Yes, that went as poorly as you thought.
The Atlanta Falcons dropped a big ole Christmas turd in New Orleans against the dastardly Saints – in a game that, by some cruel stroke of unluckiness, came down once again to mishaps, penalties, offensive execution, and yes, the refs. It was that scene from The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob repeatedly stepped on the rakes to unceremonious comedic effect.
This was a day when the Falcons looked like an elephant walking across a skating rink while their arch-nemesis made 28-3 and fake crowd noise jokes throughout. It was a day when the literal thing that used to hold Atlanta back, its defense, came through in a major way, but the offense reverted to a worse version of what they fielded in the second half of 2013. It was a day when, yes, the officiating was worse than the fifth Die Hard movie and more biased than a Taylor Swift fan reviewing a Katy Perry album.
All in all, it was of course bad. The Falcons finally let their dangerous living catch up to them, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Wait, what did he just write? Is Cory ok?”
The Falcons needed to lose, and lose badly, if they were to have any shot at making a run in the playoffs.
This team needed to feel the heat. They needed to get slapped around a little bit. They needed to feel the urgency of their redemption tour careening into a lake.
They needed to lose to the Saints, just like this, to alert this entire team to how they are underperforming.
They needed to be embarrassed. It was time for Little Jimmy Who Dat to poke this sleeping bear with a stick. Time to wake up, and get angry.
If Devonta Freeman doesn’t fumble on the one-yard line, and Julio Jones’ obvious touchdown is called a touchdown, the Falcons likely walk out of New Orleans with the win. But, does this team need to win right now?
Oh, well, yes, they need to win the rest of the way out unless they want to start playing the scenario game to get a playoff spot. They need to win to install a bit of confidence that they can beat a good team at full strength. They need to win because, quite frankly, if you can’t beat the Panthers at their best while you’re at your best, you can’t win a playoff game, whether it’s the Saints or Rams staring you down on that first weekend in January.
No one has any idea what happens once January gets into swing. It’s a fresh slate, and that ole bugaboo called “playoff experience” begins to settle in – the morose maven that sinks untested quarterbacks every step of the way. Hey, would you look at that, the Falcons have playoff experience! How cool! That could help!
But, it’s high time they start playing up to what they’re capable of. Like, seriously, it’s like now. If they can’t, then they didn’t, and that’s a painful conversation we’ll carry with us all through the offseason. The stomach aches are already beginning to settle in.
Going to the playoffs and losing the year after you lose the Super Bowl is nothing to be ashamed of, but one can’t help but get a little eager to go ahead and rectify that atrocious February thing now, particularly when so many giants fell asleep in 2017. New ones rose in their place, but the Falcons are a play away here and there from being that kind of team, particularly with the improvements on defense.
The offense is what it is – you just never know which version of it will show up. The defense is so improved, but can still be scored on. This team is a gigantic enigma, and one that can still win this year’s Super Bowl or watch the Wild Card round from the couch in equal measure. It just depends which version shows up, and if that version can match with what’s going on with the other side of the ball.
It’s a frustrating cataclysm, but after Sunday’s loss, this team should be darn embarrassed. Don’t blame the refs, don’t blame the crowd – blame yourselves for relinquishing so many opportunities to win the division, to close out games this season, for falling off so sharply after that miraculous 2016 offensive season, Kyle Shanahan departure or not. Take this embarrassment, and use it. Fix the problems, try to make a run, and please for the love of all things good in this world, don’t somehow lose to the Saints in the playoffs.
Right now, this team doesn’t look like a Super Bowl contender. It looks like a disoriented juggernaut who can’t seem to put it all together when it’s all sitting right there for the taking. But, things can change. They don’t need to be the 2016 Falcons to win in these playoffs; they just need to be a better version of what they are now.
Get angry, have a good week of practice, and go hammer down the Panthers. Because, if the Falcons maintain status quo, 28-3 will not only lose the Falcons a Super Bowl – it will lose them a season, too.