FOX Sports Insider
It’s Thursday, which means there is no longer any reasonable excuse or acceptable reason to look back on the final weekend of the National Football League instead of looking forward to the next.
The problem with that, though, is that today we’re talking about the Atlanta Falcons, and what they did four days ago was so absurdly dramatic and riotously entertaining that it deserves our attention, even with a new game slate coming up.
The Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers and it might have dipped below your field of vision as there were more experienced teams and bigger names playing at the same time and this was a matchup between one of the league’s worst teams and another that was supposed to be terrible. Instead, the hawks scratch themselves at being something else.
Then forgive this flash summary. The Falcons won 37-34 after scoring three touchdowns in the Finals 3:06 after Carolina’s “game-winning” TD was actually only “game-winning” as goal scorer DJ Moore ripped off his helmet to celebrate after an extra point and an overtime 32-yarder both missed, and after Atlanta continued to re-imagine everyone else’s idea of how bad they should be.
The Falcons, sorry to use their correct new name — the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons — could be the happiest 4-4 team in NFL history. Defying all the bleak forecasts, despite a heartthrob in the opening game and a 2-0 start, they are playing the best football that a side with little talent – but great zeal – is capable of.
“Our boys don’t blink,” said quarterback Marcus Mariota. They don’t frown much either.
Ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), the Falcons find themselves unencumbered by trouble and full of momentum. The downside to being written off by everyone from Las Vegas bookmakers to the wider football public to some of their own fans and, ahem, me, is that predictions like this are made because your staff list doesn’t seem to stack up.
The upside, and the Falcons are feeling it right now, is that even winning half your games will make you feel invincible, especially when the wise summer money assumes you’re lucky enough to rack up that many wins throughout the campaign.
“The goal is to win, no matter what it takes,” Falcons lineman Jake Matthews said. “But we have to score, whether it’s defense, offense or special teams, we all have to work together to find ways to win.”
The outside pessimism was rooted in the theory that longtime franchise QB Matt Ryan’s departure for Indianapolis set the table for a tank job meant to bring about a rebuild.
Receiver Calvin Ridley (moved to Jacksonville this week) was suspended for gambling irregularities and there were no running lights, suggesting things might not be that bad.
No prominent names in the marquee squad places. Only two former first-rounders left as defensive starters, the lowest in the league. It could be argued that the team’s most interesting player is its South Korean kicker Younghoe Koo, who is quirky, cool and sometimes a god of fantasy.
It was Koos Overtime Shoe that won the win over the Panthers and he will reconnect with his former team, the Chargers, on Sunday, who let him loose four years ago.
Meanwhile, the skeptics are beginning to believe. Type of. FOX Bet has visitors from Los Angeles as favorites, buys narrowly (-3 points).
“Tampa Bay is going to get to the playoffs and host a playoff game,” FS1’s Nick Wright said on First Things First, which was another way of saying he doesn’t expect the Falcons’ division lead to last long.
Maybe that’s how it will be. But… Atlanta is facing one of the weakest game plans in football and is playing in a division that isn’t showing much quality right now given the Bucs’ unexpected troubles.
They have this good vibe that works for them and you don’t have to look too closely to see that this is a team that feels like it’s in a freeroll.
There is a small exception to the good mood. Head coach Arthur Smith is a little brusque about his dealings with the press, which is probably justified given last season’s heavy criticism.
He recently reminded those who follow the team how the prediction models placed the Falcons “about 45th” of the top 32 NFL teams ahead of the campaign. irrelevant? Sure – and why the hell not?
With an almost obsessive reliance on running the ball through Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson and avoiding mistakes, Smith is in charge of a group that makes us all look stupid while having a great ol’ time doing it.
They’ve been tough enough to escape last week’s nail biter, are confident enough to face a new weekend without fear and make what should be the most boring record ever – 4-4 – look anything but.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletterright
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