It’s time for the Falcons to win a playoff game, and they will

Will the rookie Julio Jones make a difference in January? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Will the rookie Julio Jones make a difference in January? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s time to do this. It’s time to win a playoff game before this “Mike Smith/Matt Ryan-can’t-win-a-playoff-game” takes real root. (And it hasn’t yet. Two examples do not a representative sample make.) It’s time for the Falcons to win a playoff game because there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

Who thinks so? Well, here was general manager Thomas Dimitroff, speaking after Thursday’s practice: “Our expectations going into this year were for more than just getting the playoffs. Does that answer you?”

The Falcons didn’t have quite the regular season we or they expected, but they’re here now, in essentially the same position as the Packers were a year ago. The Giants are favored, but only by a field goal, which is the standard home-field allotment. The Falcons had the better record. They’d also seem to have more good players — do you see a Michael Turner on the Giants? A Tony Gonzalez? Anything approaching the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones? — and the numbers second the emotion.

Total defense: The Falcons ranked 12th against the Giants’ 27th.

Passing defense: 20th against 29th.

Rushing defense: 6th against 19th.

Rushing offense: 17th against 32nd.

Passing offense: 8th against 5th.

Total offense: 12th against 10th.

The Falcons ranked in the NFL’s upper half using four of the six measures, the Giants in two. In the two categories that saw the Giants lead, the advantage was negligible. In the four categories that saw the Falcons lead, the advantage was significant.

Giants advocates will suggest that their team changed when the pass rusher Osi Umenyiora got semi-healthy toward season’s end, and the defensive line is the one place where the Falcons suffer by comparison. New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul had 16 1/2 sacks; the Falcons as a team managed only 26. If the Giants sack Ryan a half-dozen times, they’ll win. If they don’t … well, that No. 29 ranking in passing yards yielded doesn’t suggest a team steeped in coverage, does it?

And that last-in-the-NFL-in-yards-rushing metric suggests the home team isn’t going to get ahead and run the ball and eat the clock. Eli Manning will have to keep throwing to keep his team moving. Ryan figures to get more help from his backs. If the Falcons can run it even a bit, that front four will have to gear down.

There’s no reason the Falcons shouldn’t win this game. They have the better defense and the more balanced offense. Stem to stern, they have the more talented roster. And it is, to return to our earlier point, time. This team has been together long enough. We’re approaching prove-it-or-lose-it territory.

Said Curtis Lofton, the superb middle linebacker: “It is [time]. We’re not happy just being here. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl.”

Can this team win the Super Bowl?

Lofton: “I think we can. We’ve got enough talent in here.”

In 2008, when the up-from-misery Falcons went to Arizona and were undone by the 9-7 Cardinals, that team wasn’t ready yet. Last year the Falcons should have been, but one awful Saturday night — the 48-21 loss to the sixth-seeded Packers — all but overrode a 13-3 regular season. But the Falcons went to school on that rout, same as they had on the Arizona loss, and they traded up to draft the rookie Jones, who has made a difference the past month. Just on talent, this team is better than last season’s.

That said, the repeated failures against playoff-caliber opponents — swept by the Saints, beaten at home again by the Packers, beaten on the road by the Texans’ No. 3 quarterback — leaves cause for doubt: Why can’t players this good win big games? And that’s a question that will stay attached to these Falcons until they prove otherwise.

They’re ready to prove otherwise. Some thought the Packers’ victory over Detroit last week did the Falcons a huge service by sending them to New Jersey, as opposed to New Orleans yet again. “I kind of hoped we’d go back to New Orleans,” Lofton said, “especially with the way they did us.”

He meant the Saints letting Drew Brees throw at the end of a rout to break Dan Marino’s yardage record. If anything, that nationally televised indignity rekindled a flame that might otherwise have been doused. The Falcons lost by 29 points to their nemesis, and by rights that should have damaged their self-esteem. But the way the New Orleans game ended only poked at their pride.

