The Falcons need a test, and they’ll get one in New England

The maligned Chris Houston makes his massive interception. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The maligned Chris Houston makes his massive interception. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They’re 2-0, having won twice against teams that made the playoffs last season. They’re 2-0 and they’ve trailed for only 16 minutes and 20 seconds of the season’s first two hours. They’re 2-0 and they’re looking really good again, but still they need something. And that something sits about 40 minutes south of Boston.

Chris Houston: “We’re ready.”

Mike Peterson: “We’re up for the test.”

The Patriots are the gold standard of 21st Century football. The Falcons are the team that, having worked in two different centuries, still hasn’t achieved consecutive winning seasons. But that’s about to change. These guys are up for anything. This a franchise that, for the first time in its existence, is moving from strength to strength.

Michael Turner: “We’re trying to do something special here.”

The Falcons did special things against Carolina on Sunday — Matt Ryan completed 13 consecutive passes and Turner trampled out 105 yards and Houston made a game-changing interception and Brian Finneran, of all people, helped thwart a game-ending Hail Mary — but the result didn’t feel at all extraordinary. It felt as if a good team had again taken care of business.

Tony Gonzalez: “The great thing about this was that it was a total team effort. There wasn’t one guy dominating.”

Although the new guy came close. Ryan threw seven times to Gonzalez. He completed all seven passes, one of them for a touchdown, another for the greatest one-handed-grab-while-being-interfered-with in NFL history. Gonzalez completes this offense. And the defense, which had some iffy moments Sunday, nonetheless made the required stops.

Houston: “The coach [Mike Smith] has done a great job of keeping us working. He never lets us think too highly of ourselves.”

At the same time, Smitty and staff don’t undersell the potential inherent in this roster. The Falcons no longer view themselves as underdogs. They were 11-5 last season and they’re 2-0 now. They’ve stepped up in class. And that’s why the weekend in New England comes at such a propitious moment.

How will the Falcons fare in Foxborough?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Gonzalez: “Any time you go up against Tom Brady and [Laurence] Maroney, especially in New England, that’s going to be a test. And really, that’s something we need.”

Yes. The Falcons have come so far so fast as to have rendered those of us on the periphery without bearings. Are they really one of the 10 best teams in pro football? One of the five best? Have we already passed the point where we half-expect them to backslide after their rousing 2008 season? Can they stand toe to toe with Brady and Randy Moss and Kevin Faulk and Wes Welker for two, three, four quarters.

We know now that the 2009 Falcons could absorb a big effort from a division opponent and still win. “There was a lot of good football played out there,” Smith said afterward, and there was. Jake Delhomme did not fall to pieces. Steve Smith did not lose his mind. The Panthers started nicely and finished with a rush. And still they lost.

Next up: New England. “You know you’re dealing with a veteran team, a team used to winning,” said Peterson, who forced his third turnover of 2009 Sunday. But Peterson’s new team is itself getting accustomed to smiling on Sunday. And the nicest part is that the Falcons, who are turning into something of undeniable merit, aren’t at all impressed.

Peterson: “We’re taking it one at a time, trying to pile up as many wins as we can string together.”

Here he smiled. “And we’re 2-0,” he said.

163 comments Add your comment

Panties in a wad

September 20th, 2009
5:58 pm

The Patriots got old and dont scare anyone anymore.

Panties in a wad

September 20th, 2009
5:59 pm

The Falcons arent going up there to kiss their rings either. No cheating = no edge also. Right, Bilicheat?

David

September 20th, 2009
6:01 pm

Go Falcons. Great game today. It seems more and more like the guy we’re watching quarterback our team is soon going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Manning, Montana and Brady. It’s remarkable how far this team has come since Vick went to prison and Petrino skipped town to Arkansas. Great game, Falcons — steal one next week.

Mark Bradley

September 20th, 2009
6:03 pm

It is remarkable, David. It beggars belief.

Bob in SF

September 20th, 2009
6:09 pm

And the Panthers last TD should have never counted. There is going to be some huge call made over the whole “control to the ground” issue this year.

t larry

September 20th, 2009
6:09 pm

Good article MB. Next week should be fun and a good test. TG is the real deal, just need the D to keep coming together.

GO FALCONS !!!!!!!!!!!

jimbob

September 20th, 2009
6:14 pm

is ‘control to the ground’ something new? it always used to be ‘break the plane’. Once the plane was broken, it doesn’t matter what happens thereafter. Either way, it looked like he had the ball until his elbows hit the ground.

Flint

September 20th, 2009
6:15 pm

Great article, Mark. I’m looking forward to next week because the game should really test our meddle.

I’m also quite excited about this season’s start! A buddy and I were talking about our schedule, and how it looked quite plausible that we’d start the season 1-3 (after watching our defense in the preseason.) But now, I don’t think a 4-0 start is out of the question. Certainly 3-1!

