If the Falcons had deliberately gone out against the Eagles and vowed to collectively play the worst football fans had seen in years, I'm not sure they could've put up a display that was more disheartening than the one we saw yesterday.
The negatives were numerous. The positives were paltry. The Falcons were dealing with a host of injuries and somehow still managed to play well below my admittedly light expectations on Sunday. Just thinking about it makes me angry. There's almost nothing good I can say about it, and that will be reflected in my weekly highlights and lowlights.
Yet I'm also struck by the idea that the Falcons have hit rock bottom, a low so low that surpassing it would require a giant drill and a team of molemen. Even if this team was to lose every game for the rest of the season, it can't get much worse than this. I know that shouldn't serve as any kind of comfort for me, but in a strange ways, it really does. I feel like there's a chance, however slim, that they will coming roaring back in these last few games and push their way to a winning season. Just don't ask me to explain why.
Of course, you know the season's really gone south when the most comforting thing I can possibly say is, "Hey, I've got a good feeling about this!" Let's all just hope that for once in my life, my hunch is right.
If you've got the stomach for it, I'm breaking this beast down after the jump.
- Nice job, Roddy White. On Sunday you were the only target worth a damn on the entire field, apparently, and you made the most of your chances. Let no one question your heart, because you looked like you were angry. You looked like you cared the entire game, and your last second touchdown is evidence of that. Big kudos.
Lawrence Sidbury, congratulations on your first NFL sack! Kroy Biermann, congratulations on notching another one. I'm so starved for highlights that you guys are both getting a free pass for anything you may or may not have done for the rest of the game.
- Michael Koenen is a very, very good punter, and I am very grateful for that.
- Some of you may be aware of the fact that I am a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. A couple of you may know that Albert Pujols is my favorite baseball player by a very wide margin. If Pujols decides to leave the team in free agency someday, I will always cherish what he's done for my favorite team. When he comes to town, I'll applaud those contributions before the game. I'll recall the way he put the Cardinals on his back so many times, when there was absolutely no one else capable of doing so. Time and the change of teams won't change that.
But guess what will happen when the first pitch is thrown and then later, when Pujols comes up to bat? I will root against him. I will pump my fist when he strikes out, assuming he ever does strike out. During those nine innings, I won't give a crap about what Pujols meant to me for years. He's with the enemy now, and all I care about is the uniform.
That's the type of fan I've been my whole life. The team, and the team's success, comes above almost anything. That's why it was so hard for me to sit there on Sunday, listening to Falcons fans chant for Michael Vick in a game where the Falcons looked about as bad as I'd ever seen them look. That's why I was angry that a man whose indifference towards the Falcons during his time on the team nearly submarined the entire franchise, and who now is being remembered wistfully for being a slightly above average quarterback who was thrilling to watch. I'm glad he's doing well now and appears to have turned his life around, but during a game against the Falcons? He's a guy in an Eagles uniform who is helping that team beat our sorry asses, and there's no way in hell I'm going to take time out during a game we eventually lost 34-7 to applaud the progress he's made as a human being. In my eyes and perhaps my eyes alone, that's not what being a fan of the Atlanta Falcons is about. It's being a fan of one player above the entire franchise, and it really makes me question where the thought process of a lot of people in the Dome yesterday. I try to be as flexible as I possibly can, but this is one issue where I'm afraid I cannot and will not change my mind.
And now you know why, for me, hearing Falcon fans cheering for Vick was a bitter disappointment. My only request, given that I don't expect either side of this issue to fully embrace the other, is that we don't start tearing eachothers' heads off over it. Cool? Cool.
- Speaking of bitter disappointments, I don't think Chris Redman could've been much worse than he was for the better part of three-and-a-half quarters Sunday. He was extremely inaccurate and looked like the next hit in the pocket would be the last one he'd ever take. He turned from a Camaro to a pumpkin so fast you would have thought Prince Charming was hot on his heels, glass slipper in hands. I don't know what else I can say.
- The coaching staff did a lot of things I didn't agree with on Sunday, but nothing was more baffling than the way they divvied up running and passing plays. They routinely tried going up the gut, then abandoned the run entirely for a very long stretch, then got to the goal line and ran the...wait for it...exact same damn play four times in a row. It might not have been exact and it might have been 11 times. I was blinded with rage at the time.
What the hell is the point of that? A balanced offensive game plan is not balanced because you have 44 passes and 25 runs if you throw 20 times in a row and run 15. That's not how it works! If we're really going to make a run at the end of the season, the play calling has to improve dramatically.
- Too many fumbles. Even Special Weems got in on the action, graciously giving the Eagles the ball at one point. He's such a polite young man.
- On defense, there's one statement that sums up the Falcons' day: They got gashed by a fullback. Yes, I know. Leonard Weaver is a good fullback. He is not, however, a magical one, who fades into nothingness just as a linebacker goes to hit him and reappears in mid-air ten yards downfield, laughing the crystal-clear laugh of the forest people. He's a goddamn fullback.
Game MVP: Michael Koenen. He did his darndest to ensure that the Falcons could stay in this one, three times punting the ball inside the Eagles' 20. Sadly, this effort was in vain.
Game Theme Song: Like sad trombone, but not quite.
One Thing To Take Away: We played our worst game of the season Sunday, and I will guarantee that. It's all uphill from here.
Next Week: The New Orleans Saints, who locked up the division after narrowly beating the Washington Redskins yesterday. You can find out more about the Saints (if you really want to) over at Canal Street Chronicles.
Final Word: Damn.