The Falcons left New Orleans mad, and they played mad against Tampa Bay last week, and they’ll arrive at the Meadowlands angry enough to do real damage not just in this game but deeper into January. They’ll win Sunday because it’s time for them to win, and before they’re done they might well see New Orleans again.

By Mark Bradley

359 comments Add your comment

Average Joe

January 6th, 2012
11:16 am

FIRST! Falcons will win!

Joe Stephens

January 6th, 2012
11:16 am

Not going to say it!

I believe the Falcons will come out of NY with a win. I am a Saints fan but the Falcons have grown on me since I living in the are for the past 2 years. Hoping Turner runs all over Tuck!

Mister.Earl

January 6th, 2012
11:17 am

The games are not played on paper. This one is played on the road in Met Life which will be swimming in blue and red, with a brisk breeze blowing from the east. Matt Ryan and company will not have stats to play for them.

The Giants defensive line against the Falcons fragile Oline wil be the matchup to watch.

It ain’t that deep.

Mister.Earl

January 6th, 2012
11:18 am

Joe Stephens – two words homeskillet.

JIMMY GRAHAM.

Who Dat.

mike

January 6th, 2012
11:19 am

This one’s for Rob Parker!

Petition Rob Parker

January 6th, 2012
11:21 am

If you all haven’t heard already Rob Parker has severely insulted the city of Atlanta with his article he wrote on ESPN and i have started a Petition to take it down. If you haven’t read it heres the link:
http://espn.go.com/newyork/conversations/_/id/7429623/the-city-atlanta-worst-sports-town-america
Then go to the Petition page to get it taken down:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Petition-Rob-Parker-and-ESPN/124618130989820

Mark Bradley

January 6th, 2012
11:23 am

Average Joe with above-average kudos.

Greg

January 6th, 2012
11:23 am

Mark I don’t know if you saw Rob Parker’s article in espn new york but in it he basically says the falcons don’t deserve the win bc of a lackluster fan base and then goes to bash our fine city and it’s fans the entire article. Just want to know your thoughts on it.

Mark Bradley

January 6th, 2012
11:24 am

I’ve read the article. My comment would be: Who cares? That theme is about as old as I am.

Pete

January 6th, 2012
11:27 am

@Earl – so our O-line is made up of fragile dirt-bags? Got it.

PreyDawg

January 6th, 2012
11:27 am

LOVE IT!! Good Piece Mark! Now I am not about to let the negative, black rain cloud crowd, that is about to descend on this blog ruin my fun. I am pumped about the game. I only wonder…can we run block well enough?? Like you said, we only need to run SOME. I figure we need 4 yards per carry. 1 or 2 yards per carry will sink us. Four yards will open up enough passing opportunities that we will win.

just sayin'

January 6th, 2012
11:27 am

played mad against TB?..looks like they were just playing a down and out team on a 8/9 game losing streak…let’s see how ‘mad’ they play one on the road, outside in a hostile environment….melt will be limping in the 2nd qtr…look for some false starts and some ‘hands to the face’ from the OL just trying to hold off the NY DL…

Greg

January 6th, 2012
11:28 am

Couldn’t agree with you more

PMC

January 6th, 2012
11:28 am

My comment would be, who the F is Rob Parker?

PMC

January 6th, 2012
11:30 am

The fan attitude is that this Giants defense is scary? Really? 25th overall?

What’s so impressive about the Giants defense outside of 3 guys on the DL?

They didn’t matter when they got torched earlier this year. The Giants appear to pick linebackers and secondary staff about as well as the Jones boys, and that’s not good.

Haloscript

January 6th, 2012
11:32 am

I really, really hope you’re right Mark.

The next logical step in the team’s progression is a playoff win, but we’ve seen no evidence that they’re capable of beating the top teams in the league. This Sunday it’s time for that to change.

PreyDawg

January 6th, 2012
11:32 am

@ Mark- Did you see Ryan’s comment in yesterday’s Schultz article? He said something that got me thinking. Something like:

“I just have to make the big play when it presents itself and not try to do too much.”

