Falcons-Eagles: It’s a mighty big early game for the local Birds

The new season opened pretty much the way the last one ended. (AP photo)

Rats! The new season opened pretty much the way the last one ended. (AP photo)

It’s not quite a “must-win” — last I checked, only Georgia has those — but Sunday night is mighty big for the folks headquartered in Flowery Branch. The Falcons spent the offseason trying to get past the egregious playoff loss to Green Bay, and now there’s another egregious loss to, ahem, process. And here, bang on cue, comes Michael Vick and his Dream Team.

In the attempt to explain how a No. 1 seed could lose 48-21 on its home field, some have suggested that the 2010 Falcons hadn’t beaten anybody en route to 13-3. Not true. They beat the Saints in the Superdome. They beat Tampa Bay, which finished 10-6, here and there. They beat the Ravens. Heck, they even beat the Packers. But the egg laid that Saturday night in January was of such dinosaurian magnitude as to make everything that came before seem suspect if not phony.

And then: 30-12 on Opening Day in Chicago, the offense managing zero touchdowns. To lose again wouldn’t ruin the Falcons’ season — the pros do play 16 games, let’s recall — but it would give wings to the notion that the Falcons, for all their purported talent, aren’t quite as good as we’d like to think. (I include myself in this. I picked them to go 12-4, but I didn’t have them losing to the Bears. I did, however, have them losing to Philadelphia.)

There’s no reason this shouldn’t be a championship-level team. It doesn’t have all the pieces — with free agency and the salary cap, no NFL team does — but it has just about as many as anybody else. What I questioned last season, and question still, is whether an organization that hasn’t won a Super Bowl can rightly see winning a Super Bowl as its manifest destiny. (I know, I know: There’s a first time for everything or else the Saints wouldn’t have seized the Lombardi Trophy two seasons ago.)

But hear me out. Of the big names on this roster, not one has been part of a Super Bowl victory. Matt Ryan and Roddy White and Curtis Lofton and Brent Grimes haven’t played in any other organization. Tony Gonzalez came from Kansas City, which hasn’t won a Super Bowl since Hank Stram and his offense of the ’70s. John Abraham came from the Jets, who haven’t won one since Joe Willie Namath. Michael Turner came from San Diego and Dunta Robinson from Houston and Ray Edwards from Minnesota, and those franchises have never worn an NFL crown.

Indeed, there are but two men on this roster who’ve been part of a Super Bowl winner — backup quarterback Chris Redman, who was a rookie when Baltimore won in 2000, and newly signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was with the Colts when they won in 2006. Fifty-three Falcons, two rings.

And sometimes I wonder if that’s the only flaw in Thomas Dimitroff’s grand design. He has a ring from his days as a New England scout, and Mike Smith won a ring as a Baltimore assistant, but I wonder if there’s enough championship wisdom among players.

OK, who wins?

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When Rick Sund arrived as the Hawks’ general manager, he and I had an extended conversation about the need, when a young team reaches a high level, to go add a James Posey. (Part of the Heat’s 2006 NBA title run, Posey had just helped the Celtics to the 2008 championship.) While stipulating that basketball and football are fundamentally different games, I wonder if it’s time — past time, even — for Dimitroff to find his James Posey.

The Falcons have become such a smooth-running operation that, when egregious losses occur, the knee-jerk response is to say things run too smoothly. I’m not sure this is true — the speak-no-evil Smith we hear in news conferences bears little resemblance to the impassioned Smitty on display behind closed doors — but it would be shame for a team of such precise design and surpassing talent not to realize how close it is to the big prize.

Beating Philly in Week 2 won’t give the Falcons a bye into Super Bowl XLVI. It would, however, hand the Falcons a compelling reason to believe. They could use one of those right about now.

By Mark Bradley

146 comments Add your comment

wardawg

September 15th, 2011
12:13 pm

MatthewH

September 15th, 2011
12:15 pm

Well thank goodness you’re not making this about a former QB vs a current QB

NagoyaFalcon

September 15th, 2011
12:17 pm

Mark Bradley

September 15th, 2011
12:18 pm

Kudos, wardawg.

MatthewH

September 15th, 2011
12:19 pm

I don’t know that they need a veteran who has won; I think they need to have the attitude that it is there for them to grab. When the playoffs roll around, I don’t see a lot of fire. I know these are professionals and they shouldn’t need any extra motivation, but they need to get angry and snatch the trophy from teams that might “deserve” it or who “have been there before”.

