After the Atlanta Falcons ate an 18-12 loss in Philadelphia against the Eagles, it’d be easy to discuss what went wrong, who got hurt, what on Earth the referees were thinking, what was Steve Sarkisian doing, etc. In fact, that’s probably what we’ll be doing here at The Falcoholic for most of the next several days, and with reason.
But let’s not talk about Falcons right now.
Let’s talk about turtles (well, tortoises, to be proper) and rabbits (er, hares, to honor the King’s English).
Aesop wrote a story one time about a tortoise and a hare who challenged each other to a race one fine afternoon. As the race went on, the hare got out to a lead; a big one, while the tortoise just moseyed along on the path, humming a tune. The hare got out in front by such a great length that, at about halfway through the race, he took a nap against a big boulder.
Now, the tortoise had a bunch of fans that were really nervous about what was happening with this stupid turtle who was calling too many sweeps and was overthrowing Julio Jones on easy touchdowns and was also calling the worst plays imaginable oh my gosh can we fire Steve Sarkisian already KYLE PLEASE COME HOME.
Wait, no, sorry, that’s not Aesop. Would Aesop know who Sark was? It feels like he’d probably be a Cardinals fan. Ok, moving on.
Ok, so the rabbit sleeps for too long, and the turtle wins the race. The rabbit, sorry, hare, freaks out and wants to understand how this happened. The shelled dinosaur says, slow and steady wins the race. All the other animals and humans reading about the animals learn a lesson; rinse, repeat.
You know where I’m going with this.
Be Wary, All Who Read Into This
The Falcons sucked Thursday night. Heck, not even Captain Cory Optimism of the Happy Tree Rainbow Sunshine Coke Float Brigade can sugar this one over, and you know I’m usually good for it.
QB Matt Ryan put forth his worst outing in a Falcons uniform since probably the 2012 Arizona Cardinals game where he threw five picks. He was dreadful on a night featuring overthrown balls, too much pocket dancing, and bad-sack amassing. He looked like a rookie being pelted with fireballs by the ‘85 Bears defense.
But the thing is, that’s not Ryan. Whatever weird man in a Falcons uniform that showed up to play the Eagles is not the former MVP. That’s not the Mattural.
Sark...well, we all know where this conversation is going to be for the next few days. It’s not wrong to question what he was doing back at the screenings and sweepstakes, and in questioning what was going on in the red zone. It’s also fair to wonder what would’ve happened if his offense had competent quarterback play (yes, that’s how bad Ryan was), and how his red zone offense will look against defenses that aren’t the best red zone defenses in the league playing at home after a rain storm in front of an adoring crowd that came to see the Super Bowl enshrinement. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle; he didn’t have the best night, but he didn’t have the best conditions, either.
The defense looked pretty great! Well, they looked pretty great when everyone was on the field. Keanu Neal, Takk McKinley, Desmond Trufant, Deion Jones and Vic Beasley all left at random points of the game. It was almost comical to see so many Falcons getting hurt (and, by comical, I mean soul-crushing). But that can’t last! Word on Neal is that he’s avoided something serious, and Damontae Kazee did a fine job in his stead. You lose Neal, you’ve got real problems. You don’t, you can live. Maybe if everyone had been healthy, the reigning Super Bowl MVP might not have been as successful.
The Falcons also got the most penalties for the franchise since people were afraid of Y2K. That’s not great.
But we don’t have to do this every time the Falcons lose an opener, either.
A Tale of Four Openers
In 2015, Dan Quinn rung in his tenure as the head coach of the Falcons with a last-minute win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Then-new free safety Ricardo Allen snagged a Sam Bradford pick to give the Falcons the ball back to ice the game. 1-0. They would later go on to flame out around mid-October and go 8-8 after a 5-0 start.
In 2016, the Dirty Bird mob called for Kyle Shanahan’s head on a platter after the team’s demoralizing home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offense looked like it had not learned a single lesson from the year before, a lesser offense was making plays left and right (Charles Sims long third down conversion for the win) and some folks feared this might mean an 0-6 start to an already-lost season. 0-1. The team went on to go 5-1 in that stretch and won the NFC Championship after an 11-5 regular season. They fielded a historic offense. They, uh, went to the Super Bowl.
In 2017, the Mike Glennon, 5-11 Chicago Bears marched down the field on the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons, who would beat the en vogue Rams on the road a few months later, and nearly scored a game-winning touchdown. At the last second, Brooks Reed sacked Glennon for the walk-off road win. 1-0 against a team that went 5-11. Those Falcons nearly beat the Super Bowl champs.
In 2018, the Falcons nearly beat the Super Bowl champs on a night where the franchise QB looked like a cooked goose, the play caller looked shaky and the defense was practically in an iron lung. Oh, and the field was wet and the entire city of Philadelphia roaring with anticipation to welcome in the new banner. 0-1.
Quinn’s Falcons are 2-2 in season openers and are nearly 0-4. They’re also nearly 4-0 if Ryan’s able to bring them back from that Bucs loss. Notice a theme?
Week 1 Lessons
Week One is fool’s gold. Folks expect too much right away from this team. The 2018 season ends in December, at worst. The Falcons typically hit their stride in Week Two or Three under Quinn. They’ll probably hit a mid-October lull before hitting the gas in November. They’ll probably still be a playoff team that contends for the Super Bowl. No one seems to be majorly hurt on one of the worst fields the team has had to play on in eons.
The Falcons are 0-1, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when 15 other games await you and you historically don’t even start looking good until the week after the opener.
Slow and steady wins the race. Ryan bounces back. Sark probably gets better (how better, I wish I could tell you). The opponents won’t be this difficult again until the playoffs. The defense will heal up. The penalties are a mirage. When you visit bizarro land, don’t freak out when you see some weird stuff.
The verbose writer is out of words. We can’t keep doing this, folks. Be patient. No, the Falcons didn’t look great on offense. Yes, they did look that good on defense when everyone was healthy and active. Yes, I’d love to know why Quinn and company have no answer for Jay Ajayi. No, this game is not reflective of who the Falcons will be this season. Yes, they’ll probably be much better next week.
The Falcons nearly won one of the worst regular season games we’ve seen them play in eons against the champs. We don’t know enough yet to say they won’t be okay, and history suggests they’ll be fine.
Under Quinn, Week Ones are hiccups and mirages until proven otherwise.