The Falcons defy the laws of nature. A team that suffers that many setbacks and plays that poorly through most of the game just doesn't win, even against a team as poorly constructed as the Bucs. It's equivalent to a car with one wheel beating a Pinto in a race--sure, the Pinto is a crappy car and might blow up at any moment, but at least it's got four wheels. So consider my mind boggled. With a Weinke-led Panther collapse, the Falcons are now in prime position to seize one of the wildcards, with a victory over Dallas next week going a long way towards ensuring one. The problem, of course, is that the Falcons could very well be marching in there with the same ineffective offense they've had for over a month now...but it'll be missing Dunn and Norwood. Unfortunately, that puts the onus on the coaching staff, which aside from a well coached game this week (there, I said it, I won't be busting on the coaching this week), they don't have a great track record. So I'll be nervously hyping this game all week, but for now, let's examine the Bucs game.
First, the offense. We only put up 17 points again, and Vick was as mediocre as humanly possible without throwing away the game. He barely picked up any yards on the ground, threw for a little over 150 yards with no TDs and an interception, and made a couple of very, very bad throws. The running game was moderately effective, and I have to give all the props in the world to Griffith, who stepped in and delivered a determined effort. I've always thought of him as a well balanced fullback, and he might get a real chance to show us what he can do next week. The one thing that really interested me was how much Vick managed to spread the ball around, with eight receivers catching at least one pass. That's an encouraging sign for a guy who sometimes only hits 3 receivers all game, but I'd like to see more production come of it. Some of that's on the receivers. Mike Jenkins has had an inconsistent year, and yesterday he was a ghost for the grand majority of the game. Roddy White actually caught more passes than Jenkins, which should tell you something about his disappearing act. I'm happy we managed to win scoring 17 points, but let's not mistake this offense for a powerhouse or anything.
The defense was really the game winner yesterday. They held Williams to a stunning 48 yards on 20 carries, finally breaking the rule that 20 carries = a win for the Bucs. Gradkowski and Rattay never got to throw a TD pass, and Demorrio Williams flashed his terrific speed on a fumble return for a TD. Often against poor teams, a decent defense will let down their guard and surrender a big play, but the Falcons just played an alert, shutdown defense. This is an encouraging sign for a much better team next week. Even more encouraging was the fact that John Abraham got a sack, making him look a little more like a pass rushing threat than a name on an injury report, and Brooking and Boley, who posted 17 and 11 tackles, respectively. Basically, the defense did something it hasn't done most of the year: stop the other team when they had to. Let's hope, pray, and sacrifice that they'll keep it up.
And a warm round of applause for ancient kicker Morten Andersen, who tied Gary Anderson's all time record for field goals. He should break the record next week, and then he and Julio Franco can gingerly run off the field together for a meal of egg whites and warm Jell-O. I'm happy for him.
And I'm happy for this team. Let's look forward to the Cowboys and hope we can catch them at the right time, at which point it might be time to start thinking about the playoffs. Yup, I'm chugging the Falcohol now.
Game MVP: The whole damn defense.
Game Theme Song: Eye of the Tiger- Survivor
One Thing to Take Away: This team is getting our hopes up again. They win ugly, but they win, and that's all anyone really needs.
Next Week: The Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, fresh off a complete ass whooping at the hands of the Saints. No shame in that, Cowboy fans. The 'Boys are extremely dangerous, and the Falcons have their work cut out for them.
Final Word: The Falcons have stumbled to two wins a row, are in the thick of the wild card hunt, and are going to need gritty, determined efforts to win the rest of the year. Let's see how it goes.