Almost. We aren't there quite yet.
I’d like to believe in the Falcons, but I struggle with it. Even after last night’s win against New Orleans, I’m still on the fence. They’re 11-1 though, and if it’s true that numbers don’t lie, then Atlanta’s got a bunch of truth-tellers on their team.
They’re on the verge of something. The scope of it, nobody can speak on with any authority. Falcon fans included. And yes I know people scoff when they see the word “fan” and “Atlanta Falcons” in the same paragraph, but they have a few die-hards. I know some of them and they’ve been very quiet and respectful (that egg incident notwithstanding). None of them are on Twitter ranting about how good their squad is or how nobody respects them. Nope, none of that. Smart of them to handle themselves appropriately, since, this is a franchise that broke through the barrier of having a winning record in consecutive seasons just two seasons ago.
They have a shaky legacy and people just aren’t conditioned to see them succeed in any kind of major way. Thinking of the Falcons as a joke franchise is a hard habit to break. That being said, the Saints used to be the same way with all that legacy talk. In the many years before they had Drew Brees, this team was a laughingstock, but a Super Bowl title and a bunch of big wins later, and we think of the Saints as a winning franchise. The Falcons can do the same thing. Last night was a step in that direction.
What stood out most, happened after CB Asante Samuels had to sit after hurting his shoulder in the first half, and they brought in guys off the bench to play. Bench CBs don’t usually do well against that Saints offense. But somehow, they forced Brees and that vaunted New Orleans aerial attack into five interceptions. If you want, you can talk about how some of these picks were circumstantial, that the Saints were pressing because of their weak ground game and whatever else. That’s fine. But the Falcons still found a way to win and the defense was at the forefront. In years past, they would have found a way to lose that game. We all know that.
The next step, however, will be substantially harder than beating a broken down team on a November Thursday night. They gotta get that anvil off of their postseason backs. It’s just sitting there, pressing against their spine, holding them back from erecting their posture. Not a single fan has forgotten what happened last year, when the Giants did the equivalent of taking their girlfriend from them in the 7th grade lunchroom. Maybe it was only the first round, but that had to sting like crazy. Them dudes got embarrassed to the tune of 24-2 and it really wasn’t even that close.
That just happened last January. An entire year hasn’t even elapsed yet and so we can all see it easily in our minds. The demons of past failures are in the room with these guys and won’t leave quietly. They’re gonna have to force them out with gusto. That’s the only way. So while we recognize 11-1 as being a stellar mark, they aren’t the first team to get to that record. And the one and done format of the NFL doesn’t allow teams to hide their weaknesses. We still don’t really believe you and you still need a few more people, but we are willing to wait and see before we issue judgment. The stakes are high.