Dan Quinn, who doesn’t sound like it, is from New Jersey. The Falcons coach therefore is speaking with regional certainty when he said the road setting this weekend is going to be more difficult than the Falcons’ previous one.
“I would think so,” the Falcons coach said, while preparing a trip to Philadelphia.
Think about it. Where would you rather go: Santa-booing Philly or, as the Falcons did in the playoffs’ first round, every-day-is-casual-Friday Los Angeles?
The Eagles are part of the fabric of their city – be that scratchy burlap, but fabric nonetheless.
The Rams come and go in L.A. Their fans are just now getting reacquainted with them, like some long-lost relative who comes back only when the money runs out.
“Last week was a good environment, for sure. You could feel the energy for the game, the first postseason game there,” Quinn said, ever kind.
“This one ... I’m not going to say it’s more passionate, but I would say more ‘Northeast.’” Which is code, in this case, for grittier, grimier, and, yes, more emotionally charged. It is code for: Fans, don’t wear your Falcons jersey to Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday unless it is made of Kevlar.
The Falcons Across America Tour goes this weekend to the City of Brotherly Love (yeah, and Atlanta is The City of the Carefree Commute). It is the Falcons’ lot, as the No. 6 seed, to travel throughout the postseason. You don’t get a home-field advantage when you lose to both Jay Cutler and Tyrod Taylor.
But, it turns out, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In three seasons, Quinn has a slightly better regular-season record on the road (15-9) than at home (14-10). The squeaker wins at Chicago and Detroit this season counter-balanced painful losses at New England and New Orleans. And these Falcons were evenly split at 5-3 both home and away.
By the numbers, it would seem there is no venue that should paralyze this team.
“Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, we want to stay consistent in how we play ball,” Quinn said.
Asked the secret to success on the road, Quinn pointed to both the consistent approach and the kind of experience at the most key of positions that allow the Falcons to function on hostile ground.
“This group has been to a lot of different time zones and places, it’s not so unusual for us as a group to take our show on the road. We don’t mind that,” Quinn said.
“The first key is to stay to your routine, to your process. On the road we try to stick to that same (home) format.” Doesn’t matter, he said, whether they are in Buckhead the night before the game or Philadelphia.
Then, referring to center Alex Mack and quarterback Matt Ryan, Quinn added, “The crowd noise is a big factor, always. We’re fortunate because of Alex and because of Matt, it’s not something so unfamiliar to them.”
Mack concedes that Saturday, “It’s going to be a really loud game. Their fans are going to be really dedicated, really loud, really involved.”
But he has nine years’ NFL experience and Ryan 10. They’ve been to more than a few bar fights. And lately have won more than their share.
So, when Mack said, “We’ve developed a plan to be able to effectively communicate across the whole line,” who are we to doubt him?
Location, location, location is infinitely more important in real estate than it is regarding the Falcons’ immediate prospects. They have proved themselves comfortable travelers, just a rigged ring-toss game short of a carnival troupe.
There may be many sound reasons that the Falcons don’t return to the Super Bowl. A plane flight shouldn’t be one of them.