Our weekly Heat Check concerns itself with a team that started hot and then changed its nickname to the Polar Bears. I believe you know of whom I speak.
The Falcons’ offense: It had 145 yards and 14 points on its first two possessions; it managed 106 yards and no points on the next seven. Heat Index: Remember the Batman villain Mr. Freeze? That’s Mike Mularkey’s new nickname. (The previous one was the less evocative “Double M.”)
The Falcons’ defense: It held a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers without a touchdown for 41 minutes. Should have been good enough to win. Heat Index: Given that the Packers scored a touchdown roughly every 41 seconds when they played here in January, I’d say Brian VanGorder is on a hot streak.
Matt Ryan: Reversed the usual Matty Ice routine Sunday night — started fast, finished slow. Heat Index: Against a team like the Packers, the requirement is to start hot and stay that way. Fail.
Roddy White: Caught a touchdown early. Dropped another pass late that became an interception. Heat Index: Seven drops in five games make the All-Pro receiver the new Brooks Conrad.
Julio Jones: Caught one pass. Ran one reverse. Left with a hamstring injury. Heat Index: A chilly autumn night for the torrid rookie.
Dunta Robinson: Signed for $57 million over six seasons, with nearly half of that sum guaranteed. In 20 games as a Falcon, he has been credited with nine passes defensed; he also has more NFL-levied fines (two) than interceptions (one). Heat Index: Remember when fans were screaming, “We need a No. 1 cornerback in the worst way”? That’s pretty much what the Falcons got.
Arthur Blank: He told me after the game, “We’re working on it. We’ll be fine.” Heat Index: The sickly look on his face made me want to put my hand on his forehead and say, “Mr. Blank, do you have a fever?”
Tyson Clabo: The right tackle had a holding penalty that killed one drive and a hands-to-the-face penalty — both were against the long-haired linebacker Clay Matthews — that quashed another. Heat Index: When your RT moves you backwards faster than your high-priced skill people can propel you forward, your offense is officially housed in Antarctica.
Mike Smith: The coach offered a fairly frosty response when someone — okay, yours truly — asked if the Falcons need to reconsider how their offense is being called. “It’s my responsibility to see that the plays going in give our players the best chance to succeed,” he said. “I take full responsibility for that, and no one else.” Heat Index: Kudos to Smitty for being a stand-up guy, but let the record show that he’s not the offensive coordinator. Although maybe he needs to be.
The Atlanta Falcons: From Sept. 13, 2010, through the day after Christmas, they were 12-1. They’re 3-5 since. (And that’s if you don’t count exhibition games. If you do, they’re 3-9.) Heat Index: To borrow a song title from Little Feat, they’re “Cold, Cold, Cold.”
By Mark Bradley