Two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons lost their first two road games en route to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.
So it’s not a sure bet that the season will be a wash if the Birds lose their Week 3 game at the Miami Dolphins. After all, those two road losses to start the 2011 season were to the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — two teams that combined to go 12-16 that year, neither making the playoffs.
But the Falcons need to get a win in south Florida on Sunday to provide a little bit of relief to a fanbase worried about the rest of this season.
In the first two games of the year, we learned the Falcons’ two major weaknesses of the 2012 season haven’t been remedied: they still have problems holding a lead in the second half, and they still struggle with scoring in the red zone at the end of a ballgame. Neither may happen in Miami, but if one or both of those situations arise, the Falcons need a strong answer to prove 2013 will be different.
Also, the injury woes will leave big holes on both sides of the ball for Atlanta this week. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon won’t be back for this game, nor will running back Steven Jackson. Fullback Bradie Ewing and defensive lineman Kroy Biermann won’t be back at all. The already shaky offensive line will be even thinner with left tackle Sam Baker unable to go, leaving quarterback Matt Ryan even more vulnerable to the slew of hits he’s been taking every game this season.
And when D-Block has to introduce multiple new members to the neighborhood in one show, we have problems.
(Also read: Braves could clinch first division title in 8 years)
The Falcons adopted a new slogan this week called “Next Man Up” to counter their sweeping injury problems. It’s an adage that has probably been used by other franchises before Atlanta attached it to their roster, but it’s a true statement for these Falcons.
Personally, I’d love to see former Florida State running back Antone Smith get some time in the backfield this week. He’s been the most valuable special teams player on the team this year, making crucial plays on punts and kickoffs to give the Falcons an advantage in field position. He’s gritty and talented, getting praise from teammates and analysts alike about his drive to succeed wherever he can to make the team better.
Plus, he’s good at Sun Life Stadium — in a 2008 FSU victory against the Miami Hurricanes, Smith scored four touchdowns on 92 rushing yards to clinch a 41-39 victory in the rain.
With Jacquizz Rodgers the likely starter at running back and Jason Snelling probably starting at fullback, the Falcons need a strong, speedy runner to back Rodgers up. Why not my boy Antone? If he plays well, it would be the true definition of “Next Man Up.”
Crazier things have happened in football, that’s for sure.