For the first time in a long time, the Falcons gifted us with back to back games that were relatively comfortable. Sure, the 49ers did manage to score 13 points, but they were mostly ineffective all day as the Falcons steam-rolled them. The Falcons now sit at 9 wins, guaranteed a winning season at the minimum, with two more games to go. That said, here are some takeaways from the game.
A different Falcons team
How many times have we seen the Falcons “play down” to their opponents? It was an infuriating trait that the team maintained for years, even in their best seasons. It was rare to see the Falcons dominate to a comfortable victory, even when playing the worst of opponents.
In back to back weeks, the Falcons have now managed to demolish two bad teams. The Rams and 49ers are dumpster fires, yet many fans still felt “nervous” about these teams because of our history of playing down to teams.
It would seem that Dan Quinn has truly instilled a new mentality in this team. It’s one that is aggressive and goes after every opponent, stepping on their throat until they’ve dominated comfortably. Personally, I love this new mentality and it’s a clear sign to me that these are not the same Falcons.
Injuries are piling up
Now for the bad news: the Falcons suffered even more injuries. De’Vondre Campbell left the game with a concussion while rookie TE Austin Hooper left with a knee injury. Hooper’s injury is especially concerning, since he was carted to the locker room after being assisted off the field. If it’s any kind of ligament damage, he’s likely done for the season.
If true, you can add his name to a growing list of players. Jacob Tamme, Desmond Trufant and Derrick Shelby. That doesn’t even touch on missing guys like Adrian Clayborn, Jalen Collins and Julio Jones (who may still miss some more games).
It’s no coincidence that playoff teams generally have the fewest injuries, and the concern is that the Falcons are getting hit with them at the worst possible time. The soft schedule to finish the season has helped, but once the playoffs come around, having guys like C.J. Goodwin or Deji Olatoye instead of Desmond Trufant could be a deciding factor. It’s unfortunate, but these injuries may end up being the difference between a long playoff run and an early exit.
Successful season, regardless
That said, it’s hard to look at this season as anything other than a success now. While many still have hopes of the playoffs in their minds, the Falcons have already laid the foundation for the future. This offense has incredible depth and talent, and most of it can be retained. The defense has found quite a few young guys who are capable of playing at a high level, and a leap in year two could yield a huge improvement in overall performance.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not writing this team off for 2016. But I always viewed this season as just one in the greater goal of rebuilding this franchise. It’s hard to argue that 2016 hasn’t done just that.
What are your takeaways from the game?