In this series of posts, I seek to find the answer to questions that are brought up around here or around the various sports conversation sites. I use a realistic, low-stat opinion to generate discussion about these topics, but I also encourage the use of stats in an argument.
"Yesssss. Now I'll have something to write about!" I thought as the Bucs took a 10 point lead into the waning moments of the game and our inability to close out games took hold once again.
Boy, how things change. Here we come, strutting down the field in usual heart attack fashion. We're throwing at will and running at will. We're also suddenly playing something resembling defense. Next thing I know, Grimes jumps a route and the game has suddenly been iced in our favor!
"Great." I thought again. "Now I have nothing to write about." Until I suddenly asked myself:
How in the heck are we winning these football games?!
Follow me after the jump and let's talk about it!
For most younger Falcons fans like myself, this is somewhat of a new experience. Yes, I remember the 1998 season, but I don't really remember it. Week in and week out, we are being chased by every other team in the NFC. It'd be nice if there weren't any 3 loss teams, but the Bears and Saints are right on our heels.
I won't lie, I've been waiting for some form of letdown (though I believe we can win every week. UNLIKE DAVE!) but the Falcons continue to win in glorious, heart attack fashion.
So how do we do it? I'm writing this post because I'm really curious as to what you all think as to why we're winning. However, this wouldn't be a debate post if I didn't provide my opinion, too!
Well, as some of these debate posts go, many of us often share the same opinion. I find that to be a good thing because it means we're winning and everyone is reasonably happy.
I believe we're witnessing the start of something really special. Obviously, that's been said before, and the comparisons to the 2001-02 Patriots are starting to surface as well.
Matt Ryan is as much a stone cold killer as we know Matt Bryant can be. Yes, Matty's numbers haven't been fantastic, but he makes few mental mistakes. That's all fine and good, but I'm going to talk about how I think that this heart attack fashion will come back and bite us in behind.
I would argue that we've been one of the more complete teams in the NFL this year. We have a solid rushing attack, a solid air attack that makes few mistakes, and an opportunistic defense that leaves everyone on the edge of their seat (usually for the wrong reasons!) We have an arctic yeti for a kicker and a solid revamped kick coverage unit.
That's all fine and good, and most of us know those things already. However, I'm still worried about this team, and I hope you'll find my reasoning, well, reasonable.
This team is more confident than it has been in a long time, and I have a problem with that.
The past few times Matt Ryan has lead us to victory, the postgame reports have all had the offense saying the same thing. "We just looked at each other and nodded our heads because we knew we could score."
Well...uhh...Dear Falcons, I have a question for you all.
Where is this during the rest of the game?
Is our confidence not there during the rest of the game? Do we not have the motivation to score during other parts of the game? Does Mike Mularkey turn off Hurr Hurr Mode at the end of the game, or does Matt Ryan turn on Awesome Mode? Where is Awesome mode in the middle of the 3rd quarter, when we're often dead on the floor on offense?
These things worry me. Yes, I absolutely love how clutch our team has been this year, but we've gotta find this magic/mojo/something more often. If we know we can score at the end of the game, we need to figure out why we're not scoring at other crucial points in the game. Yeah, incompletions happen, and honestly those are the wild card in these situations, but if the run game functions like it should and the air attack functions at a decent rate, we should be scoring at will!
We need to solve this problem and we need to solve it ASAP. If that requires dumping MM, then we need to do it now. If it means Matt Ryan needs to call the plays more often, then that needs to start happening.
The team believes it can play with anyone, and that's great, but if we could find this confidence throughout the whole game, we would be dominating teams much like the Pats did to the Jets last week.
I don't think we're getting complacent, but I think our mindset isn't right. We're playing hard and we're playing well, but I don't know if we've reached the point to where we're playing to win on every play. When we get a lead, we start playing not to lose.
Of course, when we start playing from behind, we start playing with an edge as if we really want to win.
We have been very lucky up to this point. I'm not saying that because I think luck has caused us to win. Quite the opposite, in fact. We've been playing out of our minds all season long sans the Philly game, and I think that any lesser team would have folded under the pressure.
I just worry that the lack of a 60 minute killer instinct could be our undoing when crunch time becomes an entire one-and-done football game.
What do you all think? How have we managed to win these close games over and over and over again? Should we be putting some of these games away? Why or why not?
Any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can win. That's the beauty of the NFL and something we should really appreciate, especially since we're 10-2 right now. But is that really an excuse as to why some of our games have been so close? I look forward to discussing this with you all!