Musings, observations and the occasional insight while a Week 6 that was flush with fantastic finishes unfolds before our eyes ...
• Nobody, not even the bumbling 1-15 Miami Dolphins, endured what the Atlanta Falcons endured in 2007. The disgrace of
The Falcons of last year lost their starting quarterback to prison, their head coach to the Liars Hall of Fame and a good deal of their long-suffering fan base to disillusionment and disappointment. Oh, and did we mention that 12 defeats in 16 games only added to the sense of gloom and doom that pervaded everything the Falcons touched?
So, for my money, there's no better story unfolding in the NFL this season than the one in Atlanta, where the new-look Falcons have surged into a first-place tie in the tough NFC South thanks to a roster, coaching staff and front office that isn't burdened or concerned with last year's debacles.
During my early August trip to the Falcons training camp, I had a hard time remembering the last time I saw a team trying out so many new faces in key places. But if I had to rate them in terms of their importance to the Falcons' early-season success thus far, I'm not sure what order I would place new head coach
Six weeks into the NFL's 2008 regular season and there are
Not only did the victory enable Atlanta to match its 2007 win total of four and give the Falcons their first victory over a team with a winning record -- Atlanta previously had beaten the Lions, Chiefs and the then-.500 Packers -- but also it showed the mettle of Smith's club. The Falcons rallied from a 20-19 deficit despite getting the ball back at its own 44 with just 11 seconds remaining.
This was the kind of game, once it had been given away to the Bears, that a young team with a rookie quarterback seldom finds a way to win. Up 19-10 for most of the fourth quarter, the Falcons subsequently blew the chance to put Chicago away with a chip-shot 33-yarder from Elam, then paid dearly for it when the Bears stormed 77 yards in 11 plays in the final minutes, taking a one-point lead on
The Falcons should have been dejected, deflated and just about defeated. But they weren't. Maybe they don't know any better. And when Ryan hit
"[This game] confirms what we are doing as a football team,'' said Smith, whose Falcons have won consecutive games for the first time. "It is confirmation that the way we've been going about our business is the right way to go about it. We are still in the process. We're a young football team that's learning every time we go on the field.''
These Falcons have somehow put the misery of 2007 behind them. And for a happy moment at least, no other team in the NFC South is ahead of them.
• If you're Bears head coach
Starting at the Falcons' 44 with 11 seconds left gave Matt Ryan and company just enough time to complete that long out-pattern to Jenkins and position Elam for the game-winning kick.
When only a long field goal can beat you, Lovie, why not have Gould boom it deep?
• I'll have more to say about this in my next monthly Coaches on the Hot Seat update, but I think we can add Falcons offensive coordinator
Mularkey, the ex-Bills head coach, has done a superb job thus far with an Atlanta offense that loves to run the ball but also lets the rookie Ryan throw it when he has to. Who says you can't win with a rookie passer? Ryan was a sharp 22 of 30 for a career-high 301 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. Through six starts, Ryan has five touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,164 yards passing and a solid 82.9 QB rating.
• How much would Atlanta have been hurting if the Falcons had lost to Chicago on Elam's botched 33-yard field attempt with 2:50 remaining? The ex-Broncos kicker made 5-of-6 field goal attempts against the Bears, and he entered the game 11 for 11 on the season -- none of which would have salved the wound.
• For the first time all season, we recognized
• When you watch Baltimore rookie quarterback
Makes you wonder a bit why Ravens head coach
• Give it another week or two, and the Dolphins' "Wildcat'' formation will have its own
• That settles it for me, although it has been my hunch for a few weeks now: The Broncos are headed back to the pack in the AFC West. Next week, a trip to New England looms.
• Consider this: The Eagles' 23-point fourth quarter on Sunday, capping a 40-26 road win over the Niners, surpassed any output that Philly had in its last three games: A 15-6 home win against Pittsburgh, a 24-20 loss at Chicago and 23-17 home loss to Washington.
• That wasn't a
• The NFC East and the NFC South are comprised of combined eight teams, and all eight are at .500 or better through six weeks. Every team in the two divisions has either three or four victories, at least until the Giants dispatch of the Browns on Monday night to improve to 5-0.
• On the flip side, West Coast football in the NFL is ... pathetic. The Seahwaks (1-4), 49ers (2-4), Raiders (1-4) and Chargers (2-3) were a combined 6-15 heading into San Diego's game against New England on Sunday night. The Chargers will rebound at some point later this season, but the other three teams are going nowhere in 2008.
• I'm sure the Cardinals are jacked to be 4-2 and leading their division by a full two games. And seeing Whisenhunt lap the field to give Arizona fans a high-five after their overtime victory was fun. But year in and year out, the Cardinals seem to be one of those clubs that always keeps both teams in the game at all times.
• These things I know after watching Week 6 games:
-- Kyle Orton is a much better fit for what the Bears offense tries to do than
• Anyone out there still think
• I have to admit that maybe the Rams knew what they were doing in elevating
• Speaking of comebacks,
• The Redskins offense went five full games and 14:02 of Sunday's first quarter against the Rams without turning the ball over this season, making Washington just the third team since 1933 to have fewer than two turnovers after five games (the Redskins did lose one fumble on a punt return).
So naturally, Washington's offense proceeded to lose three fumbles in a span of four first-half possessions against St. Louis, taking just 15:49 of clock time to lose its grip. The third turnover, a fumble by guard
• Don't be misled by the Saints' .500 record.
• Oakland might have had a new head coach on Sunday in
• On a day when both 0-4 St. Louis and Houston earned their first wins in dramatic last-second fashion, it's refreshing to know we can still count on the winless ineptitude of 0-5 Cincinnati and Detroit.
• Not the most triumphant of homecomings to Louisiana for
• I guess we shouldn't be surprised, but
• Did you see that
I don't care what the rule says, if it looks like a fumble, and quacks like a fumble, it should be a fumble. Enough said.
• That Cardinals' pass rush, by the way, made Romo miserable on Sunday in the desert. Arizona defensive linemen
• One more strong game and I was ready to write that we shouldn't be overlooking the Panthers among the NFC's elite. Uh, never mind.
• What a week for the NFL police blotter files:
-- A first-degree murder charge was finally brought against a 25-year-old man in the drive-by-shooting death of Broncos cornerback
-- Former Broncos, Titans, Bills running back
-- Jacksonville receiver
Most of which could not have made the suits in the league office all that happy as they perused the week's headlines.