Oh, Thursday Night Football. It really brings out the worst from good teams on such a short week of preparation. Last night, the Atlanta Falcons headed to NOLA on a five game winning streak and — aside from Devonta Freeman — played a terrible game. Why can’t they solve the riddle of The Benz?
I root for the Falcons. I like them, I think Julio Jones is a beast, Roddy White is one of the best receivers of the decade and I love watching Feeeman go. I can never become an Atlanta Falcons fan however, probably because I don’t like predictability. That goes for the Braves, the Hawks and the Dawgs as well. It doesn’t mean my favorite team has to win championships for me to love them (I am a Texans fan, folks, they have never even seen the Super Bowl), but I also like to have the hope that maybe we will surprise people and make a run.
Until the Falcons can go into New Orleans and defeat their biggest rival, I will never buy that they are a championship caliber team.
My friend and travel blogger Amelia said it best last night on social media after yet another upsetting performance.
It’s the same story every year with every sport (in Atlanta) and you know it . We get hyped up because we’re 5-0, 6-0, etc., and we get mad because we get no respect from anyone. Then we rock up to a game that everyone’s watching and look like fools. They’ll always be my team, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about how hard they are to love sometimes.
Matt Ryan was drafted in 2008 and immediately turned around a franchise that was struggling to find its identity. The team was scarred when one of their most beloved players of all-time in Michael Vick made some unwise decisions in his life. Matt Ryan eased that pain and as a rookie, led the team to an 11-5 record. He also lost in New Orleans that season.
In fact, since the Matty Ice Era began, the Falcons are in 2-5 in New Orleans. The first win was in 2010, when the Falcons ripped apart the league to go 13-3 and then get smoked by the Packers in the playoffs. It would take another three years for them to win in New Orleans, and that was last season when the team finished 6-10. Yes, I know, that left them only one game out of winning the division, but was that the team out of all of Matt Ryan’s squads that you Falcons fans hung your hat on as championship bound?
It doesn’t make the Falcons a bad team, and I still think they win this division, but Super Bowl bound? Our own Sportsbook Jesus (who writes two weekly columns at The Nation) said Matt Ryan would be in contention for the NFL MVP this season as the Falcons would be a top the NFC South. He wasn’t alone. But at the end of the day, the Falcons were 5-0 and still getting no love.
Call it a trap game, call it what you will, but the Falcons need to win in NOLA for me to believe that Drew Brees doesn’t own them. Why is New Orleans so important?
Like the Georgia Bulldogs did against Alabama two weeks ago (and in that 2008 “Blackout” game), the Falcons laid a dud to a team they needed to beat. The Saints are the Falcons arch rival, their is a hatred between the two teams like no other. Want proof? Drew Brees is not only an absolute stud, he is one of the greatest men to play the game. He is a hero to a city, and well liked by the nation as someone who plays the game right and serves his community well. And Falcons fans hate him.
This is a game the Falcons need to get up for, they need to completely dominate the Saints to prove that they can truly Rise Up to the occasion. That was the beef on Mike Smith. He couldn’t get these guys prepared for the big game (and no understanding of clock management), as was evident in that Packers 2010 playoff loss.
There were six undefeated teams in football heading into last night. Everyone here in Atlanta was furious that they weren’t getting any love, that they weren’t being taken serious. Think about your two prime time games that everyone in the nation watched.
That opener on Monday Night was scary. The Eagles exposed the fact that if you get immense pressure on Matty Ice, he crumbles and the Eagles nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback, completely owning the second half. Last night, in front of the nation, needing to pummel a Saints team — a then 1-4 Saints team with little NFL talent on it — to prove they were contenders. Instead, they were embarrassed, but even worse, they now let the Brees-led Saints believe they still have hope in this season. That’s a scary thing.
You can call me a hater, you can say I know nothing about the Falcons, but this is the bitter truth. Until they show me they can dominate their biggest rival on their home turf, there is simply no way I can buy that this team can get amped up enough to perform in sports single biggest event of the year.