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A Tdwii Observation: Falcons All-In Moment Is Here


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The ball has dropped on the 2012 NFL season. 20 NFL franchises are figuring out what to do in 2013 to be in the position the 12 remaining franchises currently find themselves. And while you could make an argument that each of the 12 remaining teams are 0-0, the fact of the matter is that no team has at much at stake as the Falcons.

Let’s simply focus on the NFC for a moment. Of the 6 teams remaining; 4 are rolling with first or second year QB’s, and all 4 of those teams are rolling with first year starters. For those teams, for their fans – the future is bright. Optimism runs abound. If 2012 doesn’t yield a SuperBowl title or even playoff victory – no worries. They got at least a decade moving forward to feel good about. RGIII? Russell Wilson? Colin Kaepernick? It’s a rejuvenating feeling to find yourself with a franchise QB when you haven’t had one in a while. For the Falcons, that moment came in 2008. An 11-5 dream season concluded with a playoff loss, the first of three. But you would have been hard-pressed to find a dissatisfied soul amongst the Falcon fan base. For these 4 teams, they’re playing with the houses money. They’ve pocketed their buy-ins and more and the chips they have left on the table are gravy. That other NFC team? A Packer team led by perhaps the best QB in football…a Packer team with a ring less than 24 months old. And while the AFC is not as clear cut in terms of ‘happy to be there’ teams (IND/CIN) versus teams with legit SuperBowl aspirations (NE/DEN), none carry the weight the Falcons will.

It goes to show the franchise lifecycle of NFL franchises. It’s short. It involves quick turnarounds. Rapid ascents and descents. Teams whose SuperBowl aspirations disintegrate into 4-12 seasons (PHI) and teams who go from drafting 1st or 2nd, to playing in January 8 months later (IND/WAS). But for the Falcons, the sands of time stopped on January 8, 2012. When the Falcons lace up their cleats two Sundays from now, the Falcons sands of time will move again – one way or the other. For 373 days, they’ve been stopped in a holding pattern of sorts. To their credit, they could have moved in the wrong direction these last 4 months…but another playoff disaster won’t result in the Falcons staying in that holding pattern.

At some point, you are who you are. We saw it this weekend with Tony Romo. For the Cowboys, their playoffs (along with WAS) started last Sunday night. Win and you’re in…lose and go home. Romo proceeded to throw 3 INT’s and complete 54% of his passes against the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL. At some point, the pattern, the trend becomes the truth. Jason Garret can chirp all he wants about Romo still being ‘the guy’…but eventually what you are is what you are. Sometimes what you are isn’t fair. Romo didn’t lose the game for the Cowboys, but he didn’t do enough to win it. Neither did the rest of the Cowboys. Romo will get the lions share of the blame for the inability of the Cowboys to get to January, but it was a complete team breakdown that cost the Cowboys the division.

And so it goes for the Falcons. All year, the Falcons have been shortchanged by the media and casual NFL observer. As a team with the best record in the NFL, you generally don’t see them ranked 5th in the overhyped and relied on Power Rankings throughout the course of the season. But that’s what having a singular moment of truth ultimately entails. To a certain degree, the Falcons are fortunate. There are not many teams in the NFL who can truly set such high an expectation. If you win 3 out of every 4 regular season games over a 3 year period, you simply have to have SuperBowl expectations. And falling short of that means failure. And while for 11 other teams, anything short of a SuperBowl win will also mean failure – it simply won’t be as stark a reality for those teams as it would be for the Falcons. They stand at the precipice of their ultimate fate.

Would a playoff win, but a loss in the NFC Championship Game soften the blow? Meh…2 #1 seedings in 3 years without a SuperBowl appearance would be tough to stomach. Even Romo secured an elusive playoff win once upon a time. For the Falcons, there may not be a better opportunity. No team in the NFC looks like a juggernaut. Even the Packers looked vulnerable in 2012, a distinction that could not be applied to them over the previous season and a half. And while many seem to dismiss the Falcons victory over the Broncos earlier in the season…it’s quite possible that Peyton Manning never looked worse than he did Week 2 in 2012. Will they be the AFC SuperBowl representative? Who is to say, but let’s be clear about one thing. The Falcons can beat any team…there is not one that remains that the Falcons can not beat. In the hypothetical scenario of ‘if they played this team 10 times’…the Falcons are no worse than 5 IMO against any team. Whether they do…well that’s another matter and why January is the time for NFL to build and construct its legends.

