An 8-0 record could not convince them that they were good enough to beat the Saints last week. Winning convincingly, winning tough, comeback wins, none of these could convince them either. The Saints’ struggles meant nothing. The inferiority complex that the Falcons have developed over the past few seasons reared its ugly head, and they were beaten before they even stepped on the field.
Roddy White gave me the first clue. He started out by talking about the Falcons going 16-0, then he just could not shut his mouth. He talked about hating the Saints, and hating the city of New Orleans. Then he said that he hoped to see man coverage in the game. None of this sounded like confidence. It was more like bravado, like he was trying to convince himself of something.
Then, the Atlanta Falcons went out and showed that they did not belong on the same field as the Saints. Even before the game, they were looking for an edge, messing around in the Saints drills, and when a Saints’ player complained to a Falcons’ coach, the coach said he couldn’t do anything. Then, when the game started, the Falcons played soft, played stupid, rolled over and showed their collective belly.
Asante Samuel got things started. After the Falcons drove for a TD, Samuel returned an INT to the Saints’ 12-yard line, but decided to celebrate like it was the Super Bowl (where he drops those, right Pats’ fans?). The ensuing 15-yard penalty backed the Falcons up to the 27, and they settled for a FG. Then, on the very next Saints possession, RB Chris Ivory rumbled for a 56-yard TD, running right by Mr. Samuel, who took a bad angle in his attempt to tackle Ivory.
Check out the poor defensive effort on these two second-half Saints TDs:
Of course, the game ended fittingly enough; the Falcons got the ball back late in the fourth quarter with one last chance to pull out the victory. Matt Ryan spotted Roddy White down the right sideline and let it rip, but White, inexplicably, stopped running, lost the ball, and missed. All talk.
Fittingly, while the Saints were celebrating their victory, Roddy White was singing the eternal song of the loser: the Saints didn’t win, the Falcons “…gave it away.” He’s closer to the truth than he knows, and that’s why the Atlanta Falcons will not be playing in the Super Bowl this season.
Jets at Rams
Your coach gives a press conference to defend his starting QB. A local news outlet quotes an anonymous player as saying that his team’s backup QB can’t start because he’s “terrible,” while another named player refers to said backup as not a QB but an “athlete.” The coach gathers the team together and tells them that people who make anonymous comments are “cowardly.” The team’s starting RB tells a reporter that he thinks the team needs a change at QB, then later denies that he doesn’t support the team’s starter. A former player outs two current players as the most likely sources of the “terrible” comments, followed by the two players vehemently denying it. More former players, now with a new team, talk about how much more they enjoy the atmosphere of their new team. The backup at the centre of all this says that he’s “sad (and) disappointed.” That’s five days in the life of the New York Jets. Who has time for actual football? The Rams, that’s who. They’re pissed-off that they had the 49ers on the ropes last week and had to settle for a tie. That’s a winning attitude. Winner: Rams
Eagles at Washington
How considerate of Michael Vick to quell the QB controversy in Philly by going out and getting his bell rung, thus saving Andy Reid from having to do the thing he hates the most, make a decision. So, the Eagles will start rookie Nick Foles (who, as my wife cheekily noted, would be a better fit on the Colts or Broncos), which means that Washington can (and will) expect a heavy dose of the running game. Meanwhile, the Eagles can (and will) dread playing against a much more accurate version of mobile QB than they are used to facing in practice. Winner: Washington
Packers at Lions
The absence of “Modelling” Clay Matthews for this contest worries me a bit, but I still like Aaron Rodgers over Matthew Stafford in a shootout. (Note: I Googled “Modelling Clay Matthews” and “Modeling Clay Matthews” [US spelling] and found nothing. Ergo, from this point forward, I am claiming this nickname as my intellectual property. If you see it anywhere else, I’m being ripped-off.) Winner: Packers
Now that the Saints have eliminated them from Super Bowl contention, the Falcons can spend this week beating up on the lowly Cards and pretending that they’re awesome. Winner: Falcons
Bengals at Chiefs
Don’t you hate it when you break up with someone, then you see them again, and they look surprisingly good, and then you’re sucked back in again? After following up a three-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak, the Bengals mauled the Giants last week, and find themselves with five very winnable games coming up (at Chiefs, Raiders, at Chargers, Cowboys, at Eagles). Meanwhile, the Ravens and Steelers have players dropping like flies, and they get to beat the crap out of each other twice in the next three weeks. The window just opened a crack, Cincy. If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be not wrong. Winner: Bengals
Jaguars at Texans
The worst thing that could happen to the Texans in this one is a key injury; remember, they had to start their third-string QB in the playoffs last year. It would be nice not to have to ride Arian Foster so hard this week, especially after he carried Houston’s offence against Chicago last week. Best to just put the Jags away early, then give the second-string some playing time. Winner: Texans
Browns at Cowboys
Cleveland’s defence will keep this from being a walk in the park for Dallas, but I like Tony Romo to generate enough points to beat a Browns offence which itself has a tough defence to worry about. Watch out Giants; the Cowboys are right behind you. Winner: Cowboys
Buccaneers at Panthers
Josh Freeman has the Bucs offence on a roll. Cam Newton will have to beat them with his arm. Who’s he throwing to, other than Steve Smith? Winner: Buccaneers
Saints at Raiders
I’d like the Raiders’ chances of hanging in against the Saints a whole lot better if Darren McFadden was playing. He isn’t, of course. Winner: Saints
Colts at Patriots
Andrew Luck is going to be a superstar. Minus the neckbeard, he might even get to do lots of commercials, like his Colts QB predecessor. Or, for that matter, like the guy he gets to watch decimate his team’s defence this week. Winner: Patriots
Chargers at Broncos
Denver just seems to get better with each passing week. Peyton Manning looks as good as he ever has. It’s almost as though Willis McGahee has to fumble every once in a while just to keep things interesting. Last time these two teams played, the Chargers led 24-0 at the half on a Monday night, and I never even considered turning the game off. Winner: Broncos
Ravens at Steelers
Ravens’ fans are no doubt excited that Byron Leftwich gets the start at QB for the Steelers. My counter to that is, “Yeah, but your guys have Joe Flacco, so settle down.” Beating up on the Raiders last week was one thing. These wounded Steelers can still play some defence, and they can run the ball too. Winner: Steelers
Bears at 49ers
Had Jay Cutler not been concussed last week, I would not have hesitated for a second to pick the Bears in this one. With that being said, Chicago still has an advantage at QB this week. The Bears were smart to rule Cutler out early for this one, so that backup Jason Campbell will get all the first-team snaps in practice. On the other side, Alex Smith, also concussed last week, is practicing, but has not been cleared for contact. So, whoever starts at QB for the ‘niners this week, Smith or Colin Kaepernick, neither will have had as much preparation as Campbell. Don’t forget, Campbell’s not that bad, and he got thrown in against a better defence than the 49ers’ last week. Oh, and the Bears’ D is better than San Fran’s too. Winner: Bears