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Go Forth and Eat Crow

And I quote:

Last year, I included the Atlanta Falcons [in a list of teams that could go winless in 2008] on the premise that they had new starters at all major offensive positions, were led by an unknown first-year head coach and guided by a first-year GM. Toss in a rookie quarterback, rookie offensive tackle and a bunch of question marks on the defense and I thought there was a legitimate chance that the Falcons would go winless in 2008.

They then went out and won 11 games, qualifying for the postseason for the first time since '04.

In short, they shut me the hell up. The lingering taste of that shoe in my mouth still haunts me each morning.

--Peter Schrager via his article 'These teams will challenge Lions for futility in '09' on Fox Sports

Even with that shot of pep, I still have a taste lingering in my mouth, and that's the taste of defeat. A Falcons loss, no matter where or when or how it happens, is a loss nonetheless and it hurts. Now I am aware many of you already know that this is the nigh-irrelevant, dubiously-honored preseason and have all but alleviated any shallow-rooted fears stemming from Saturday's performance.

I'm not planning to do a recap as Dave already did an excellent job of that. I do plan on, however, honoring a tried and true tradition in Atlanta: irrelevant preseason records.

Here are the preseason and season records for the Falcons from 1999 to 2008:

Year Preseason Record Season Record
1999 2-2 5-11
2000 4-1 4-12
2001 3-1 7-9
2002 3-1 9-6-1
2003 0-4 5-11
2004 2-2 11-5
2005 4-1 8-8
2006 2-2 7-9
2007 3-1 4-12
2008 2-2 11-5

Total Preseason Record: 24-17 (.585)

Total Season Record: 71-83 (.461)

What does this tell us? Not much outside of the fact that, at least in the last decade, the Falcons have never pulled a Detroit and gone 4-0 in the preseason. I guess you could call that a good thing, as the Lions followed that 4-0 preseason record with an 0 and 16 regular season. They have, however, pretty much owned some preseasons (00, 05) and then ended with abysmal returns during the regular season. Of one thing I am certain: a good Falcons preseason has generally lead to a horrendous regular season. That makes rooting for the Birds hard for me the next three weeks.

To that end, I did notice that the Falcons have had their best years breaking even during the preseason. Yes, in 99, they went 2-2 and then a dismal 5-11 following a Super Bowl appearance, but it'd be hard for any team to follow a 14-2 season. The next 2-2 preseason (2004) saw the Birds getting a playoff nod after a harrowing 11-5 season. Then Philly stopped us. We shall be avenged (I'm looking at you, December 6th)!

The next successful 2-2 preseason? Last year. So that's four 2-2 preseasons, and two of them end with the start of a winning season. That gives us, historically, a 50% chance of succeeding this time around. Add in Smitty, Comrade Dimitroff, Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Mike Turner, Jerious Norwood, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, et al, and we can probably bump that percentage up a bit.

Going merely by the past's numbers is not something you can do with this rejuvenated Falcons team. I realize the team's rebirth has been hammered in by just about everyone and their lolcat, but it goes without saying that we are enjoying, despite Saturday's loss, a time of great expectation. Has this loss hampered that enthusiasm? Perhaps. This time last year, we all had no idea what our team would be like and the preseason (with Matty Ice tossing an INT his first drive) hinted little at the kind of success we would have. With that thought moving forward, let's decimate those Rams, and in the process, learn a little bit more about ourselves and grow.