Once a doubter, I’ve become a Falcons believer

Atlanta Falcons fans cheer during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

A good time was had by these folks. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

TAMPA — They’ve got it going. They’ve kept it up too long for this to be a fluke on the order of, say, last season’s 5-0 start. They’ve held up against a rough schedule. They’re 6-3 having played in Oakland, Denver and Seattle. They lead their division by 2 1/2 games. They’re becoming what Dan Quinn hoped they’d be, which is fast and furious across the board.

Asked after Thursday’s 43-28 thrashing of Tampa Bay — the Buccaneers scored the final eight points, FYI — how good his Falcons are, Dan Quinn offered this: “Offensively we’re playing very well. Special-teams-wise, we’ve got to get rid of some of the penalties that are jamming us up. Defensively our tackling’s improving, our speed’s improving. Through the first nine games, we’ve had more big plays (against the defense) than we’d like. We can for sure improve in the red zone on both sides.”

Then this: “As far as the whole team goes, they’re a very tight-knit group and they love battling for one another.”

As reluctant as I am to spread the cliche contagion, this set of Quinn platitudes nonetheless bears the ring of truth. The Falcons are playing hard and well. They’re not as talented as the team this coach left in Seattle, but the best part of the Falcons’ near-miss at CenturyLink Field on Oct. 16 was that there appeared two Seattles — one that set the mold, another that’s trying its best to replicate it — on the field that Sunday.

Here Thursday, there was only one team worth a fig. The Falcons lost to the Bucs 31-24 on Sept. 11. This game bore no imprint of that. Tampa Bay is falling to pieces. The Falcons are playing for a postseason bye. After the first meeting, Quinn had said his team was better-equipped in every way than it had been a year ago. At the time, I scoffed. I scoff no more. (As events unfold, opinions evolve.)

I’ve gone from — being honest here — doubting everything about the Falcons to believing DQ and Co. are really and truly on to something. Yes, even Kyle Shanahan. Especially Kyle Shanahan.

Matt Ryan has never been better. Said Quinn: “He’s got a real locked-in look to him.” And it’s not just Ryan throwing to Julio Jones, though that’s always there if needed. This is Ryan throwing to everybody — Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Levine Toilolo, Pat DiMarco, the Cleveland castoff Taylor Gabriel, even to a last-string tight end named Joshua Perkins. (Ryan overthrew him by a hair Thursday night and Perkins wound up juggling and then dropping what should have been a touchdown. Still … Joshua Perkins!)

Quinn again: “The amount of guys we can get involved is a big topic for us.”

Mike Smith, once the Falcons’ head coach and now Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, had no answer for anything the Falcons tried Thursday. They finished with 461 yards. They scored 22 points on their first four second-half possessions. They did not punt. They made one turnover. This would have been stunning stuff, except that they’ve come to do it every game.

The defense wobbled early — it can do that — but steadied as it went. It can also do that. It did something similar against Green Bay last week. The Falcons have 21 sacks on the season, two more than they had all last season. They’re getting there.

I don’t know if this is a Super Bowl team. I am convinced it’s a playoff team, and it’s getting better as it goes. If this sounds as if a doubter has become a convert … well, there’s a reason. I have.

Reader Comments 0

64 comments
DMac57
DMac57

Believe in the FALCOONS?!!  Are you insane??  They've been disappointing fans for FIFTY YEARS and they have not changed their ways.

kode
kode

like Victor explained I'm dazzled that people able to profit $9827 in 1 month on the internet . 

www.extra.jobss1.comᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ

TOJacket
TOJacket

Matty Ice.....2016 MVP!!

LetsgoallthewayATL
LetsgoallthewayATL

Why do people keep saying Matt Ryan has not won a playoff game? Are you new fans? We beat the Seahawks in the playoffs with Ryan. We should have beat the Niners but that's another story...

Iceyjet211
Iceyjet211

1 of the only teams to beat legion of doom n playoffs....... well see them again n po... and ii hope they're ready

DoubleSubject
DoubleSubject

I'm just not buying it yet, Mark. Sure, they've shown some resilience over the past many weeks, but I've always (and continue) to have my doubts about Ryan. This team makes the playoffs, but are beaten by a top-teir team early. The glass remains half empty.

Happy_Smith
Happy_Smith

Ya see what a threat of bring Jerry Sandusky to town can do!

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

I am a believer as well. This team is playing for a first round bye. Maybe home field advantage? Even read on ESPN somewhere that Matt Ryan is MVP so far. Rise up time.

