, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t…but you can’t pay me to believe that had the 49ers or Packers beat the Giants 34-0, they’d be the talk of the town. The 49ers (supposedly the best in the NFC), gave up a 31-3 lead and almost lost the game but they are invincible. Had the Falcons been up 31-3 on the Patriots and still won, they would have made all sorts of excuses as to why the Patriots “gave it away”. Sheesh. The media sucks.

George

December 20th, 2012
1:49 pm

Skiop is right it is not going to happen,drink your beer ride the ladies yell and scream it is not going to happen.

Jeff Schultz

December 20th, 2012
1:51 pm

JSS — True that. Also, I have quite a following in Papua New Guinea.

Jeff Schultz

December 20th, 2012
1:52 pm

Jason — Quoting Skip Bayless on my blog is as bad as profanity. Do it again and I’ll submit your IP address to the banning committee.

Jason

December 20th, 2012
1:53 pm

Yeah Jeff, like the sarcasm. If I’m not using profanity, then there’s no reason to ban me.

Jason

December 20th, 2012
1:54 pm

If you won’t ban “CHOKE” after all he’s done, you won’t ban me after quoting Bayless.

Mask of False Bravado

December 20th, 2012
1:55 pm

Skip Bayless is horrible. I much prefer the analysis of Dan LeBatard’s dad.

Buffy

December 20th, 2012
1:55 pm

Agree with Dawglassville……”Cranium full of nugat”…..absolutely hillarious phrase. I may have to use it next time I encounter a total bonehead.

Mask of False Bravado

December 20th, 2012
1:55 pm

Jason- tongue in cheek

JSS

December 20th, 2012
1:57 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
If you’re not too busy… You need to go over to Ann Arbor today and go by Zingerman’s Deli, Ray’s Red Hots, and then Cottage Inn Pizza… EMU and U-M are playing tonight at Crisler, it is good to catch the difference between the ACC/SEC environment and B1G every once and awhile… The U-M Quad and State Street are interesting too bad last week was finals…

Paul in NH

December 20th, 2012
1:58 pm

I thought it was that famous Mayan Jim Morrison who forecast the end of the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b26BD5KjH0

Greg

December 20th, 2012
2:05 pm

I believe the Falcons are flawed in several areas but so is every other team in the league. No team has been great every week and no one has dominated teams week in and week out.

I’m a long suffering ATL sports fan and I believe we can go all the way!

bigdave

December 20th, 2012
2:15 pm

For the most part its been a great season and thanks to the team and coaches for what they have done so far. Obviously, you play up to your BRAIN!! The winners are always the ones who WANT TO WIN THE MOST ! I believe we have a great mixture of guys, team mates and friends all pulling for each other, enjoying a ravenous fan base, and folks aroundthe country who are pulling for you guys!! There will be NO EXCUSES!! TALENT at every position INCLUDING a DEFENSE THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR CHIN STRAP LOOSE WHETHER YA WANNA RUN ON US OR PASS IT…GO FOR IT ! JUST ASK RJIII! SEAN WETHERSPOON IS A GIFT AND NOW HERE COMES MCLAIN AND DENT!!! YOU ALL ARE SPECIAL ! “SWOOP…THERE-IT-IS !!!”…. FALCONS !!!

JSS

December 20th, 2012
2:17 pm

@ PMC….
How did Stanley Kubrick foresee how AJC Bloggers act when you don’t agree with them?

JSS

December 20th, 2012
2:19 pm

Man, that was brutal!

AtlanGa Faldawgs

December 20th, 2012
2:22 pm

Falcons or Dawgs…the delusion is the same…must be something in the water here in Georgia…

JASon

December 20th, 2012
2:29 pm

“Schultz: Was last week for real or a tease?”

Do you work for espn or something

Paul in NH

December 20th, 2012
2:40 pm

JSS
You have your Vietnam war movies mixed up. Apocalypse Now was by Coppola. Kubrick did Full Metal Jacket

Elvis is Alive

December 20th, 2012
2:45 pm

The team mantra needs to be ..”It’s Now or Next Year”. Rise Up..Angry Birds..Rise Up

JSS

December 20th, 2012
2:47 pm

@ Paul…
Thanks

The Real Falcon

December 20th, 2012
2:56 pm

Off to the silo, er man cave!

I just puked and swallowed it

December 20th, 2012
3:01 pm

Enter your comments here

Falcon Fan

December 20th, 2012
3:04 pm

MMmmmmmmm….nougat. D’oh!!

Jason

December 20th, 2012
3:10 pm

Something tells me the Falcons are going to go off in the playoffs. I wouldn’t want to be the first team that faced them. They are determined to not let it slip away this time.

Foghorn Leghorn

December 20th, 2012
3:11 pm

Rick Bayless said try the Tacos, there’re off the chain.

Falcon Fan

December 20th, 2012
3:17 pm

@jason.