Matt Ryan finally looks primed to do that. The Falcons finally look primed to exorcise some of their playoff demons. This is not a team that managed its way to success relying on being the team that committed the fewest mistakes. This is not a team that struggled to shake the doldrums of a previous seasons playoff failings. This is not a team reluctant to place the weight of the franchise upon the shoulders of their franchise QB. To be sure, the Falcons have warts. But they are not alone. 11 other teams have their own issues and while the playing field appears as level at the outset of the playoffs as any year in recent history, the Falcons will at least seal their fate on their playing field.

But an early an unexpected loss would be a catastrophic blow for this franchise. It would be an identity defining and cementing moment. It would point to an issue of make-up, mindset and approach – a fatal character flaw tough to identify and pinpoint versus personnel. It would mean another season being treated as the NFC’s good luck charm and success step-child with pompous talking heads feeling vindicated in their lack of faith in this franchise.

The fact of the matter is this. We knew what we signed up for. We knew this was the deal since last January. It’s no longer about winning hand after hand, accumulating a nice chip stack and outlasting your opponent(s) by waiting for the 'right hand'. For the Falcons, they are pushing their chip stack to the middle of the table. They've reached their point of no return. It truly and literally is 'Super Bowl or Bust'.

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It truly and literally is 'Super Bowl or Bust'.

Glad more people feel it's 'Super Bowl or Bust'. When you go 13-3, your aspiration better be the Superbowl. Same could be said for 2010. And why bust you ask? Because by the grace of football gods, Gonzalez and Abraham have continually returned to the team. The window of opportunity isn't big and will likely close once they leave.

Edited by Mr. Right
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Agree - 1 playoff win for 5 years is not enough . If Falcons can't make Super Bowl now what's to say we can in future . It would be a trend that's for sure . Plus losing a important piece like Gonzo

What does it matter to you? You're already convinced they can't beat Godgers, Brady or Peyton, that they're doomed to failure already.

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Great post TDWii. Love the poker analogy!! And I think you're right on the money as per usual. This team has been on a spectacular regular season run for the past five years, but has been woeful in every postseason appearance. Those earlier postseason failures can be rationalized because this franchise has only recently shown the ability to have a winning record more than one year out of every three or four seasons. It has had a good QB, but a QB that needed experience in big game situations. It has had a newly minted partnership with its GM and HC that has tried to build a solid foundation and add pieces each year in what Mike Smith has often described as "the process."

Now we are in year five of "the process." The team has upgraded both coordinators, Matt Ryan has grown into being the leader of this team and has improved his stats in every category. Mike Smith now has the experience of three play-off games to learn from along with the core veterans who are mostly unchanged from 2008. The problem is, the team is in an "all in" situation. You can't sit on your chips and wait for a better hand in the NFL play-offs. Your one and only option is to shove your whole season's worth of hope, work and determination and hope it's good enough to take the pot. And just as in poker, a professional poker player can exploit his skill and poker knowledge and come out with a profit over the long haul, but when you're talking about one hand, it's a matter of pure luck. You need the right cards to fall to win. In the NFL play-offs, you need the right bounce of the ball, the right game plan, perhaps even the right referees, to prevail ~ and having the right game plan is the only thing that isn't left to pure chance.

Maybe there is one other small, but important factor that could influence the outcome, and that's having a killer instinct, unbending determination, the pure will to win. Does this Falcon team have that? In year's past they clearly did not. After starting out very strong, they lost faith, they blinked, they allowed the other team to stare them down and run them off the field. If that happens this year, it will be devastating and will shake this franchise from owner to water boy. It will show that this team does not have what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The repercussions of that grim realization will likely bring wholesale changes, perhaps even the dismantling of the team's foundation and the beginning of another rebuilding program. This Atlanta team is well aware of the fact they're on the precipice of either winning big or walking away from the table beaten, broken and future uncertain. Let's hope they "Rise UP" and show they won't be denied this time rather than allow the moment to overwhelm them as it has in every other season so far. They've certainly paid their dues and earned themselves a Lombardi, from Arthur Blank to the players, I hope the cards fall so they can reap the great effort they've all put forward.

Edited by PokerSteve
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I agree it's superbowl or bust, but with the team we have, even if we don't make it this year we are still capable of making it in the future. I would be extremely angry, dissapointed, and sad if the team did not make the superbowl but I would have hope for upcoming seasons that we still had a chance. Our Falcons have not built a team that would only be successfull for a couple of years; they have built a team that will give itsef a chance each and every year to make the superbowl and that is something to feel good about.

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A lot of fans still are not over the 2010 loss and if we go 1 and done then it'd be heart-broken for so many falcons fan...

But I believe that if we WIN the 1st game then there's no stopping..

I believe that too, and have been saying it all along. If we can just oust the monkey in the first game (and, with it, any lingering doubts in the team's mind), no way we don't win the NFCCG in our own house.