When you think that over, that is a HUGELY difficult thing to do. I know NFL QB’s do it every year in the playoffs. But it just helped me appreciate how tough a job that is. You have 1 to 2 seconds and a really poor view with all the huge linemen in your way, to see an opening between a receiver and a defender that might be about 1 square feet. And with Justin Tuck breathing down your neck you have to decide in an instant, “Make a play, or hold the ball, or maybe run for a few, or dump it off, or throw out of bounds.”

Is NFL QB the toughest job in sports or what. Maybe Major League closer is almost as tough but there you have more time to contemplate.

Matt deserves the big money he is paid. And he has to make this happen with all kinds of media pressure scrutinizing him. (not you Mark but ESPN and NFL network have been on him some)

boilerup

January 6th, 2012
11:37 am

Just win baby!!

falconsrus

January 6th, 2012
11:37 am

We are going to fight the Giants and win big rise up D #

David

January 6th, 2012
11:40 am

We need to have a TE or RB chip Jason Paul-Pierre. That’s going to be huge. We’ll need to run a lot of draw plays to slow down the pass rush, and Michael Turner has to make the most of every hand off (he needs to average around 4.5 per carry). If we can do that, they’ll have to respec the run, and then we can exploit that secondary.

I’m scared to death of of what that line is capable of, though, given some other games I’ve had to watch this year (mainly the game against Philadelphia, where we — Sam Baker — made Trent Cole look like a modern day Reggie White).

I hope the win. We’re definitely capable, and New York is a team that has followed great games with poor games all season long. They essentially won a two game playoff against the Jets and Cowboys, so hopefully they’re a little drained.

not convinced

January 6th, 2012
11:40 am

Giants with their record don’t deserve the home field.
Can’t let the Giants rush get to Matt.
And some pressure on Eli would be helpful.
Hope the weather is warmer than usual.
The Falcons need to show superiority for us to believe they are Super Bowl bound.

Rickster

January 6th, 2012
11:42 am

Mark Bradley
Live from the Outback: UGA should win this bloomin’ bowl
11:46 am January 2, 2012

Mark Bradley
It’s time for the Falcons to win a playoff game, and they will
11:08 am January 6, 2012

We’re doomed, folks.

brandon

January 6th, 2012
11:43 am

If they win, it’s not because it’s their time. They’re going to have to take this one from a tough Giants team. It seems as though you’re underestimating them. Cruz and Nicks have been just as good if not better than Jones and White. The Falcons have a lot to prove against a good Giants team.

Mark Bradley

January 6th, 2012
11:46 am

Reggie Bush

January 6th, 2012
11:48 am

Giants ain’t that tough. I think Falcons can take em. If the Falcons O-line can block the Giants D-line, the Falcons will win easily because the Giants secondary can’t hold up long enough, and Ryan has too many weapons to exploit the Giants secondary. Ryan gets that ball out quick, and somebody will be open; whether that be Gonzalez, White, Jones, Douglas, etc. Somebody will beat their man and be open for Ryan to deliver the ball. Falcons by 10.

Kim Kardashian

January 6th, 2012
11:49 am

Shut up Reggie! You know Kris Humphries was the better man than you! That’s why he took me! He laid it on me too baby! You drop the ball in football, and you dropped it in bed! Shame on you! Get off these boards!

Rickster

January 6th, 2012
11:50 am

Read that one too, Mark.

But the fact that you had to write a column saying, “Wow! I actually got some things right” does not bode well for the birds. :-)

FalconFan

January 6th, 2012
11:51 am

Bad Bidness

January 6th, 2012
11:58 am

They need to play within themselves, limit mistakes, and it’s a done deal. Go Falcons!

elroy

January 6th, 2012
11:58 am

Bradley you just jinxed the Falcons. Do the city/state a favor & keep your predictions to yourself. You are bad luck for Atl teams.

soon to be 0-3

January 6th, 2012
12:01 pm

The Falcons and their semi-elite QB can’t score TD’s in the playoffs. Sunday won’t be any different. You can’t win playoff games kicking field goals all day.