GTDano
GTDano

Unless there's a big drop-off or a word I refuse to use (makes him physically unable to play), Matty Ice WILL win the MVP. Heck, we're 9 games in! What he's doing is Brady-esque, except for not being suspended 4 games. Like him or not, with P. Manning gone, Brady's the best current QB playing, in terms of his career. What Ryan is doing, statistically, and with the team winning games, is incredible! He could set some all-time records this season.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

Thumbs UP, get ready to watch this defense grow up more every year and players who are wanting to come fit in in Atlanta

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

Wentz dinks and dunks.  Get ready for a lot of underneath routes next week.  #22 will get a chance at a lot of big hits.  

GTDano
GTDano

#22 does bring the lumber, doesn't he?! Love it! I'm also very impressed with #45 and how he is a terrific run-stopper as well as having the speed to be a good coverage LB on Russian. Noticed a play last night where he was stride-for-stride against a Tampa RB 25 yards down field, causing Winston to throw the ball out of bounds.

TOJacket
TOJacket

PB ...that should very entertaining!...KeKe can Kill Kill.

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

Who cares?

This is the south and specifically this is Georgia.  The only thing that matters are The Dawgs.  

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Embarrassing??

You mean because we've embarrassed you for 13 of the past 15 years?

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@bigmacondawg Apparently you care enough to post here.  Jealous of the attention the Falcons are getting, i see.  Typical UGAg fan.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@bigmacondawg That's a pity. So you're saying the only thing in Georgia that matters hasn't been relevant since Reagan's first term. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

Bigmouthdawg....go buy a BeeGee's album and watch some Herschel tapes...you guys are embarrassing.

E983
E983

I enjoyed watching the Bucs defense grabbing their pants last night. Matt Ryan wore em out. The Falcons defense seemed to take over late in the second quarter and the final points by the Bucs offense in the final seconds were trash points. Now let's see what they do Sunday week with Wentz's offense and the defense in Philly.

GuyOnThisSite
GuyOnThisSite

Two Seattles? Bull. Our offense has long been superior to Seattle's, and our D has never even been close to theirs. Not really like Seattle at all.

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@GuyOnThisSite  The defense is looking a lot more like Seattle's. Keanu Neal = Kam, Trufant = Sherman. The LB'ers will get better and Beasley / Jarrett as well. Just need to find that Earl Thomas, the defense is so young and will get better but the pieces are coming together.

jerunamo
jerunamo

Seriously people.... Know your Falcons history. Until we get passed the NFC championship, I'll remain skeptical. Read this same book before.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BTC @jerunamo

You're both correct: (1) It is "past," and (2) skepticism is wise at this early stage of an ATL team's season. 

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@jerunamo  What does the past have to do with the now? Did the Cubs team that won the World Series this year have anything to do with Cubs teams of old? This the Cavs team that won the NBA Championship this year have anything to do with Cavs teams of old? New regime, new players, new Falcons.

GTDano
GTDano

I'm 55 and have been watching the Falcons since I was 5. My Dad (RIP) was a huge fan. So, while we've all seen some good things and a lot of heart-breaking & bad things, there's something special about this version of the Falcons I've never seen before. Starting with Arthur Blank, the passionate, do-whatever-it-takes owner (which we've NEVER had before) who demands excellence in the front office, add having a young-ish Head Coach that's a Defensive genius who's proving that he has what many successful Coordinators don't - the ability to potentially be a great HC, and, finally, giving an imaginative Offensive Coordinator the players who have the specific skills to make his "scheme" work = An excellent NFL organization. As opposed to the comparisons to the Seattle defense, I think the better comparison is to the Patriots as an organization: Owners are similar, HCs are similar, QBs are similar and, even though we only have 2 years to evaluate, the ability to bring in players (young & old) who have specific roles and contribute very well within the system. Finally, this team seems to be so tight, so together. I truly believe that we are watching the beginning of a long-term, consistently successful team that will be a threat to win the Super Bowl for many years to come. It all sounds like the Braves during their 20-year reign of excellence. IMO, of course...

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TheMatr1x

The past has everything to do with the present. ATL teams still have not developed a winning, championship "culture"--thanks largely to their miserable postseason failures of THE PAST.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTDano

When did you hire on with the Falcons?

How many PLAYOFF wins do the Falcons have since Blank assumed ownership?

Hello? Still there?

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@DawgNole @TheMatr1x There was no championship culture before Belichick and Tom Brady in New England. There was no championship culture before Tito and Epstein arrived in Boston for the Red Sox. That is all BS, the past has nothing to do with now.

Tallcarl
Tallcarl

@TheMatr1x I agree with you and the others on here, this is a very good young team. Growing and getting better, Don't even exchange text with these losers, haters on here. I am sure these fans are wearing their new Cubs shirt today. Next year a new shirt and team (current years champs) so I for one don't want their sour support or bandwagon opinions. In fact even the Dog fans on here wish the others would never write a blog. They make the rest of us look ignorant.