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$$$$$$ as always TDW.

Yep I tend to agree with almost everything stated.Outside of the 98 SB appearence this could well be the biggest week in Falcons history next week.

I will say I'm not un-nerved though and I believe the team will respond also regardless of the opponent.I just think every team has its time and in pressure games where in the past it has been a 50/50 proposition this team has played its best Football and I expect nothing less in this play-off game coming up next week.

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Great post TDWii. Love the poker analogy!! And I think you're right on the money as per usual. This team has been on a spectacular regular season run for the past five years, but has been woeful in every postseason appearance. Those earlier postseason failures can be rationalized because this franchise has only recently shown the ability to have a winning record more than one year out of every three or four seasons. It has had a good QB, but a QB that needed experience in big game situations. It has had a newly minted partnership with its GM and HC that has tried to build a solid foundation and add pieces each year in what Mike Smith has often described as "the process."

Now we are in year five of "the process." The team has upgraded both coordinators, Matt Ryan has grown into being the leader of this team and has improved his stats in every category. Mike Smith now has the experience of three play-off games to learn from along with the core veterans who are mostly unchanged from 2008. The problem is, the team is in an "all in" situation. You can't sit on your chips and wait for a better hand in the NFL play-offs. Your one and only option is to shove your whole season's worth of hope, work and determination and hope it's good enough to take the pot. And just as in poker, a professional poker player can exploit his skill and poker knowledge and come out with a profit over the long haul, but when you're talking about one hand, it's a matter of pure luck. You need the right cards to fall to win. In the NFL play-offs, you need the right bounce of the ball, the right game plan, perhaps even the right referees, to prevail ~ and having the right game plan is the only thing that isn't left to pure chance.

Maybe there is one other small, but important factor that could influence the outcome, and that's having a killer instinct, unbending determination, the pure will to win. Does this Falcon team have that? In year's past they clearly did not. After starting out very strong, they lost faith, they blinked, they allowed the other team to stare them down and run them off the field. If that happens this year, it will be devastating and will shake this franchise from owner to water boy. It will show that this team does not have what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The repercussions of that grim realization will likely bring wholesale changes, perhaps even the dismantling of the team's foundation and the beginning of another rebuilding program. This Atlanta team is well aware of the fact they're on the precipice of either winning big or walking away from the table beaten, broken and future uncertain. Let's hope they "Rise UP" and show they won't be denied this time rather than allow the moment to overwhelm them as it has in every other season so far. They've certainly paid their dues and earned themselves a Lombardi, from Arthur Blank to the players, I hope the cards fall so they can reap the great effort they've all put forward.

Loved the poker analogy as well, however, I think we were drawing a little thin in those last

3 playoff losses.... This year I feel we have way more outs to hit the nuts

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Well, if it would help (and it might), the staff at Flowery Branch should be able to get a solid 20 minutes of TV clips of people saying we can't/won't do it to show to the team before the first game, starting before the season with Schlereth saying we would miss the playoffs. That should at least have us come out p1ssed off.

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Well, if it would help (and it might), the staff at Flowery Branch should be able to get a solid 20 minutes of TV clips of people saying we can't/won't do it to show to the team before the first game, starting before the season with Schlereth saying we would miss the playoffs. That should at least have us come out p1ssed off.

I like this.....it would pizz me off if I was them....

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The ball has dropped on the 2012 NFL season. 20 NFL franchises are figuring out what to do in 2013 to be in the position the 12 remaining franchises currently find themselves. And while you could make an argument that each of the 12 remaining teams are 0-0, the fact of the matter is that no team has at much at stake as the Falcons.

Let’s simply focus on the NFC for a moment. Of the 6 teams remaining; 4 are rolling with first or second year QB’s, and all 4 of those teams are rolling with first year starters. For those teams, for their fans – the future is bright. Optimism runs abound. If 2012 doesn’t yield a SuperBowl title or even playoff victory – no worries. They got at least a decade moving forward to feel good about. RGIII? Russell Wilson? Colin Kaepernick? It’s a rejuvenating feeling to find yourself with a franchise QB when you haven’t had one in a while. For the Falcons, that moment came in 2008. An 11-5 dream season concluded with a playoff loss, the first of three. But you would have been hard-pressed to find a dissatisfied soul amongst the Falcon fan base. For these 4 teams, they’re playing with the houses money. They’ve pocketed their buy-ins and more and the chips they have left on the table are gravy. That other NFC team? A Packer team led by perhaps the best QB in football…a Packer team with a ring less than 24 months old. And while the AFC is not as clear cut in terms of ‘happy to be there’ teams (IND/CIN) versus teams with legit SuperBowl aspirations (NE/DEN), none carry the weight the Falcons will.

