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Forget slump: Dimitroff likes these Falcons more than last year’s


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Forget slump: Dimitroff likes these Falcons more than last year’s

12:12 pm November 5, 2009, by Jeff Schultz

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One year ago, the Falcons were 4-3 and coming off a road loss to an NFC power (Philadelphia). This was due at least in part to a flawed performance by their young starting quarterback, Matt Ryan (two interceptions, two sacks, 68.1 passer rating). Next on the schedule was a punch line: Oakland.

This week, the Falcons are 4-3 and coming off a road loss to an NFC power (New Orleans). This is due at least in part to a flawed performance by their young starting quarterback, Matt Ryan (three interceptions, three sacks, 46.6 passer rating). Next on the schedule is a punch line: Washington.

Now, this isn’t to suggest we’re about to witness another 7-2 run to close the regular season. But here’s the question: If we didn’t know what to expect last season when the season played out like a fantasy, why is everybody panicking now?

General manager Thomas Dimitroff, who put this team together, has seen the roster get dinged by injuries (Harry Douglas, Peria Jerry, Brian Williams, etc.). That’s something the Falcons generally were able to avoid last season. But Dimitroff said he’s more confident now about this team than he was a year ago at this time.

“I think that because I believe that we have an increased enthusiasm and speed and urgency on this team,” he said. “Even though the expectations are much higher now than they were a year ago, there’s a competitiveness there that makes me feel good about things. He have a toughness and a resolve and, even in the last game at New Orleans, we fought for 60 minutes. I was encouraged. Last year, there was an unknown feeling. I really wasn’t thinking, ‘Where are we going?’ That’s not the case this season. I feel good about this team and where we’re headed.”

He is not going to project a win total. He is not going to predict a late-season surge to overtake New Orleans for the NFC South. He is not going to guarantee a playoff spot.

He again referenced, “The New England paradigm.” Pretty sure he mumbles that in his sleep.

“I was once told by a sagacious general manager that I control the interview,” Dimitroff said, laughing. “I’m very mindful of bulletin board material.”

But in his most guarded-GM-speak possible, he will say this: “This is a team that has a lot of young talent and an adept coaching staff. I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll play hard and the results will be favorable down the stretch.”

The Falcons have dropped two straight. Ryan has seven interceptions in the last three games after throwing two in the first four. He has been sacked seven times in the last two after not kissing turf in the previous four. What we’re about to find out is if these are minor hiccups or the start of bad trends.

We can try to break down the schedule. We can look and see that there’s nine games left, five against teams the Falcons should beat (Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay twice, Buffalo) and four against whom they might struggle (road games against the New York Giants and Jets, home against Philadelphia and New Orleans).

But it’s never that simple in the NFL. Carolina is getting better. The Giants and Jets are getting worse. This league mutates weekly.

If you’re looking for one obvious key, here it is: offense.

Nothing has changed. This is the same team with the same strengths and weaknesses at 4-3 that it was at 4-1 a few weeks ago — and at 0-0 in July. The Falcons will go as far as the offense takes them. In that sense, it’s on Ryan and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

If the Monday night loss to New Orleans wasn’t an aberration, then Michael Turner, perhaps stung by recent criticism, is back on track. He ran harder and looked quicker than he had all season. (Dimitroff when asked if criticism helped: “Michael is a very proud guy and a competitive guy. When things don’t go well he takes it personally. I’m sure [it did].”

If this offense is clicking, the Falcons will be fine. They have too many weapons and a quarterback who also takes things personally. After an early season loss at New England, Ryan said, “I hate losing more than I love winning.”

That’s the attitude you want. It’s hard to see this team falling apart.

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Guest The Masked Falcon

After an early season loss at New England, Ryan said, “I hate losing more than I love winning.”

If you're a Falcon fan that line right there should make you smile when thinking about our future.

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Great Post! I've had to stay away from the boards the last couple of weeks so I wouldn't see valleys and peaks of our fellow fans. I have to admit that I forgot that we were 4-3 last year this time. Another similarity between the Philly and Saints game: both were plagued by no calls or questionable officiating. That no call against Roddy for the interception is becoming a trend. Ryan's pick in the Dallas game was PI as well, but no call.

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