PMC

January 6th, 2012
12:04 pm

Will Svitek has been a tremendous upgrade over 72.

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:10 pm

The FalCANTS will lose! There is no way on this earth that they are going to beat the Giants. No way. They are a sorry team and with (drop the ball) Roddy White and your over rated quarter back Matt Ryan you will not will this game. hahahahahahahaha! Keep Hope Alive is all I have left to say about this sorry team. :)

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:11 pm

I meant to say you will NOT win this game… :)

Jeff

January 6th, 2012
12:12 pm

“Two examples do not a representative sample make.”

THANK YOU!!! About time somebody in the media said this. I work with statistics every day, and it pains me every time somebody points out that 0-2 record as if it’s proof of something.

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:16 pm

Furthermore it’s going to be freezing cold in New York this Sunday…The high will be about 40 degrees…it wouldn’t matter if it was warm weather, the Falcant’s beat them because the Giants are a real team..hahahahahahahaha! :) I’m going to watch the game just to get a kick out of watching Matt Ryan purposely fall down so nobody can tackle him..he is a whuss! hahahahahahaha! :)

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:17 pm

The Falcant’s can’t beat them…they won’t. It’s going to be fun just to watch them lose yet again to a REAL NFL team…

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:20 pm

J Tuck

January 6th, 2012
12:21 pm

Samantha, silly girl, even I don’t think the Giants can win. Why do you think I was whinning about their line?

Pamela

January 6th, 2012
12:22 pm

The Falcons fans do not support them like they should. Sure the Falcons are a sorry team, but you ’so called’ fans…have you ever wondered why? I don’t care if they lost every single game this season..you should still support them. I am a major/true Saints fan. Always have been and ALWAYS will be and we support our team no matter what. They really appreciate it. It shows on the field. GEAUX SAINTSF! :) :) :)

Samantha

January 6th, 2012
12:24 pm

J Tuck..funny name.. :) any way I KNOW the Giants will beat the FalCANTS because the FalCANTS Can’t play ball..hahahahahahaha! Just wait, watch and see on Sunday how they will lose yet again…hahahahahahahaha! Go Giants! :)

Roaddawg80

January 6th, 2012
12:24 pm

The Rob Parker article maybe the worst article I have ever read by someone at ESPN. It is all over the place. Blaming fans for the Braves meltdown and also why Gonzalez is still the manager. Really?

Also, who cares about the Thrashers. Although I will admit hockey games are actually fun but this is the South. Blame the person who brought hockey to this city.

This article is terrible and funny at the same time. How does he have a job?

dc74

January 6th, 2012
12:25 pm

The Parker article is correct

Johnny Vaught

January 6th, 2012
12:26 pm

Would other position should we expect from home boy? ‘Cons may win on Sunday – but you can forget anything beyond that.

Falcons all the way

January 6th, 2012
12:30 pm

Samantha – go sit on a plunger

J Tuck

January 6th, 2012
12:31 pm

Sam – you didn’t take those drugs I left on the nightstand did you? That wasn’t crack. Even though you sure sound like you’re on it.
Falcons are going to win by 13.:)

J Tuck

January 6th, 2012
12:36 pm

C’mon Sam, don’t you remember how much I was crying after we got humilated by the Redskins at home a few weeks ago. They’re in last place in our division. We can’t beat the teams we’re supposed too. :(

1eyedJack

January 6th, 2012
12:38 pm

“…do you see a Michael Turner on the Giants? A Tony Gonzalez? Anything approaching the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones?”

“Passing offense: Eighth against fifth.”

Well Mark, they must have somebody that can catch the ball.

doug dawg

January 6th, 2012
12:39 pm

all of this is very nice, well-researched, and presented appropriately. sadly, stats don’t win games.

Birdawg

January 6th, 2012
12:40 pm

KOD from Bradley?