It goes to show the franchise lifecycle of NFL franchises. It’s short. It involves quick turnarounds. Rapid ascents and descents. Teams whose SuperBowl aspirations disintegrate into 4-12 seasons (PHI) and teams who go from drafting 1st or 2nd, to playing in January 8 months later (IND/WAS). But for the Falcons, the sands of time stopped on January 8, 2012. When the Falcons lace up their cleats two Sundays from now, the Falcons sands of time will move again – one way or the other. For 373 days, they’ve been stopped in a holding pattern of sorts. To their credit, they could have moved in the wrong direction these last 4 months…but another playoff disaster won’t result in the Falcons staying in that holding pattern.

At some point, you are who you are. We saw it this weekend with Tony Romo. For the Cowboys, their playoffs (along with WAS) started last Sunday night. Win and you’re in…lose and go home. Romo proceeded to throw 3 INT’s and complete 54% of his passes against the 30th ranked pass defense in the NFL. At some point, the pattern, the trend becomes the truth. Jason Garret can chirp all he wants about Romo still being ‘the guy’…but eventually what you are is what you are. Sometimes what you are isn’t fair. Romo didn’t lose the game for the Cowboys, but he didn’t do enough to win it. Neither did the rest of the Cowboys. Romo will get the lions share of the blame for the inability of the Cowboys to get to January, but it was a complete team breakdown that cost the Cowboys the division.

And so it goes for the Falcons. All year, the Falcons have been shortchanged by the media and casual NFL observer. As a team with the best record in the NFL, you generally don’t see them ranked 5th in the overhyped and relied on Power Rankings throughout the course of the season. But that’s what having a singular moment of truth ultimately entails. To a certain degree, the Falcons are fortunate. There are not many teams in the NFL who can truly set such high an expectation. If you win 3 out of every 4 regular season games over a 3 year period, you simply have to have SuperBowl expectations. And falling short of that means failure. And while for 11 other teams, anything short of a SuperBowl win will also mean failure – it simply won’t be as stark a reality for those teams as it would be for the Falcons. They stand at the precipice of their ultimate fate.

Would a playoff win, but a loss in the NFC Championship Game soften the blow? Meh…2 #1 seedings in 3 years without a SuperBowl appearance would be tough to stomach. Even Romo secured an elusive playoff win once upon a time. For the Falcons, there may not be a better opportunity. No team in the NFC looks like a juggernaut. Even the Packers looked vulnerable in 2012, a distinction that could not be applied to them over the previous season and a half. And while many seem to dismiss the Falcons victory over the Broncos earlier in the season…it’s quite possible that Peyton Manning never looked worse than he did Week 2 in 2012. Will they be the AFC SuperBowl representative? Who is to say, but let’s be clear about one thing. The Falcons can beat any team…there is not one that remains that the Falcons can not beat. In the hypothetical scenario of ‘if they played this team 10 times’…the Falcons are no worse than 5 IMO against any team. Whether they do…well that’s another matter and why January is the time for NFL to build and construct its legends.

Matt Ryan finally looks primed to do that. The Falcons finally look primed to exorcise some of their playoff demons. This is not a team that managed its way to success relying on being the team that committed the fewest mistakes. This is not a team that struggled to shake the doldrums of a previous seasons playoff failings. This is not a team reluctant to place the weight of the franchise upon the shoulders of their franchise QB. To be sure, the Falcons have warts. But they are not alone. 11 other teams have their own issues and while the playing field appears as level at the outset of the playoffs as any year in recent history, the Falcons will at least seal their fate on their playing field.

But an early an unexpected loss would be a catastrophic blow for this franchise. It would be an identity defining and cementing moment. It would point to an issue of make-up, mindset and approach – a fatal character flaw tough to identify and pinpoint versus personnel. It would mean another season being treated as the NFC’s good luck charm and success step-child with pompous talking heads feeling vindicated in their lack of faith in this franchise.

The fact of the matter is this. We knew what we signed up for. We knew this was the deal since last January. It’s no longer about winning hand after hand, accumulating a nice chip stack and outlasting your opponent(s) by waiting for the 'right hand'. For the Falcons, they are pushing their chip stack to the middle of the table. They've reached their point of no return. It truly and literally is 'Super Bowl or Bust'.

**** that's a fantastic piece of writing reading it I heard the dadummdumdummddadum from the Old NFL Films playing in the background. Falcons ain't perfect but it's time for the Dirty Birds to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix and bring that mudder home.........

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