The Falcons needed to dominate this game against an inferior (and banged up) opponent, and for the most part - they did. Though the game got uncomfortably close, the offense stepped up when it had to and the defense made some critical late game stops. Losing two of your top three corners will impact nearly any defense, and it certainly did against the Bucs, but this was still an overall good performance from the Falcons. The injuries loom large for the home stretch, but this is a team that can compete with any other in the NFC if it performs like it did on Sunday.
After three straight wins, it’s not hard to get excited about what this Falcons team might be capable of. They’re getting hotter on offense, and when the defense can consistently field its best players, they’re getting stops. This might be a pretty great team after all. But, after spending last December with Lady Luck, they must spend this one with Old Man Winter. The upcoming schedule is phenomenally difficult, and the Falcons may need to elevate to even another level of play to get where they want to go. Desmond Trufant’s health gives you great concern, particularly with the team taking on both Minnesota and New Orleans within the same week. They control their destiny from here, but Detroit roars like a lion at their tail for that sixth spot. They can afford to lose one more. Can they survive more than that?
I’ve gotta tip my cap to Dan Quinn and Steve Sarkisian. You lose to the Miami Dolphins, and you start questioning all the decisions the staff made this offseason. It seems like we hit a sweet spot of improved play calls and player execution, and it shows. Making noise in the playoffs usually requires getting hot at the right time, and the Atlanta Falcons are definitely heating up. The game against the Minnesota Vikings will be a huge, huge game for this team and where they end up this year.
In a game where the Falcons were clearly better than the team across from them top to bottom, they treated this game as if a playoff spot was hanging in the balance (in theory, there was). A hot start by the offense for the most part dug a hole that the Buccaneers simply do not have resources to climb out of. I can somewhat overlook the two late touchdowns given up by the defense because regardless what many think, having two of your top three corners injured is a tough hurdle, especially when the pass rush is MIA. Credit is given to the Falcons in this one. They were clearly the better team on the field and they treated it as if they were. Oh, by the way, Julio Jones is not of this earth.
This team talked a great game about resilience and togetherness and gumption throughout the offseason and into the season, and those words seemed to ring hollow when they kept falling short against opponents they should have beaten, particularly the Bills and Dolphins. Now, though, it is evident that this team really never did get down on themselves or discouraged, and when you pair (sometimes obnoxiously positive) can-do attitude with the kind of talent the Falcons have, good things eventually start to happen. Now we’ll see if they can carry over this momentum when they hit the hardest part of their schedule, which starts Sunday against the Vikings.