I try to avoid being abstract with these weekly questions and focus on one element of the game that might prove to be decisive for the Falcons if they can get the job done. That’s tidy, that’s comfortable, and often it’s pretty easy to zero in on one neat trick to get the Falcons to victory.
Not so this week. The Falcons are suiting up fresh off one of their worst losses ever in terms of point margin, and the Patriots are fresh off of dusting the Browns by nearly 40. There isn’t a single thing that New England does, at least on paper, that Atlanta does better at the moment. It feels pretty meaningless, then, to ask if the Falcons pass rush can get home, both because they probably can’t and even doing so might not swing the outcome.
So here’s a more abstract, quite important question: Are the Falcons resilient enough to bounce back from that kind of loss and surprise the Patriots, hopefully by winning but at least by keeping this one close until the end?
There are limits to what resilience and toughness can do for you, obviously, but Arthur Smith is among those relishing finding out what it can do for the Falcons, as he made clear in Jeff Schultz’s latest piece for The Athletic:
“When you have games like that you find out a lot about players and coaches. The way we started the season (32-6 loss to Philadelphia), it wasn’t ideal. We fought back, and here we are. We’re right in the mush, and we’ll see how we come out of it in November.”
To win on Thursday night, the Falcons have to shake off a humiliating defeat, improve just about every asset of their performance from a week ago, and do it all at home where they’ve yet to win this year against perhaps the NFL’s hottest teams. They’re going to have to be at their absolute best to even come close to doing so, and as nebulous as resilience can seem, what we’re talking about is nothing less than the Falcons weathering a bad loss and showing up four days later bloodied but not cowed by either the defeat or the excellence of their upcoming opponent.
I’m not optimistic Atlanta will win—I’m sure you understand why—but I am optimistic we’ll see a better performance than we saw against Dallas. The Falcons have made a habit this season of following up forgettable efforts with improved ones, after all. Let’s see just how much better it will be.