MatthewH

September 15th, 2011
12:21 pm

I also think it is interesting that we are “complaining” that things might be ruuning too smoothly (as you said) for the Falcons. Quite a change from the days of Mora and Petrino, huh?

NagoyaFalcon

September 15th, 2011
12:24 pm

Anyway, I believe. Why not? After last weeks debacle, it kind of brought things to focus. This is just a game. Now I want to approach it like I did all those times when I was a kid, watching Bartkowski and company. Most of the time they lost, but they did have a couple years, one almost magical. I think I’ve been too much a fair-weather fan in my adulthood. Time to shed that and be more the kid again. And who knows, we will probably win. It is Vick. Ryan has proven he is the bigger winner.

Dear Coach

September 15th, 2011
12:32 pm

Falcon fans are still waiting on some “explosiveness” on offense.

Paul

September 15th, 2011
12:32 pm

The Falcons have NEVER beat Reid’s Eagles. This game will not be close.

Willy

September 15th, 2011
12:41 pm

I’m waiting for Schultz to make a post that is simply titled Vick, then just open it up for comments.

Dawglasville

September 15th, 2011
12:43 pm

We have played well at home (minus the Green Bay game). Hate that we are getting Vick so early in the season. I’ve stopped being optimistic about any team I pull for. Either way, we’ve got at least another two weeks of Vick talk. Wish all of the Vick lovers/Vick haters had their own website. I really like what the man has become, but it is hard to enjoy it. Go Birds but I think Reid is going to eat us up.

B

September 15th, 2011
12:50 pm

Didn’t Vi-k force a collie to a life or death battle with a pit bull? Sociopathic if you ask this black guy. Running Turner will win this game.

B

September 15th, 2011
12:51 pm

MV7 did a fantastic job with the Q&A posted on the site. Sounds like he has matured. Still a sociopath though.

DetroitBraves

September 15th, 2011
12:54 pm

Has that ever been studied? I mean, the role past championship experience, particularly from other organizations, has on realizing present day aspirations? It could be. If it has I don’t know the results, so I’ll refrain from denouncing this theory. It may play a role. However, I have to think that the most important thing is to have the better players and then for the coaching staff to put those players in the best position to win given their collective skills. I think that team beats the team with rings.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

September 15th, 2011
12:55 pm

This is a bigger game for the Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator. We have the players to win this game if the coaching staff does its job. The Atlanta Falcons offense was the only team of 32 teams not to score an offensive touchdown last week. This falls on the shoulders of the OC.

DetroitBraves

September 15th, 2011
12:59 pm

Should add that nothing that has transpired the last couple of season, even with a 13-3 campaign, makes me believe the Falcons are that better team. What they appear to be is a good enough team to win enough games to make a strong run for the playoffs, and once there a good enough team to perhaps take advantage of small sample sizes. So not favorites, but it also means they aren’t the 2010 Seahawks, where the disparity was too great to pull off multiple upsets.

mountain_jim

September 15th, 2011
1:00 pm

Another vote that it is the coaching staff, scheming, play-calling, and in-game adjustments that are on trial in this game and season.

After last week, it looked like none of the above changed since the playoff loss last year.

(Reid laughs demonically as he cooks up this year’s surprises for the Falcons, who plan to do exactly what they always do)

FalconFan

September 15th, 2011
1:04 pm

Ken Herrock

September 15th, 2011
1:04 pm

1998: Here’s to you Mr. Robinson.

FalconFan

September 15th, 2011
1:07 pm

Haters can’t wait for us to lose so they can hope on here. What a shame.

Willy

September 15th, 2011
1:15 pm

@ Mountain Jim, you’re as wrong as usual. Turner ran the ball 10 times last week, so you can’t really say it was the same old game plan. Nor was it the same old results, because last week they lost – something they only did 3 times in the regular 2010 season, with that grind it out offense that so many people hated. I loved it, and think it was a mistake for Atlanta to try and outgun opponents. Hopefully, they’ll get back to their clock eating ways, beat defenses down, then hit them deep.

Matt Ryan's Dad

September 15th, 2011
1:15 pm

Great article Mark! I wish BVG was as aggressive as Monte was with the Bucs. The Bucs always seemed to have Vick’s number when he played for us. If BVG insists on using his “bend not break” strategy, the Dome may be empty by halftime.

atlppal

September 15th, 2011
1:17 pm

0-2 for the Dirty Birds!! 7-9 Season….. back to the drawing board!! lol

atlppal

September 15th, 2011
1:19 pm

Enter your comments here

LT

September 15th, 2011
1:20 pm

Dinosaur..Players play the game, Remember Ryan, as the option of changing plays at the line..I would like to know how many calls did he make, and why he didn’t throw deep down field…

T-Bone

September 15th, 2011
1:22 pm

Throw the ball downfield. Just outscore ‘em.

