EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 08: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons rolls out of the pocket as he looks to pass against the New York Giants during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The Falcons could really use a meaner mean streak.
I'm generally hesitant to subscribe to something as nebulous as a killer instinct. After all, these guys are all professionals who presumably would love to continue to be paid millions of dollars. I doubt they lack for motivation, and I doubt any of them have a devil may care attitude toward winning.
It is clear, though, that these Falcons were lacking something. In a big game with a big deficit, they were helpless. When they were up big, they invariably seemed to ease off the throttle, letting teams climb back in. Part of that is probably just luck, part of it is deliberate design by coordinators, but some part of it is a frustrating lack of will to put teams away. The Patriots don't win many friends stomping on the throats of the rest of the NFL, but it sure does command respect.
How do you deal with a problem like this? A simple shift in philosophy ought to take care of it. If the team gets a 14 point lead, there should be no more willingness to play to preserve the lead, with timid play-calling designed to wear down the clock followed by a seemingly endless procession of punts. I know I've ripped teams for running up the score in the past, but when you know you struggle to protect a two touchdown lead, what's wrong with running it up to three?
What do you think? Could the Falcons do with a better killer instinct?