Three weeks into the NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons could easily be 0-3. If last year’s team were on the field in each of those games, they probably would be winless. Heck, if basically any other Atlanta franchise from basically any other year were on the field, they would have choked away at least two of those games in heartbreaking fashion.
But something has happened at the start of this new season. There’s something this Falcons team has that is just, well, different. And we’re noticing it on the field and in the win column.
After yet another come-from-behind stunner – a 39-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in which Atlanta trailed 14-0 early – the Falcons now have three wins over solid NFC East opponents, two of which came on the road.
Dallas was expected to be a lesser foe with their star quarterback and wide receiver sidelined, but someone forgot to tell the Cowboys. They jumped all over Atlanta, moving the ball at will and keeping their own defense off the field. In the first half, the Falcons looked outmanned and outclassed.
But something happens with this squad. No matter where they’re playing or how frustrating the deficit, they don’t appear to panic, and they always seem to have a plan. Though it didn’t look that way at all times Sunday in AT&T Stadium, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn worked his magic and the defense slowly, deliberately pulled it together.
The offense, with a makeshift line and a starting running back out due to injury, managed 39 points – 25 of which were unanswered. Running back Devonta Freeman, who many were beginning to doubt as a legitimate, reliable NFL back, rose to the occasion and had career highs in nearly every statistic: 30 carries, 141 yards, three touchdowns. The little guy damn near looked like Warrick Dunn out there.
Julio Jones was Julio Jones. At this point, opposing defenses are spending all week game-planning for No. 11, and they still can’t stop him. Add 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns onto the pile, because it’s just another average week for an above-average superstar. According to ESPN, his 34 catches through three games are the most through a team’s first three weeks in NFL history. I don’t know if some Atlanta fans truly grasp what a star they have in red and black.
Now, Jones is clearly hobbled, and no human being – even a physical specimen like him – can last through an entire NFL season taking as many hits as he’s taking every week. He’ll need to get some rest, or at least some relief, because the Falcons need to keep their biggest weapon on the field the whole year.
But let’s focus on the positive, Falcons fans. Take a step back and look at what this team has already accomplished in the first three weeks of the 2015 season.
They’ve pretty much already won the NFC East.
Photo: AP/Michael Ainsworth