The truly wonderful thing about the beginning of a football season is how much lies ahead. It's a fresh slate, and if you mark it with a win, you're undefeated, at least for one week. The Falcons took on another young, up-and-coming team and did what they've been doing consistently since they first set foot on the field against the Detroit Lions in 2008: Exceed expectations. It doesn't matter if Football Outsiders, as great as they are, decide we're due for a regression. It doesn't matter if ESPN's Bill Simmons figures we were just a fluke last year. What matters is the games we play each week. I've found that no amount of rage or righteous indignation can change things, so we must depend on wins to make our case for us.
I'd say this was a good start, wouldn't you?
Now jump, jump after the jump, as we break this down Dave the Falconer style.
- Our heroes were on defense today, and on the off chance that anyone from the team actually reads this, y'all should know that that was a heartwarming effort. We'll start things off by mentioning the defensive line, which ate Chad Pennington and the Miami offensive line alive today. John Abraham was his usual monstrous self with two sacks, Kroy "The Beerman" Biermann looked unstoppable on his way to two sacks of his own and even perennial whipping boy Jamaal Anderson was active on the front line. That's to say nothing of Jon Babineaux and Peria Jerry, a great combination at defensive tackle if there ever was one. I could go for a while, but I think saying they were very, very good should suffice.
- And as good as they were, the linebackers were their equal. Mike Peterson's pick was a sight to behold and he also casually tackled seven people and threw in a forced fumble. You know, just for kicks. Stevie Nickels dropped seven tackles of his own and looked very athletic while doing so, and Curtis Lofton had ten tackles and a forced fumble of his own. These guys were all over the field today, and that's going to be a critical part of our success going forward.
- Our secondary wasn't lights out or anything. I'll acknowledge that. Still, can you not give them credit for looking somewhere significantly north of competent against a pretty good offense? I certainly can't. It appears our concerns about the defense, which seemed legitimate during pre-season, need to be laid to bed for the time being.
- I know my esteemed colleague tloz
morlockwarlock disagrees with me, but I think Matt Ryan looked pretty damn good out there. There was some overthrows and a couple of less than stellar decisions, but on the balance he came out of it very well and should get into a better rhythm as time goes on. The fact that he has a good rapport with Tony Gonzalez right away and spread the ball around well speaks to his chances of having a truly great season.
- Speaking of Gonzo...well, what do you say? Dude's an easy first ballot Hall of Famer. I'd no longer be surprised if he plays until he's 50.
- Raise your hand if you saw Ovie Mughelli catching a touchdown in this game. Scratch that. If you saw him ever catching a touchdown this season, raise your hand. Scratch that. If you saw a point in spacetime where the will of long dead gods and the whimsical luck of a cold, dark universe converged to allow Ovie Freakin' Mughelli to catch a touchdown, raise your hand. No takers? I thought not.
Seriously, though. The guy's built like a truck, so passing him the ball from time to time seems like a great move. Eventually he's going to run over everyone on the field, Tecmo Super Bowl-style, and run unobstructed for a long touchdown. I see no downside to this strategy.
- Way to bounce back, Jason Elam! Of course, you wouldn't have needed to do that if....wait for it....
- It's one game, yes. The previous misses were in the pre-season. Si. That doesn't mean Elam's performance on Sunday doesn't concern me. The man whiffed on two field goals and an extra point. I'm a firm advocate of practicing patience with kickers, and so I'll advocate it here. If he continues to falter, there are options a phone call away. I'm sure he'll rebound nicely against the Panthers.
- If you asked me to sprint down a football field and put a brick wall in front of me, I'd be pretty mad if you chasisted me afterwards for breaking half of the bones in my body trying to go through it. So I really can't be too angry at Michael Turner, who had upwards of fifty people dogging his every step. Still, the Burner didn't make many guys pay today, and he'll need to crank it up a notch or two next week.
- The return game wasn't fantastic today, but Eric Weems is going through the learning curve. Here's a free pass, Eric!
Game MVP: This was tougher than you think, but in the end it has to go to Mike Peterson. You could argue that his interception and forced fumble set the tone for the game and potentially altered the course of the contest, and his crack about having "the best hands on the team" shows a great confidence. I gotta give it to the veteran here.
Game Theme Song: Victory!
One Thing To Take Away: We may have severely underestimated this defense. Please let that be true.
Next Week: We'll take on erstwhile divisional rival the Carolina Panthers, who are represented by the fine folks at Cat Scratch Reader. Go pay them a visit while you wait for sweet, glorious football to arrive once more.
Final Word: Awesome.