Atlanta Falcons fans know better than getting too hopeful when it comes to their football team. We have seen a lot of heartbreaks over the last few years. So this week’s matchup with a team that Atlanta should beat in the San Diego Chargers is a crucial game.
Call it a trap game. Call it a win that a quality team has to get at home. Name this game what you will. Just know that week seven could mark the most crucial point in Atlanta’s season when we look back on it at the end of the year.
The Dirty Birds are rocking a 4-2 record after a tough two-game road trip to the other side of the country. They handled a Denver team easily two weeks ago with their double-headed running attack of Freeman and Coleman.
Then they went to the left coast and battled back against Seattle, having the game in hand near the end. If not for a dropped pass by Julio Jones that ended up being picked off, Atlanta would have headed back to Georgia with just one loss on the year.
And a swallowed whistle by the refs on the final Falcons’ drive versus the Seahawks didn’t help Atlanta’s cause.
Even though the Seattle loss hurt, the rest of the League was put on notice. Atlanta could be for real.
This does not appear to be the same team that rolled through the first five weeks like juggernauts in 2015, then fell on their face the rest of the way. No team in the NFL can be comfortable facing a team that is actually getting the ball to Julio Jones early and often, unlike last year. And having two terrors in the backfield that can run and catch has increased the consumption of Tums by defensive coordinators with Atlanta on the schedule.
Still, in Atlanta, fans can’t quite go all in with the home team. Too many times, the letdowns fall on us like a fat lineman on our QB. And it sucks.
That makes it crucial that the Falcons handle their business versus the Chargers on Sunday in the Georgia Dome. A loss will erase all the goodwill that’s been built up since week five.
The talking heads have actually been giving Dan Quinn’s team some respect the past two weeks. Lose to the 2-4 Chargers and all that respect will turn to talk of “the same old Falcons.”
And make no mistake, San Diego is capable of getting the upset on the road. They can score points, and no lead is safe with Philip Rivers flinging the ball all over the field when that is the only option left for his club.
In the old days, Atlanta fans got used to losing. Hope wasn’t a problem.
In the past few years though, things changed. Mike Smith led the team to a couple regular season records that set the team up nicely for the playoffs. Matt Ryan looked to be the savior the city needed in order to keep opposing fans from overrunning our own stadium on Sundays, as locals failed to show up en masse.
Those hopes slowed with a few uninspired playoff loses in the first round. Then hope was eviscerated when the Falcons blew a lead in the NFC Title game of 2012 and allowed San Francisco to steal their trip to the Super Bowl.
It’s up the the Falcons to change how they are perceived by the national media and truly their own fans.
It was not a good look to see the Georgia Dome only 70 percent full on opening day this year. Even worse was having about 20 percent of the fans there sporting Tampa Bay gear.
Our fanbase, myself included, needs to be more loyal to the Falcons. But for that to happen, some trust has to be built up. Many of us were tricked last year with a hot start.
Lots of us have been more cautious in 2016. If the team wants to see more loyalty among its hometown fans, beating San Diego the way they did Carolina a few weeks ago would help that cause.
Any team can get tripped up on any given Sunday. What separates consistently top level teams is that wins against lesser teams, come more regularly than losses against them.
Atlanta has shown they can play with anyone. Now they have to show they can roll right over teams with no business competing with them.
Sunday at 4:05 PM is a good time to put on that show.