Through two games, it’s highly unlikely that the Atlanta Falcons are considered the favorites to win Super Bowl 50 by anyone in the sports world.
But for all their faults, the Falcons are 2-0 with two huge victories over quality NFC East opponents. Now two-thirds of the way through arguably the toughest stretch of their 2015 schedule, Atlanta is guaranteed to finish those three games with a winning record.
Before we turn our attention to a massive road game in Dallas next weekend, I just want to recap what we’ve seen in the first two games, because it’s been as impressive as it’s been incomplete. Head coach Dan Quinn will need time to unravel all the weaknesses of this franchise, but he’s doing a pretty good job so far.
The same phrase was repeated by analysts and columnists alike after both Falcons wins: “This is a game the old Falcons would’ve lost.”
(If you’ve followed the Falcons for a few years, you were probably nodding your head while you read that quote.)
Yet again, that statement rang true Sunday afternoon after the Falcons completed a 24-20 comeback victory over the New York Giants. Down 20-10 and threatening to give up another score, defensive lineman Kroy Biermann created a massive turnover that saved the game for Atlanta, and they capitalized. In the fourth quarter, the Falcons erased a 10-point deficit thanks to two big touchdown drives in which the offensive line performed brilliantly.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has had confusing moments where his passes are off, but in both games, when the team needed points, he led them to the Promised Land. Ryan has made journeymen Jacob Tamme and Leonard Hankerson look like great receivers at times, and even running backs Devonta Freeman and Patrick DiMarco have made big catches at times.
Of course, Julio Jones is going to be a madman and catch everything thrown his way, which is to be expected. His 13 catches against the Giants were a career high, and even though he didn’t have a touchdown catch on Sunday, his 135 receiving yards were huge in the victory.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are plenty of questions as well. Aside from the baffling decision to let Robert Alford, not Desmond Trufant, defend All-Pro wideout Odell Beckham Jr., missed tackles and a lack of quarterback pressure continue to plague this unit. The defense recorded its first two sacks of the season, and, in addition to the Biermann forced fumble, stripped Eli Manning another time in the fourth quarter, but the ball was recovered by New York for a first down.
Quinn had a rookie moment when he didn’t ask the officials to review the play, which was very close to being an incompletion. Had the call been reversed, the Giants would have punted the ball to the Falcons on the next play. At the time, Atlanta trailed 20-17, and it appeared they may have squandered away their chance to come back.
Luckily, the Falcons forced the Giants to punt later in the drive, and Atlanta would score the go-ahead touchdown two drives later.
Despite all the question marks that remain, Falcons fans would be dumb to poo-poo this 2-0 start. Nobody in the right mind predicted wins over the Eagles and Giants to start the year.
Now, it gets really tough – on to Dallas.
Photo: AP/Seth Wenig