That game hit every branch on its way down out of the ugly tree, but I will take it. There's no way to understate just how terrible this team has been this year. Even though the Falcons managed to win it, my eyes were on fire for the entire game...and I was tracking it on CBS Sportsline. How some of you still have retinas, I can only guess.
That out of the way, it was refreshing to see the Falcons come up big when it counted. The defense isn't impressing anyone on the yardage front, but those little intangibles like "not letting other teams score" and "making huge plays" definitely were on display yesterday. Most significant for the team was Keith Brooking's 6 tackle, 1 sack performance. It may not be the biggest line he's ever put up, but it showed some signs of life from a guy who has been pedestrian all season long. Of course, that was far from the most impressive performance. Boley continued to dominate with 10 tackles and a forced fumble and Hall, Milloy and even Jimmy "2nd on the Depth Chart" Williams. Admittedly they were helped by the lack of Frank Gore and an incredibly substandard game by Alex Smith, but they still clamped down.
And how about Warrick Dunn, eh? Long after I had given up on him, he turns in a workmanlike performance. I don't want to let Bobby Petrino out of this with a free pass, though, as he ran Dunn 27 freakin' times. That's still less than 4 yards per carry, and I think it's fair to ask if Norwood would've gotten more carries even if he hadn't been hurt. Clearly Petrino thought the running game was going to have to beat the Niners into submission, and credit be given, it did.
That's mainly because Joey Harrington turned in an uninspiring performance. The Falcons didn't ask him to do much and he gladly reciprocated by not doing a whole lot. He did limit his mistakes. One interception and a lot of short, timid passes won't win or lose you the game. Call me crazy, but I do think that's a good strategy against a similarly weak team. The 49ers were not exactly ripping up the turf, but the Falcons didn't make a ton of costly mistakes and in the end it proved to be a difference. Against the Panthers, this should be--has to be, even--a different story. Even with Matt Moore at the helm, the Panthers offense is strong enough that the Falcons are going to have to push their boundaries a little.
So yeah, it was a narrow victory over a team that's not all that great. It's hard not to be a little pessimistic about the way the Falcons played, but what the hell. For only the second time this year, let's revel in the win.