The Atlanta Falcons won another game Sunday. The zombie continues to sprint.
He might not have been dead after all. Oops. Well, he sure did look dead.
After the Carolina Panthers loss earlier this month, all felt lost for what the Falcons were trying to accomplish in 2017. It was to be a season of hangovers, growing pains and snake bites. The once-mighty had fallen down low. The birds were now getting close wins against the Jets, being smacked around by the Patriots, being laughed off their home field by the shrill laughter of the doo-doo Dolphins.
This was not a good team. Was, though. This was not a good team.
Since the Dallas game, this has been a pretty great team. Not a totally great team. A pretty great one.
Someone woke up the giant sleeping in Matt Ryan’s uniform, and the Falcons’ offense has been throwing haymakers at three straight defenses. Not great defenses. But good enough to make you feel like you’re not beating scrub-a-dub-dubs.
Someone told the Falcons defense to sack people, well, at least for two weeks. Can’t really do much when the team from Tampa stacks 50 guys up front to block. A literal sonic blast couldn’t break through that much offensive lineman. Adrian Clayborn is still the best.
Someone told the Falcons to close out games. They’ve come close to blowing great opportunities the last two weeks – but, despite all the drama, deep breaths and bitten nails, the win was the win. Crisis averted.
No one has any idea what this means. We’re all jaded. We’re all excited. We know nothing. We expect something. We hope for everything. All we can do is wait.
We’re elated. We’re a nervous wreck. We’re us circa 2016.
Last year, the Falcons won a pretty sound one over the Arizona Cardinals to get to 7-4. You could say the same thing about Sunday’s win (if Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole aren’t hurt, the Bucs don’t rip-roar a near-comeback). Both teams had explosive offenses, suspect defenses and looked to be able to beat anyone on any day, if they didn’t beat themselves.
It almost feels as if you could say that each and every week the Falcons play – well, except Sunday’s defensive performance was actually … disappointing … and had reason to be so … instead of just the normal 2016 blech-machine.
The defense isn’t bad anymore. It’s actually pretty good. Unless they face the run.
We stand at a crossroads with the Falcons now. They might be an excellent team primed to really make some unexpected waves. They might be a pretty good team who’s gotten lucky as of late, and isn’t ready to really hammer it out consistently against the NFC’s top dogs. They might still plum suck, and just have played other teams that just plum suck. Insert shrug gif here.
To the best of this writer’s prognostications, this offense is really starting to get hot. What they did in Seattle wasn’t something a lot of teams can do. Sure, they might not have done it with the same veracity three of the team’s best secondary players were on the field, but y’know, c’est la vie. Steve Sarkisian is starting to pick up his duties a lot faster than any of us ever were going to expect. Matt Ryan is grooving right now. Julio Jones had his best day of the season. This offense feels like it’s just getting started. It should have Devonta Freeman back for Minnesota. This could be fun.
But, the defense. Oh. They might not have Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole next week or the next. They’re playing two of the best offenses in the NFL (Vikings, Saints, same week, oh my). Trufant is the magic that binds that unit together. If he can’t go, we really don’t know what this defense is going to do. There’s no Quinn-calling-the-plays-switcheroo to lift the team to an unexpected plateau. This is who they are. If they are missing Trufant for Minnesota…and gasp…New Orleans…this could get ugly. Maybe.
So, the crossroads. Remember 2016? Unstoppable offense, unexpected defense.
2017? Unexpected offense…not-sure-what-to-expect defense?
Is this really as good as last year? Well, no. But the records!
7-4, 7-4. 2016, cupcake finish. 2017, a fire gauntlet to cross.
The next five games will determine the season. Each has playoff implications. Each is a playoff game.
The Falcons can’t stop the injury bug, but they can play as well as they can. They’ve done that as of late. Time to finish. Oh, finishing. Oh. Yeah. That.
At the crossroads, huh? Want an answer? Want to know if this team is really going to do something special, or just plop in the mud like a pig wearing blindfolds?
Right now, you might as well park your tailfeathers down on the bench, because all you can do is wait.
Wait to see who this Atlanta Falcons team really is.
Wait to see how all of this is going to crescendo after the notes kept playing long after the concert was thought to be over.
Wait to see if there’s some bizarre turn of events that might take Atlanta right where it wants to go.
Wait to see if this is all destined to fail, perhaps spectacularly, perhaps so subtly it burns you for eons.
One thing’s for sure.
We sure are going to get an answer.
Cory is an editor of fellow Falcons site Rise Up Reader, where you can find more Falcons coverage. He is a cohost of the Falcoholic game-recap podcast that airs weekly.