November 6, 2012
Where's the love for the Falcons?
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
The Atlanta Falcons knew what was coming, no matter what was going to happen against the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday night.
They knew that even in victory, a disproportionate amount of the post-game focus would be on what’s wrong in Dallas and not what’s good in Georgia.
And boy, were they right.
Apparently, that’s what an 8-0 record gets you in the NFL right now if you aren’t one of the teams with a proven reputation for winning when it counts or a glamour team defined by its dysfunction.
At some point, as Falcons veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez has been putting it for the better part of a week now, the world will have to sit up and take notice of the NFC South leaders. But for now, the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team is just the co-sixth choice in odds to win the Super Bowl by a number of casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
So where’s the love for quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of the not so dirty birds?
Perhaps it’s slow to arrive because in an earlier three-game stretch against league lightweights Carolina, Washington and Oakland in Weeks 4 through 6, the Falcons won by a combined 12 points.
Or maybe it’s tough to be convinced that a team who was destroyed 24-2 by the New York Giants in the opening round of the playoffs last season can be taken seriously for what it does prior to U.S. Thanksgiving. Coach Mike Smith is a regular-season wonder with a record that now stands at 51-21 in this his fifth season as a head coach, all of those games with the Falcons. His playoff record, however, is 0-3.
Quarterback Ryan may be getting better with age (and in fact at times seems more efficient than ever in his still ascending career), but do you really want to place him in a group with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, pick your Manning or Drew Brees right now?
They may be 8-0, but the Falcons are facing one of the lightest schedules in the league based on 2011 wins.
And on the case against them goes.
Sunday’s 19-13 victory over the Cowboys wasn’t necessarily a thing of beauty either, a game in which Dallas was allowed to hang around long enough for a potential comeback. Six times Ryan’s offence stalled in Cowboys territory, settling for a field-goal attempt on each and two of those were misses.
Right out of the coach’s handbook, Smith and his staff are preaching the one-game-at-a-time doctrine while pointing out they’ve done what it takes each week so far. But what about the players? As much as they are trying, it’s harder to bite their tongues as the love is slow to flow their way.
“The more we win, yeah, it’s got to change,” Gonzalez told reporters following Sunday’s game, when asked about the slow to arrive praise. “They’ve got to take notice if we keep doing what we’re doing. Eventually they are going to have to.”
From here on in, quite clearly, the attention is going to increase. The first call has already been placed to Don Shula, the coach of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, a yearly storyline that appears every time a team gets through half a season undefeated.
So what remains? Next up is the first of two against division-rival New Orleans this Sunday in the Big Easy, a game that won’t lack in motivation for the Falcons for a couple of reasons. First, they are 1-5 in their last six visits to the Superdome, but it was the last visit to New Orleans that left the worst taste. A blowout 45-16 loss last season was punctuated when the Saints put Drew Brees back into the game late to break the single-season record for passing yards, even though they had another game in New Orleans the following week.
The rest of the road to perfection isn’t lined with heavyweights either. Until another potential revenge game against the New York Giants on Dec. 16, the Falcons may have just one game against a team with a winning record, that being a road date with Tampa on Nov. 25.
The past two seasons, the Falcons were eliminated in the post season by the team that would ultimately go on to win the Super Bowl. On one hand, that’s an indictment, on the other a hollow consolation. It adds up to a lot of folks waiting to see more before they buy in.
“Is the national media making a big deal about us like they would if it was Philly, Green Bay or New England?,” Gonzalez asked USA Today recently. “No, they’re not.”
Not yet, anyway.