Already casting my gaze toward the future, though… is anyone else as freaked out by New Orleans as I am?!

BugKiller

September 20th, 2009
6:19 pm

I wonder how old Noodle Arm is going to do against old 6th Round Draft Pick?

Should be a boring game.

Hehehehe.

Kevin

September 20th, 2009
6:23 pm

I lived in Atlanta for 20 years and sulked through 20 years as a Falcons fan. I made myself watch every game.

I moved to the Northeast a little over a year ago. Of course, during this time, the Falcons become a great team. Now I CAN’T watch the Falcons because they don’t show the games.

Rockaby

September 20th, 2009
6:23 pm

Keys to to the Game is keep the Ball Out of Brady hands and score with long drives.

Mark Bradley

September 20th, 2009
6:25 pm

You know, JimBob, I still haven’t grasped the Tuck Rule, let alone the Control Rule.

Chaseolla

September 20th, 2009
6:29 pm

Good article Mark, can’t wait to hear all the talk about TOM BRADY(yeah I can along w/anchez..) while we Take Care Business, fly under the radar. Whoever has the last possession will win .
Falcons 3-0 and break. What’s up w/ Jerry?

Maxx

September 20th, 2009
6:31 pm

Rosario never had posession. I expect Matt Ryan to have his best game of the season next week

Charlie

September 20th, 2009
6:31 pm

In regards to the last Carolina TD, it appeard that he never really pulled the ball in, it was on his fingertips the entire time. However, it was not evidence enough to overturn the call.

Charlie

September 20th, 2009
6:32 pm

I am just glad New England pulled it off in Buffalo, 0-2 New England would not be a team you want to play.

shawn

September 20th, 2009
6:33 pm

Wow. exciting, that last play was closer than I like to of seen. What is Peria Jerry status Mark? TG is showing me why he is the greatest TE ever, he doesn’t drop a pass, and if he does its pass interference. Bring on NE. I’m into espn power rankings and I think a win in NE give us the number two slot despite there loss today
Matt is the Truth
In Dimitroff and Smith We Trust
A biased season ticket holder
Go Falcons

Maxx

September 20th, 2009
6:34 pm

Kevin- I grew up in Atlanta and have been a Falcons fan since birth. I live in Arizona now and I go to local sports bars every Sunday to watch the birds and I never miss a snap

drew

September 20th, 2009
6:38 pm

We’ve taken care of the Panties, now bring on the Patsies!

And where’s that dunbazz Bad News? Still licking Vick’s jock strap I guess. What a DUMBAZZ! Good game “noodle arm”. Bwah!!!!

DAVID

September 20th, 2009
6:41 pm

I see the Falcons and Carolina turning into a rivalry good game…These aren’t the Patriots of old, their defense and running game is suspect, it won’t be a easy game but I expect us to win… TAKE IT ONE GAME AT A TIME….

dawglover

September 20th, 2009
6:45 pm

I’m the guy whose dad passed 9-10 after a hell of a battle with cancer. That weekend Tech, dawgs, and the falcons won. Braves swept the Cards. He lived here his whole life and loved all sports. I’m pulling for daddy carma this year. He loved the coons most of all. GO FALCONS!!!. Let’s kick around the has been Patriots. By the way everyone call your dad tonight, if you can.

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 20th, 2009
6:51 pm

Probably not a requirement next week in Foxboro (BTW, is Foxboro the Mass. equivilent to Jonesboro?), but more “Beerman” sightings would certainly help the cuase.

Greg Mendel

September 20th, 2009
6:59 pm

I’m going to be in Paris during next week’s game. After today’s game, I’ve thought of canceling the trip. New England may be too much for our young defense. (I don’t know why Carolina did anything but run today.)

Still, the Birds have shown they can play with anybody in the league. Even if they lose, the other team will know it was in a brawl (I almost said “dogfight”). It’s gonna be a tough season, but I’ve followed them since 1966, and they’ve finally gotten to the point that big wins aren’t flukes.

The best combo on the Falcons team — and maybe in the NFL — is Blank-Dimitroff-Smith (and Ryan).

Coop

September 20th, 2009
7:02 pm

Gonna have to do better on D to get a win next week.

Invictus Mon

September 20th, 2009
7:08 pm

I have to say that I was impressed with the offense today. Just solid work up and down. The defense scares me a bit. I’m excited to see how it holds (or how far it bends) when it comes up against the league’s most explosive offenses. For my own edification, does New England’s offense still count as such or is it just the Tom Brady show?

Sage of Bluesland

September 20th, 2009
7:08 pm

Thank goodness our defense is finally being led by a competent linebacker who actually makes an impact on the game (Peterson)…The previous fraud (Brooking) did more community-garbage and off-field things than anything actually ON the field.

