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Take the long-term view of the Falcons
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Forsyth County News
Some people can be so short-sighted.

The Falcons’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Giants on Sunday was viewed by some people as a crushing blow to their playoff hopes.


Take heed of the famous words of Jim Mora the elder. Asked about reaching the playoffs when one of his Colts teams fell to 4-6, Mora burst into his exasperated response:

“Playoffs? Playoffs? Don’t talk to me about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?”

If only Mora was assessing this Falcons crew. Making the playoffs is important only in the short term. Building a winning foundation should be the long-term focus.

Clearly, this team isn’t going to create a sensation even it reaches the playoffs. Not with a defense that spent the better part of three hours on Sunday transforming Eli Manning into Y. A. Tittle.

Manning had never passed for over 300 yards in the Meadowlands. The Falcons managed to hold him to 368.

They also held Manning to three touchdown passes. Two went to tight end Kevin Boss, a nice player, but one who’s never going to be included in the pantheon of tight ends.

The other went to Madison Hedgecock, a burly fullback better suited to knocking down defenders with cruel blocks than cruising into the flat and catching dainty passes.

Yes, the Falcons came up with an interception on the Giants first possession, when the Falcons were still able to generate a modest pass rush. Two plays earlier, the Falcons had sacked Manning for the only time in the game.

“The interception, I just kind of got hit as I threw it, and the ball fluttered,” Manning said after the game, as transcribed at
“They did a good job of getting some pressure early, but we settled down, started picking things up, getting the ball out quickly, and hit some big plays on them.”

Big plays, you bet. Seven went for at least 25 yards. And they came on a day when the Giants usually stout running game ground to a halt.
Brandon Jacobs left with a leg injury. His replacement, Ahmad Bradshaw, is slowed by a fractured toe. They barely averaged three yards for every cloud of dust.

Still, the Giants kept rolling. “It wasn’t just one thing,” said Manning. “There were a lot of things. There wasn’t one route. There wasn’t one play we kept working. We were mixing things up, going to all different receivers.

“I thought all the guys had a great idea of what we needed to do this week, what was expected, what their defense was going to be playing.

“When you are confident and you are very sure about what your route is, what is going on or what you are seeing, you are going to do it faster, and everybody is going to be on the same page.”

Suddenly, the Falcons weren’t facing Manning throwing to Boss, Hedgecock, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. No, the Falcons defense made it seem like they were trying to stop Tittle from throwing to Frank Gifford, Del Shofner, Joe Morrison and Aaron Thomas.

This defense couldn’t slow down Drew Brees or Tony Romo. It couldn’t even slow down the beleaguered Jake Delhomme a week ago. Even if they reached the playoffs, could we reasonably expect the Falcons to stop Brees, Romo, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers or Donovan McNabb? Not reasonably.

But that’s not the point. After all, this is the unit the Falcons retooled in the offseason. Growing pains are to be expected. What, you wanted to keep seeing Keith Brooking and the other ancients blow crucial coverages in playoff games?

The point is that we must take the long-term view of this defense in particular, and this team as a whole. That requires avoiding the pratfall of seeing the playoffs as the ultimate goal.

You take the long view, and realize that for this team to be a perennial playoff power, it has to start with something simple: back-to-back winning seasons.

Sounds trite, I know. But you can’t take a team seriously if it can’t consistently be a winning team. Nor can it take itself seriously as long as it views each winning season as an aberration.

This team no longer controls whether it can reach the playoffs. But it can control whether it wins four of its final six games to finish 9-7. That needs to be the focus: becoming a winning team.

Fortunately, that’s how Mike Smith sees it, too. “I know that our guys are a little bit road weary,” he said after Sunday’s game, quoted at “I told them we’ve got three games at home, and it starts with Tampa Bay. On Wednesday, let’s come to work with a positive attitude, and get ready to right the ship and get on the winning trail.”

In the long run, that’s the right approach.