Fish Bisch

September 15th, 2011
1:23 pm

I almost do not want to watch this game. I know deep down in my heart that when Vick/Eagles score the dome is going to errupt. It will seem more like an away game than home game like it did 2 years ago.
Sad.

atlppal

September 15th, 2011
1:23 pm

Mattie De-ICE is OVERRATED!!! Hit him in the mouth a few times and you get what you got against the Bears!!

Eric C.

September 15th, 2011
1:31 pm

Paul, completely different teams now, but you forgot that the Falcons beat Reid’s eagles in a MNF game in 2005. A win in this game could propel the Falcons the way that winning in NO did last season.

Every time Ryan changes the play at the line...

September 15th, 2011
1:32 pm

… the announcers tell us that, and every time he gives the ball to Turner – EVERY TIME…

Every time Ryan changes the play at the line...

September 15th, 2011
1:35 pm

…and,, oh yeah, every timeTurner is stacked up for no gain or a loss…seems like either Ryan has no clue as to what play will work, or Mularky has not given him anything with which to work…thus, they go from one bad play to a worse play…EVERY TIME…

Herschel Talker

September 15th, 2011
1:38 pm

MB:

Stop comparing the Falcons to Georgia.
Georgia has Mark Richt who is as incompetent a coach as has ever
been on the sidelines. The Falcons at least have hope. Georgia has lost all hope.
The only hope is that Georgia will make the right decision soon and
give Richt the pink slip.

HT

**Frederick (Bailey) Douglass

September 15th, 2011
1:39 pm

Bradley,

This may the realest &@$)& you ever wrote! (hip hop reference).

P.S. More should be made of how Mularkey had ALL offseason to prepare for a Bears team that returned the same coaching staff…only to score 0 TDs. Film is available…I would love to hear his explanation.

atlpaddy

September 15th, 2011
1:54 pm

Let’s hit Mike Vick a couple of times and end the Eagles season.

section 333

September 15th, 2011
1:58 pm

@paul….yeah 1-6 vs eagles in last 7…only win?…..nationally televised prime time home opener in the dome in 2006….here’s to 2-6!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

September 15th, 2011
1:59 pm

“Of the big names on this roster, not one has been part of a Super Bowl victory.”

Just out of curiosity, what big name players on the Packers were part of a Super Bowl victory? I can’t think of any off the top of my head — Charles Woodson came close but got done in by the tuck rule. Maybe one of their linemen has been around since 1997, but I doubt it.

section 333

September 15th, 2011
2:00 pm

*2005 that is….i was there…just a lil wasted to remember

Najeh Davenpoop

September 15th, 2011
2:04 pm

“”I wonder if it’s time — past time, even — for Dimitroff to find his James Posey.”

If anything I think it’s the opposite. The Falcons have plenty of James Poseys who play their role well. They don’t have enough LeBrons who can singlehandedly change a game with a big play. Getting Julio Jones was a step in the right direction, if they can take advantage of his explosiveness. The defense, to me, still lacks a real Polamalu-like playmaker other than Abraham. The Packers have several players like this (Matthews, Raji, Woodson). So do the Eagles, and so did the Patriots when they were winning multiple Super Bowls.

SirReal

September 15th, 2011
2:08 pm

I hope we do something Mark. This would make a HUGE statement with a win and an even bigger one if we lose. I hope we shed this whole dunkin donuts mentality. Whats that you ask? Dunkin= our offense and ryan’s passes donuts= our defense and its many holes.

@UrethraFrankln

September 15th, 2011
2:09 pm

Mularkey and Van Gorder. That’s who will decide this game.

…and can we please finally pull the plug on the stumbling, bumbling Dunta Robinson project and admit it was a failed experiment? That guy has done nothing but get torched and not make plays since we threw him a pile of money.

swatguy

September 15th, 2011
2:10 pm

Some of you are looking thru homerism. Matty Meltdown is now the 4th best QB in the division. The Falcons (especially with Mularky) are in deep trouble. And worst we have NO backup QB.

