NEWARK, N.J. – This was a game the Atlanta Falcons had to have, and they won it . They didn’t look great, although no team could have looked great in that daylong downpour. (And by daylong, I mean 20 hours of rain. When I woke up Sunday, it was raining. At 4:15 a.m. today, still raining.)
The Falcons are 4-3, having outscored their seven opponents by one point. Even after a week of targeted practice, they didn’t do a whole lot better on third down and on scoring touchdowns inside the 20. They remain, to use Dan Quinn’s description from last week, a middle-of-the-road team. This week they move into the fast lane.
On Sunday, the Falcons play Carolina in Charlotte. The next week, it’s Dallas in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Then it’s Seattle in Seattle on Monday night. If they go 2-1, they’ll be on to something. If they go 1-2, they’ll be back to .500 with only six games to go.
In sum, the story is about to get interesting. Of the Falcons’ remaining nine games, six will be NFC South affairs. If they don’t play any better in their division than they did the AFC East (meaning 1-3), they won’t repeat as champs. They probably won’t make the playoffs.
Nothing that happened Sunday should have changed anyone’s opinion about the post-Super Falcons. They still have players capable of making big-time plays. They’re still sloppy enough to allow a demonstrably weaker opponent to hang around. But at least they won, which is more than you could say about the motley Buffalo and Miami games.
I still think they’re good enough to have a big season. I also think there’s something missing. Whatever isn’t there, they’d better find it soon. These next three games should tell the tale of this season.