Addition-by-Subtraction! The defense is finally fraud-free!

dawglover

September 20th, 2009
7:15 pm

I’m the guy whose dad passed on 6-10 after a hell of a battle with cancer. Dogs, Tech, and the falcons won that weekend. Braves swept the Cards. Could be some daddy carma working this year. Lived here his whole life and loved the falcons best of all. GO FALCONS!!! Kick the overated Pats around. Any everyone who can call your dad tonight.

MikeyD

September 20th, 2009
7:18 pm

The defense is fraud-free with the exception of its coordinator.
VanGoofball is the luckiest moron in the league. Smith does all the work and he gets all of the undeserved credit.
Check how much better the d is playing since the real season began and Smith inserted himself more firmly into game planning on the defensive side.

Barry

September 20th, 2009
7:22 pm

Hey Y’all:

ONE GAME AT A TIME. ONE GAME AT A TIME. The “PROCESS” continues. These FAlCONS are for real, and they will show us “ONE GAME AT A TIME.” THEY WILL DO THIS IS “ONE HEARTBEAT!!!”. These guys are playing “STRONGER” and “STRONGER” each week, on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The special teams are playing great!! They are all playing “TOGETHER” like “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”. The beat is getting stronger. Can you hear it? Can you hear it? THUMP!!THUMP!!! THUMP!!! THUMP!!!!!……Boy, soon I will have to put my hands on my ears since it is getting so “LOUD”.

GO FALCONS!!! KICK THAT PATRIOT BUTT!!!! DO IT IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”:THUMP!!

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

………………………”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!!!……………….

Cocktail Cove

September 20th, 2009
7:22 pm

We covered…Every week is the same thing. Dolphins will be an early test. Carolina, divition winner last year, will be looking for retribution for big lose. New England the untimate test of success after two wins following a play-off year.

GIVE ME A BREAK!!!
New England is the one that has something to prove if you ask me. If you dont ask me then you dont have a clue about this team.
Sec 229 Row 6 seat 9

Tim Hall

September 20th, 2009
7:23 pm

Those uniforms look like a professional football team!!!
Bring them back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Get rid of those ugly arena league uniforms!!!

Trevor

September 20th, 2009
7:25 pm

Im still really worried about the Houston vs Moss matchup…I’m sort of hoping Moss comes down with the Swine Flu or something.

BraveCat

September 20th, 2009
7:28 pm

come on Markie. what kind of choice is that in your poll?!?!?!? As a Braves fan, who just happens to like the Falcons, I just have to laugh @ you sports writers. You get the best seats, the perks, and you still mess w/ the fans. Shaking my head @ you and Schultz. I miss Terrance Moore right now. I guess you hate living in the ATL. Move to NY. Isn’t that what life is all about. Just ask the stupid ESPN idiots.

eddiedawg

September 20th, 2009
7:28 pm

Bad News is a moron. Why does he continue to call Ryan “noodle arm”?? I think it is because he sleeps with a Vick Fathead.

That being said-bring on NE. This team (Atl) has showed some real moxie, and our defense will improve each week. Today was a classic “trap” game and we survived. BTW those uni’s looked great-we exorcised some demons.

Mark-Give us a P Jerry status-we need him.

Todd - Dacula

September 20th, 2009
7:32 pm

Hey David, Mike Vick had nothing to do with the Falcons failures, it was lack of overall talent. As a Falcon Fan and a Vick fan and supported, I want the best for both. I feel that teh Falcons Fans are better served to move on from the Vick situation, much like the Falcon organization has done. There are no excuses and polacing, whatever degree of blame, on Mike Vick does not put wins in the win column. I believe Mr. Vick put a lot of effort in leading the team. His misdeeds had nothing to do with football or the Falcons.

Brad in Jasper

September 20th, 2009
7:35 pm

Doesn’t look good, esp. when the big men fall (ask Sturdivant). Lot of weight on those lower limbs. Keepin our fingers crossed for ya, big guy.

Jerry’s injury a big concern for Falcons

September 20, 2009 7:02 PM

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

I had the pleasure of covering the Carolina-Atlanta game with ESPN.com colleague Len Pasquarelli. Since my background includes a lengthy stint as a beat writer covering Carolina, and Len’s includes an even longer stint as a beat writer covering the Falcons, we stayed true to that in our postgame columns. I wrote about Jake Delhomme and Carolina and Len wrote about Matt Ryan and Atlanta.

But there’s one thing on the Falcons I want to bring up here because it could be hugely significant. The injury to Atlanta rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry did not appear to be a small one. It looked bad at the time and I’ve even heard some rumblings that Atlanta’s pro personnel staff already is looking at available defensive tackles (ask the Panthers, there’s not much out there right now).

We should get stronger word on Jerry’s injury on Monday, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by projecting that he’s at least going to miss some time. This is a major concern because Jerry was off to a nice start.

With Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis as the backup defensive tackles, the Falcons aren’t exactly loaded at this position.

Jeremy Bowen

September 20th, 2009
7:38 pm

A secret from a drunk Falcons fan. I love my co_ns. and go da_wgs

FalconDawg

September 20th, 2009
7:38 pm

Trevor, I absolute agree with you. Our defensive backs are going to have a hard time with N.E’s receivers. I only hope we can generate more of a pass rush than we did today so Brady won’t be able to sit in the pocket and pick off our dbs’.

BufordDawg

September 20th, 2009
7:39 pm

I love watching this team. Tony Gonzalez and Peterson were great pickups. I love the style of football this team plays. It’s great to be a Falcons fan again!

dvj

September 20th, 2009
7:40 pm

please don’t wear those uniform again, it bring back losing thoughts again….

ALB FALCON

September 20th, 2009
7:44 pm

Tuner got it going today! He will be an important part come next Sunday. I hope Norwood is okay, but sneling came in and show that we actually have a three headed monster at running back! GO FALCONS!!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 20th, 2009
7:47 pm

Whats tough to believe as a Falcon fan is that with such diversity on offense, we have perhaps the BEST offense in the entire NFL. That is hard to believe, but with Ryan at QB nothing seems to be out of reach for this team. The Falcons seem to be loaded with weapons.

glc3md

September 20th, 2009
7:48 pm

As as Falcons fan since the beginning, I have suffered through a lot of terrible events. Last year and the first two games this year give me hope. One game at a time. Matty Ice is a great student of the game. As a retired orthopod the violence of the NFL game which terrifies me is balanced by the incredible skill of hundreds of these guys. We have a great GM and a great coach. We have some very fine players. For the first time ever, I have real hope for a solid NFC champ who could win it all with a break or two.

Ted Striker

September 20th, 2009
7:49 pm

My hero, esteemed journalist Mark Bradley has raised the possibility that the Falcons are perhaps a top 10 team — and I believe they are.

Disclosure: Mark didn’t actually SAY they’re a top 10 team, he simply mentioned the idea as a hypothetical for readers to decide themselves.

(Expert journalists occasionally do thangs like that — verbal hedges or hypothetical questions — especially if they recently picked Tech to beat Miami or something).

Top teams aside, Pats win and Falcons lose. Home field advantage. Hope I’m wrong.

G-Man

September 20th, 2009
7:50 pm

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Georgia Fans!!! Remember the 2008 Bulldogs? Expectations are high (as they should be), however, the true accomplishment will be finishing this season with a winning record, and making it past to the first round of the playoffs. Yes, these two victories are high and gives us tremendous momentum, which we’ll need going up to FoxBoro were our beloved Falcons won’t be able to hear themselves think. I foresee Mr. Bill employing the same tactics as Arizona did last year in the playoffs. It will be the greatest challenge of the season, because New England is looking for identity, and it just might be at our expense. Hopefully, we’ll go up their and come back victorious. If not, we’ll have a monsterous game, and continue to build upon that. We have a brutal schedule this season and alot of football left, and no one can be taken lightly, underestimated, and/or overlooked. These two wins were an absolute must. Go Falcons! Truly, this game scares me, but it’s a much needed test. These Falcons are the real deal, but so are the Patroits, the Giants, the Saints (two times this year), the Cowboys…. you get the picture! Matt, Roddy, both Mike(s), and Tony will have to have an impeccable game, not to mention someone stepping up (Michael Jenkins) to have a chance to win. I don’t know about this one guys……

eastbound and down

September 20th, 2009
7:50 pm

i remember when the falcons went 12-4 in 80 and started the next season 3-1. AJC headline, “a city on fire!” well, that team had a key injury and the rest of the season was in ashes. so, this team has a long way to go. i also hate the prevent defense. way to almost lose the game, MikeyD is right.

Sumit

September 20th, 2009
7:59 pm

We got Trey Lewis as a DT… Vance Walker on PS… I think we have enough depth at DT position… if it comes to Worse case scenario.. JA98 could play DT.. he’s 290+ lbs lazy @$$

Mark Bradley

September 20th, 2009
8:00 pm

I say again: I wouldn’t expect Jerry back soon. I really shouldn’t speculate beyond saying that.

Mark Bradley

September 20th, 2009
8:01 pm

Norwood, I think, will be OK, maybe for next week. But that’s me speculating once more.

Rod

September 20th, 2009
8:03 pm

Bradley, you need to pay closer attention or get glasses. Finneran knocked down that pass at the end of the first half. HOWEVER, he did NOT knock down that pass at the end of the game. The DB – #20 (forgot his name) knocked that one down (actually, he poorly swatted it up instead), but it wasn’t Finneran. Shouldn’t a sportswriter know the details?