Tallcarl
Tallcarl

@GTDowner Please do us all a favor, your team lost again and even you BBall team is going to be a bottom feeder so please go ahead and complete something in your miserable life; jump off the back of the stadium.

grumpster
grumpster

Lots of offensive changes from last year.  Matt is in the pocket more.  Last year, not so much.  Matt gets to read the defense and audible if necessary.  Last year, not so much. 

The offense is playing a lot of up tempo.  Last year, not even close. 

It looks to me like Shanahan was forced to adapt his system - and even I like his zone blocking scheme - to what Matt Ryan does best.  It shows.

falconfever
falconfever

Being an Auburn guy I loved seeing that jet sweep.  I bet they have some more new plays  in the works.  Fun to watch that offense. Offensive line did great last nite/ Kept Ryan upright pretty much.

Take care of Philly in 10 days and then a bye. perfect timing.


Rise UP!!!!!

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

Imagine upgrades at guard on the offensive line along with another off-season of upgrades on the defense...the team should be set up for another playoff window similar to 2008 to 2012. 

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

People on these blogs have been slaughtering Dimitroff  for a long time, so he deserves his due. He acquired Mack, Sanu and this unknown batch of wickedly fast WR's for the offense, and drafted Hooper as well, who could be a good one. On defense, he is remolding everything around, speed, speed and more speed- including the nickel back, there were FOUR starters on defense last night from the last draft, and Vic Beasley from the year before is becoming a terror.


Critics- stand up and give Quinn, Shanahan, and particularly Dimitroff a hand.

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

@RoyalDawg No....if the narrative was correct in that he was selecting the players Mike Smith wanted then DQ deserves way more credit....his draft bungling contributed to wasting two years in 13 and 14 of Matt's prime

Chill
Chill

@RoyalDawg I believe Dan Quinn has been the defacto GM for the past two seasons. Dimitroff picking better players while aligning with Quinn's arrival isn't a coincidence.

GTDano
GTDano

Considering all of the comments to your post, I believe D'trov deserves credit for working well WITH D. Quinn. D has abilities, but the combo of him with Quinn is proving to be awesome. DQ knows what he wants and D'trov does deserve credit for helping Quinn get what he wants. IMO, the entire front office has done a terrific job over the last 2 years. I can't wait to see what the near future holds!

GTDano
GTDano

Screwed up using "D'trov" so many times. Guess I've got Russia on the brain, since they've "altered our election w/ their computer hacking". Yeah, right...

Btown3
Btown3

Bandwagon? I've been a fan for over twenty some years. I've been disappointed so many times, so I take each game one at a time. I'm still concerned about the defense, but I think they are improving each game. Too many red zone touchdowns. Yes Matt Ryan is playing his best football, but we have a long season to go. I'm a believer SuperBowls are won with defense, and I'm little concerned about the mental part on defense. We have a bunch of rookies, and sometimes there are mental lapses. Can't have that in the playoffs, if they make it. We saw how the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, etc., were years ago. Good offenses, but couldn't win in the big games. I like what I'm seeing from the offense, but this next half of the season will show all of us if this team is ready for primetime. Even with that, remember Matt Ryan still hasn't won the big games, (Playoffs).

One game at a time for me!!! One game at a time!!!

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@Btown3 In past years, maybe the "defense wins championships" mantra has rung true.  Not anymore.  With the rules changes, the better offense will win championships.  Look around the league this year.  What dominant defense do you see possibly winning a championship?  The only one with a chance is Seattle, and we shredded their defense.  A Sam Bradford-led Viking team won't come close.

     This team has a legit shot to play in the Super Bowl this year.  Dominant defenses are a thing of the past.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Btown3: "Bandwagon? I've been a fan for over twenty some years."

__________________

Pshaw--that ain't nuttin'!

I been a fan since the team was born--in '66.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@grumpster @Btown3

95 out of 100???

It's actually 164 (seasons of pro sports competition) out of 165.

So you're wise to contain your emotional investment.

grumpster
grumpster

@Btown3  I'm a native Atlantan.  I've been watching pro sports in Atlanta since the days of the Atlanta Crackers. Over the years,  I've learned to never get too emotionally invested in any team.  95 time out of 100, you'll be disappointed. 

Having said that, it's hard not to be excited about the Falcons this year.

GTDano
GTDano

Matt Ryan has been 1 player of entire teams that haven't won a playoff game w/ him at QB. Has he played great in all of those games? No. More importantly, have the defenses in those games played worth a cuss? Hell no. We've seen "Matty Ice" play this well before, but he's now a veteran QB surrounded by an offense w/ good-to-great players at every position: a solid O-line (w/ a great Center, which is key to a good line), very good RBs, good TEs (and a lot of them) & great WRs.

grumpster
grumpster

I put the braves NL championships in the "not disappointed" category. :)