Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Falcons simply can't lose this opener

It is only one game. Only 1/16th of the pie. A sliver. A mere 6.2 percent of a NFL schedule.

There, we got all the sane, sensible sentiments out of the way.

Now, proceed to hyperventilating over Sunday’s Falcons opener against Tampa Bay.

A must-win season opener? This is as close as it gets to such an impatient proposition.

Just consider the opportunity presented Sunday at the Georgia Dome to correct the impression of last season’s pair of narrow losses to a division rival considered up and coming.

“When you first get the schedule you look at that, you have an appreciation for (the importance of this opening),” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Wednesday.

“We know that teams that play well within the division usually have extra bonuses that take place at the end. A division game off the bat, we’re thrilled with that. For us to have opportunity to play that game here with our group and our crowd makes it extra special,” he said.

The importance of setting a tone early in Year Two of Quinn can’t be overblown, no matter how hard we will try.

The coach has queued up the loop again about playing with speed and effort, but it remains for this team to give the words substance, to provide them with meaning. Now.

Plus, as you may have heard, the Falcons schedule turns absolutely draconian after this one – with a pair of road games and then a gauntlet against a trio of Super Bowl candidates: Carolina, Denver and Seattle. To lose a game of equals before entering such a sausage grinder would dishearten to the max.

And may we suggest one key to this required victory would be something the Falcons have shown little aptitude for: Knocking down the other quarterback.

You may recall Jameis Winston’s outlandish break-out near the close of December’s game against the Bucs: Bouncing off and through a half dozen would-be Falcons tacklers on the way to a 20-yard gain on third-and-19 that led to the winning score.

In case you have forgotten, here’s the unpleasant flashback.

Certainly that's an episode the Falcons defense has relived plenty in preparation for Sunday.

“We’ve shown a lot of tackling. They’ve definitely seen some plays that are uncomfortable,” Quinn said.

Like that play in particular, Quinn was asked.

“That was uncomfortable,” he said.

And there is no comfort short of winning Sunday.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.