There is an unexplained bias in the Media regarding the Falcons ongoing success. You make good points. Getting the media to ackowledge the Falcons would be like pulling Teeth. Even after a SB win it would not surpise me if the media suggested we were lucky. Or our opponents ‘DId not come to Play’…blah..blah..blah.. Go FALCONS..!!!

FalconJim

December 20th, 2012
3:46 pm

Yep, we’re about to find out if we’re contenders, or pretenders!!! We need these last two wins to keep the momentum going, into the Playoffs.
And I’m not a proponent of resting players in the last game or two….they need to continue to “hone their skills”, right up until the big “tournament” starts! I mean, we all saw how our team responded to Carolina, after having 4 days off, and 9 days between games…..I’d say, not too well…

GO, YOU DIRTY BIRDS!!!

1990_Champs_GT

December 20th, 2012
3:46 pm

Throwing down in Detroit might be what this team needs to stay motivated. That defense is nasty. They don’t mind breaking the rules and roughing up people.

Playing a chippy game on the road could stoke the fire we saw against the Giants.

1990_Champs_GT

December 20th, 2012
3:47 pm

I don’t think Skip Bayless likes tacos…

Foghorn Leghorn

December 20th, 2012
3:52 pm

Sorry, They’re, What do i know. I’m a Rooster.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 20th, 2012
3:52 pm

I thought they were for real vs Carolina :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 20th, 2012
3:56 pm

@Jason

Is that the same going off as in when men leave the toilet seat up?

HA HA :)

Go Falcons..!!

December 20th, 2012
3:58 pm

I say..I say….Once again you thought Wrong…

Foghorn Leghorn

December 20th, 2012
4:03 pm

What do you know MCR, You’re a Moron, :)

Skip Bayless

December 20th, 2012
4:50 pm

If you wanted to make Skip cry, mission accomplished.

Old Fulton County Stadium

December 20th, 2012
4:52 pm

Jeff-go ahead and trademark the “Cranium full of Nougat” line. One of your all time best.

ProudTechFan

December 20th, 2012
4:53 pm

I think the biggest difference is Asante Samuel. Not at all surprised he picked of Eli in that game. If anyone knows the NFC east its Samuel. He always plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I think he hears the criticism of the team and uses it to get the team, in particular the Defense fired up. Lets not forget he has more playoff success than any other player on this team with rings to validate that success. I dont pay attention to the media when it comes to the Falcons, because in the end every question about this team will be answered in just a few short weeks. We have put ourselves in position to only have to win two games to get to the dance. I think we can do it, i think the approach going into the playoffs this year will be different. There will be a sense of urgency, and that is how i expect this team to play. Go Falcons!!!

ThankGodMalarky'sGone

December 20th, 2012
4:57 pm

Shutting out the Giants 34-0 is a STATEMENT.

Analysts don’t determine outcomes.

Hillbilly D

December 20th, 2012
4:59 pm

“This is not the time to go cool,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “It’s not the time to think you’ve arrived.

There’s a man who gets it.

Ted M

December 20th, 2012
5:11 pm

The Lions are gonna be desperate. They are pull out all the tricks. Should be fun to watch.

The Mayan

December 20th, 2012
5:37 pm

Wring your wirsts for one more day silly humans for the earth will end tomorrow. In the words of Jean Luke Pickard: “Make it so, Numba One!”

The Mayan

December 20th, 2012
5:40 pm

People who read petroglyphs like I do after many years in the Central American jungles realize that it was fore told that when the moon is in sky like a big pizza pie that’s Amore.” Smoke on that nut cases.

Hillbilly D

December 20th, 2012
5:48 pm

From what I’ve been reading, the real Mayans don’t seem to be too worried about tomorrow. That ought to tell people something.

extremus

December 20th, 2012
6:13 pm

There is one other thing to be mindful of for the Falcons should they end up winning home field. That would be the extra week “off”. Sure, it would be great to be able to get healthy and focus of preparation for whomever may come to the Georgia Dome, but history says that long layoffs aren’t good for this team. Just look at what happened in the playoffs 2 years ago against the Packers. Look at what the extra rest after a short week did for the Falcons against Carolina. And there are other examples where I believe this has been the case, though I can’t recall anything definitively at the moment.

Mike Smith is a “players’ coach” and he is a very good coach (easily the best winning percentage-wise that Atlanta’s ever seen). He connects with his players despite a low-key, “avoid the tabloids” approach that keeps any issues within the clubhouse. The result of this is that generally speaking, nobody in the organization gets too high or too low. That formula MAY work during the regular season, but the playoffs are no place for it (Case in point: the Atlanta Braves). You must be at full intensity and have a fire in your belly come playoff time, period, because everyone in the mix with you has it.

But the last (at least 2 times, if I recall correctly) that Smith has given his players days off during an extra week, they’ve lost intensity and come out flat during the game that followed. If you get to speak with him before then, Mr. Schultz, could you please remind him of this? Not that I don’t think he’s also well aware of it, but it might bear repeating with the playoffs looming.