It’s just who they are.
That’s what is running through my mind as, like clockwork, the Atlanta Falcons are back in the headlines for a classic bit of highly visible losing. It’s the disastrous banana peel slip into the horrible history books this team has somehow become famous for in the last decade.
I don’t even want to list the examples; I don’t want to relive the wasted afternoons and evenings. Since the days in 2008 when Thomas Dimitroff and Matt Ryan got here, the Falcons have held leads like newly broken mugs holds fresh pots of tea. The pieces are scattered all over the floor, and you’re still trying to pour a hot pot of Earl Grey in hopes that mug will work.
The 2017 Super Bowl, the 28-3 meme-maker heard ‘round the world, should’ve been the grand example. That horrible blown lead to the miserable Dolphins in the season to follow should’ve kept us from ever thinking this would go any differently.
The Falcons cannot handle success, and they sure as Christmas can’t handle adversity.
I think that’s it. I think, after ten-plus years of following this team religiously, that’s it. The Falcons are an underdog; they need fire to fuel them for the comeback win. It’s part of their DNA; it’s why Dan Quinn’s coaching style works so well to bring this team together when things are hard. But things have to get hard first; they always have to get hard first.
When things are going well? You soar until you crash. When you get up 20 points in the first quarter, you fiddle around and only score 19 points for the remainder of the game. You also let the opponent score 40 to follow it. It just felt like it would happen again, even when it was, again, mathematically impossible.
But, like a Sunday turning into a Monday, the team watched an onside kick roll right into Dallas hands with no effort or urgency. The game was truly lost the second the Falcons didn’t react. We’ve seen it so many times before; it’s just who they are.
They just don’t have a killer instinct to not wilt in fear and confusion if a team presses them.
It’s not like they didn’t play well, but they always do. The Falcons never lay a goose egg; they push the golden egg off the balcony when it’s time to cash it in. They snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They win so much they lose. They just don’t understand how to finish. What else can you say? They just always come up short.
The defense is the team in a nutshell. The second a team plays fast and it has to react, it lets up a 50-something yard smash play and a touchdown usually follows. It’s like the team is stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop of the 2012 NFC Championship game that it will never be able to escape. They just always blow the lead.
What if they’d won Sunday? What if this team actually grabs the onside kick? Does it really matter? This team still blew the lead in stunning fashion; that it came down to an onside kick was bad enough as it was. Maybe it’s good they lost this time. Not for our collective healths, but for the excuses to run out. Under this regime, this is who the Falcons are right now, and it’s who they’ve been the entire time.
They are unable to handle adversity. The second a team fights back, they wither. Even when they strike back, they welcome random catastrophe with open arms.
It’s almost impossible to dissect what is causing this; it’s almost an identity issue. It’s what they’ve been built to be. Ever since that 2012 game, this team has just made the same dang mistakes over and over again. It’s automatic.
The second this team seemed like it just couldn’t lose, it did. And that’s on this entire organization. So, so many good things happened Sunday, but things still fell apart like they always do. When you feel like you’re going to lose when you’re up by 20 points, like I kind of did on Sunday, things just aren’t what they should be.
Will they fix any of this? In moments, I’m sure. I don’t think a team with this much talent and veteran presence can go 3-13. It still feels like an 7/9/8-8/9-7 year. The Falcons will always seem like they’re maybe figuring it out, but in reality, they’ll still be the same team.
Say they win. Say they top Chicago next week and go 2-1. You get a false sense of hope. Can this Falcons team beat the best in the NFL? No, not if this is who they are. If you organically cannot handle adversity, you won’t survive against the Chiefs, Seahawks, Ravens and, yes, Saints of the world when it counts.
You’ll win some games you shouldn’t; you’ll inspire hope when it’s probably not earned. You’ll still lose games to inferior opponents; you’ll pick somewhere in the middle in the NFL Draft again. Nothing ever ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
Arthur Blank is the only person who can do anything about this. Unless the team rallies like they never have before and proves these two losses moot from here on out, he’s going to have to spare us more misery. I don’t like to wish for people to lose their jobs, but I just don’t want to keep spending bulks of Sundays sitting and feeling like it would’ve been easier and more productive to do something else than watch this team.
The Falcons are the laughingstock of the NFL today, just like they were yesterday. The class clowns never hold the Lombardi. If the Falcons are just what they are, that’s what they’ll be tomorrow. Fool’s gold has no currency in the winner’s market; they lost Sunday when they once again didn’t know how to handle even an ounce of things not going as planned. If they’d won at the last second, the win doesn’t mean quite as much for the future.
It just needs to stop. I’ll cheer for the Falcons until I’m in the grave: I made that solemn oath long ago. If this is just who they are right now, we’ll all be folding laundry rather than spend any sort of time watching the Falcons play soon enough. If this is just who they are, a reset is coming swiftly.