KBP

September 15th, 2011
2:20 pm

IF they lose, starting 0-2 is not a season ender. The first 2 games are conference games not division games. Falcons still can win the division. Losing tie-breakers in the conference is less damaging than losing the division. Teams go on the road in the playoffs and win all the time. Let’s not panic IF the Falcons lose Sunday night. I hope Vick puts up Brady’s numbers from Monday night and lose by 1 point. I hope the day comes when the Eagles and Falcons play and it is no longer about Vick vs Ryan. I am glad we have Ryan and I am very happy for Vick. Let’s just enjoy watching them compete.

KBP

September 15th, 2011
2:23 pm

AJC, am I blocked?

Mr C.

September 15th, 2011
2:23 pm

Bradley, i think Dimitroff is one of the most overhyped GM and u are one of the journalists that jeep overstating his influence. Apart from Ryan, can u tell us which good/great player Dimitroff has drafted. The jury is still out on Ryan. Dimitroff has gone through four drafts. Yesterday, u ripped Rich Mckay. Which young player that Dimitroff drafted has the potential to be a star for years . Is it Chris Owens, Decoud, Moore, Baker, Sidbury, Hawley, Douglas? And please don’t tell me Julio Jones. We gave up the entire draft for one guy. How’s the o-line and secondary looking? How can a GM overlook his entire secondary after getting shredded last playoffs. BTW, the packers are coming to town soon.

KBP

September 15th, 2011
2:29 pm

IF we lose Sunday night, it is not a season ender. Being 0-2 with conference losses is less damaging than division losses. Losing tie-breakers is not as damaging as losing the division. We can still win the division. Teams go on the road in the playoffs and win all the time. I hope Vick puts up Brady numbers from Monday night and the Eagles lose by 1 point.

Jimmy Crack

September 15th, 2011
2:32 pm

Mark, Mike Smith is the #1 cause of narcolepsy at press conferences and radio interviews…

Q: Coach, can we expect more explosive plays from our offense this week?
A: Well, uh, Mark, we’ve got to play four quarters this week.
Q: What about Vick, Coach? Will our defense try to keep him in the box?
A: Well, uh, Michael is a fine football player. We will have to play our best.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

FYI, James Sanders wasn’t a Super Bowl winner but almost, and he had the best seat in the house for the David Tyree catch. Since that throw was a wounded duck, if James had taken a direct line to the receiver instead of protecting the end zone he would have made a Tyree sandwich with Harrison and possibly jostled the ball loose. Shouldacouldawoulda.

David

September 15th, 2011
3:10 pm

This game will come down to how the coordinators call everything. If we continue with this “dink and dunk” approach, the same approach Falcons’ fans are ready to rip their hair out if they see again, then we’ll more than likely lose this game.

I don’t know if it’s Mularkey (who I have little faith in) or Matt Ryan (who I have a lot of faith in), but one of them has to shed this fear of throwing the deep ball. I heard a quote after the Chicago game that “the wide receivers were well covered,” but when you have two big, fast wide receivers to throw to, often times they can be well covered and still be the guy to come down with the ball. There are very few plays in the NFL when the wide receiver is wide open, and Mularkey and Ryan have to start having some faith in the receivers’ ability to go up and grab a jump ball.

If we air it out and mix in the run, I think we can win this game. If we continue to run the ball, run the ball, throw the 4 yard hitch route, run the ball, dump pass, then yes, we’ll surely go home a loser. And I, like any other true Falcons fan, am scared out of my mind of seeing a game where the Dome erupts everytime the visiting team scores.

reebok

September 15th, 2011
3:31 pm

let’s think about it…falcons lost to the saints last year when winning would have given them the division title…then they beat (if memory serves) the carolina panthers…then they got crushed by green bay, at home, after 2 weeks’ to prepare…then lost 4 straight exhibition games…then got embarrassed by the bears. how’s this for a thought: the falcons are not very good.

Terrell

September 15th, 2011
3:36 pm

Paul

You’re wrong. In 2005 the Falcons beat the Eagles the first game of the season. This was Jim Mora’s 2nd year coaching the Falcons. Remember that fight that broke out at the start of the game that got Kevin Mathis and Jeremiah Trotter ejected?

Nativebird

September 15th, 2011
3:38 pm

it took A.Rogers 6 years of “development”, 3 of which was sitting. As much as I love Matty Ice, he isn’t quite a great enough QB yet to simply “will” it to happen. he needs big time help, and simply MUST learn how to win more on the road. He’s atrocious away from the dome.