Who would have thought such a simple word could cause so much pain? (Ok, so maybe a five-syllable word isn't considered simple for all of us) yet the idea it represents is certainly simple enough. What's the most glaring difference between last season and this one? You guessed it. A missed tackle here, a missed block there, (looking at you, Garrett Reynolds), a dropped pass here, (and there, and there, and there, and for the love of God everywhere) ---all of this coated throughout with a smorgasbord of stupid (and costly) penalties. Are we less talented than last season? Certainly not. Is our schedule tougher? Perhaps a bit, but for the most part, no. This leaves all fingers pointing (especially the middle ones) toward that unhappy, aforementioned culprit. Follow me across the jump, my fellow heart-broken fans of Falcons, and know it to be true.
According to my completely un-expert calculations, there are three losses that immediately come to mind on the topic of would-have-been wins that were subsequently flushed down the metaphorical toilet. (Four if you count Chicago)
At Tampa Bay:How could we forget this one? Sloppy conditions, red-zone turnovers, and general suckage aside, the Birds found themselves in a legitimate position to win this one with the clock winding down, when suddenly, inconsistency (or the ICmonster) struck again when it hurt the most. Arguably last season's most reliable WR dropped what almost certainly would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass inside of the five yard-line. A few moments later, we all experienced one of the most sickening methods of losing a game I have ever been forced to witness. Our hyped defense, after forcing what should have been a crucial three-and-out, was drawn offsides on a hard count that my non-sports watching mother could have seen coming. Game. Set. Match. Heartbreak.
VS New Orleans:I've nowhere near finished healing the wounds left from this one, heck I'm still hurting from last year's three-point-loss to the villainous Aints. There were literally a handful of key, dropped-balls, any one of which could have been the difference-maker in the end. Three key ones come to mind: Once Again, formerly sticky-hands Roddy White not only fails to catch a should-have-been easy first down strike from Ryan, but practically gift-wraps an easy interception for the Aint's defense--short field and early Christmas card included. Later, on that heroic last drive of regulation, Sweet Hands himself, the GOAT Gonzalez drops a catchable ball that would have placed us inside the ten with around thirty seconds remaining--an enormous difference. Finally, you guessed it, back to Roddy, on a crossing route five yards within the endzone, our star WR drops the game-winner after it hits him in the hands. Easy catch? No. Could have/should have been caught? You betcha. The ICmonster shows no mercy.
At Houston: Obviously the hurt from this one is still so fresh that I needn't go into excruciating detail. I'll keep it simple: delay of game penalties, one of them on a CRUCIAL fourth-and-one, a holding call that shot down a beautiful pick-six, and once again, dropped passes. (JULIO.......why????) That's all I have to say about that.
If I'm Mike Smith, (most assuredly, I am not) I'm taking this week to not only prepare for a dangerous Carolina team, but take a good ol, comforting trip back to the basics. The playoffs are still very much within reach, and despite whatever may have caused this horrifying/heart-breaking paradigm shift, it is time for this team to revert back to the happy realm of smart, mistake free, consistent football, where it has resided throughout the majority of Smith's tenure. Who knows? Maybe it was the lock-out, perhaps less of a focus on the basics, or maybe it's ineffable--just one of those mysteries in sports. One thing is certain, something must change if we are to have any hope of winning in the post-season. Whether that means buying Roddy a new can of magic-hand-paste, putting ear-muffs on the O-line, or maybe just slapping Reynolds around a bit (just for funsies), I'm convinced we need to do SOMETHING to fight off that un-holy beast that is the ICmonster.
The difference between last year's 13-3 season and this one? A handful of plays that should have been made.