Aside from injuries…. we all know this team is physically superior to most others. The problem here is mental or psychological in nature. Jekyll and Hyde was the term that Dave used….. exactly. The Falcons are Jekyll and Hyde for the most part… mostly in the same game. But, much more so in pressurized situations. The Coaching Staff is not adequately preparing this team for pressurized, hyped-up situations.
You see this kind of stuff all over Atlanta Sports. The Hawks have a mental wall when they deal with the Heat right now. It's just a wall that they can't manage to climb No matter how big of a lead they have. The Braves have a mental wall in the playoffs and against certain teams that they know they shouldn't be losing to. And of course, we know the Falcons' mental walls. Sad to say it... but the Saints in the Superdome are one. Falcons just aren't the same team when they get in that building as with ANYWHERE else in the country. But a case that anywhere on the road is a mental wall for us could be made as well. But that case could be made for every team in America so maybe it doesn't fit the bill. But the Superdome stands out like a sore thumb.
But the first mental wall for this coaching regime was the playoff win. Everybody hyped it up and made it a big deal…. 1 playoff win…. To the point where you see some highly uncharacteristic play out of your team in that 1 game. Leaves you wondering what happened a lot. And I’m not just talking about last year… but all those other playoff losses as well. You dont want those to happen again so you spend so much energy thinking about it like a bad nightmare. We psyched ourselves out of a lot of those games beforehand. And we’re Not talking about the Super Bowl, where it’s cool to be a little nervous… .but the 1 playoff game. The team falls apart due to lack of mental preparation. So the calm and relaxed demeanor goes out the window as soon as the stage is set. And since it’s a playoff game….. we haven’t been put in that mode all year so we aren’t prepared mentally to deal with the natural anxiety that comes with that moment. And when we finally got over that minor hump….. we may have just expended too much energy getting that gorilla off of our backs to go any further.
Now the mental wall is set up at the 4th quarter game winning TD drive. We have all the tools and power to furiously get the ball down to the 8-12 yard range EASILY. SO EASILY. We’ve seen it in the last 2 saints losses, the NFCCG, and yesterday. But when we get there you see the same 4 types of plays in that situation that leads to our inevitable demise. It’s not just Ryan’s fault. It’s the Coaches, Ryan, and the rest of the players on the field. Cause the Plays called don’t alleviate the stress, Ryan is nervous cause he doesn’t want to fail again, the line is nervous for the same reason. Some of our sure handed receivers start dropping passes, etc. MENTAL. These are all things we know we can do and I’m sure they practice intently by now. Red Zone schemes and sure-fire plays. They execute easily in the first quarter but breakdown in the pressurized 4th. But do they practice the mental aspect of that situation? This is the question that needs to be addressed. I don’t think they have…. judging by the play on the field. The COACHES need to recognize these situations and how their team reacts and prepare them MENTALLY for it. I don’t know exactly how they would do that through practice. But it has to be done. I used to just blame Ryan for getting happy feet… and I still do…. But he’s not the only one out there shaking, I see now. The OC shakes, Mike Smith shakes, and thus, the entire offense shakes right along with them. Let's not forget the defense either.
And it starts with not overlooking it anymore. Don’t get in an interview and say… "I don’t know what happened." There’s a pattern here and we’ve all noticed it. Or "we just gotta get back to our game and how we play it". We DID play our game today. Usually in the first half… we played it well….and since this inevitable end-of-the-game breakdown is occurring so often… I think it is safe to say that this, too, is a part of our game, unfortunately. Address it straightforward. We have the physical tools and know-how. Can you keep it together during pressurized situations? Can you be the first quarter offense we all know and love on that last drive of the game? Instead of Jekyll and Hyde…. In that aspect we have failed as a team. I'm not sure how long it takes to fix a mental problem like this that has lasted for so long. But it has to be done for progress to ensue.