Falcons’ perfect season finally ends

AP Photo/Bill Feig

When I first pored over the Falcons’ 2012 schedule many moons ago, I chalked up their Week 10 game at New Orleans as a loss.

I didn’t think it would be their first loss of the season, but I definitely foresaw a defeat in the House of Pain — the Superdome, for non-Falcons fans.

So in dropping a 31-27 loss to the Saints despite having a shot to take the lead in the final minutes of the game, it’s hard to get upset about the outcome. Frustrated is a different story, but we had a serious shortage of that in the first half of the year.

The undefeated season is over, but it’s not always horrible to lose a game, although it stings to see it happen on the archrival’s field. Teams that don’t face adversity in the regular season usually hit a rough stretch in the postseason, and it’s usually their downfall. The Falcons have been masterful at taking punches but staying off the mat, but this time, they were finally KO’ed.

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Let’s examine what the Falcons did right. They started the game by scoring twice on their first two possessions, grabbing a quick 10-0 lead. They would give it back, but it’s a start. That was, by far, the most difficult atmosphere they’ve played in this season, and it was pleasant to see them grab momentum immediately and suck the life out of the building.

But when cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted quarterback Drew Brees on the Saints’ second drive, it was the final time the Falcons, one of the highest-ranking teams in the NFL in takeaways, would force a turnover in the ballgame. That definitely didn’t help their cause.

They’re still playing without their defensive captain, as linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed another game with an ankle injury. If it looked like they just needed one more playmaker out there in key situations today, you’re not wrong. And they’ll get him back soon enough.

Julio Jones fought through an injury that nagged him all day to catch four passes for 75 yards. It wasn’t a career day for Jones, but when he’s on the field, you notice how much tougher it is to defend this offense. His shin will heal, and he will shred the Arizona Cardinals next week.

Quarterback Matt Ryan had another solid game, throwing for 411 yards and three touchdowns, notching more completions (34) than Brees had attempts (32). Every now and then, the Falcons are going to drop one of those games due to their shaky defense, but if Ryan continues to bring in passer ratings of more than 100 (his rating was 100.7 today) and complete passes to 10 (ten!) receivers, they’re going to win most of those contests. Also, Ryan was only sacked once on an afternoon where the defense was sending blitzers frequently as they tried to do anything imaginable to slow the Falcons’ incredible passing attack.

So don’t panic, Falcons fans. It’s a rivalry and sometimes things like this happen. It’s not the end of the world, and they’ll learn from their mishaps and come back stronger when the Cardinals come calling.

It will finally get the media off our backs about the undefeated season, too. You know, the seven of them who were actually talking about it.

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