Falcons Flying High Into Bye Week at 5-2, Though Narrowly Avoiding 3-4
They also have head coach Mike Smith, who is managing a team that is building up its resources.
Smith can get agitated on the sidelines during a game and he can throw a fit at practice at a player who is a minute late, but you talk about a consistent approach and humbleness, Smith has it.
The Falcons are two plays away from being 3-4. Do they deserve our trust? Absolutely. This is the NFL, which is a week-to-week existence. The talent is so close, breaks happen. But you have to be in contention and a good team for the breaks to make a difference.
These are seven things -- of the 10 or so -- to really like about the Falcons:
1. Roddy White. The best play he made this season was not catching a pass, but tracking down the 49ers' Nate Clements following Clements' interception in the final minute of the Falcons' Oct. 3 win over San Francisco. White ran down the sidelines and stripped Clements, who only had to fall down and the game was over. White's play was a reflection on the whole team.
2. Roddy White II. He jumped into the national spotlight with that 11-catch effort against the Bengals. He made all the plays, but especially the clutch plays when the Falcons coughed up the big, early lead.
3. The defensive line is rotating eight guys and has a presence. Babineaux, like most defensive linemen, is rated by sacks. It is not a good measuring tool, obviously. He has two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and pushes the pocket back on the quarterback.
4. Abraham has six sacks. He had a down season last year, but an offseason conditioning program has him back banging on quarterbacks.
5. Chemistry on the offensive line. These guys are not stars, just guys working extremely hard. Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl were not even drafted. Todd McClure is just about done with his career.
6. Cornerback Dunta Robinson. You wondered when he couldn't get on the field for so long with the hamstring injury in the preseason, but he can play. He is not just a cover corner, but a hitter.
These are five things to wonder about:
1. Left tackle Sam Baker has gotten some penalties. He has been beaten outside by a speed rusher. I'm not sure he is having that good of a season.
2. The Falcons, even with Gonzalez and Michael Turner, have struggled too much in the red zone.
3. When opposing defenses got nasty right back at the Falcons at the point of attack on the run, the Falcons physicality is stalemated. The offensive line has great chemistry and they are hard-nosed, but opponents are fighting back, like the Eagles did. People are learning to try and take away that mental edge.
4. That was 22 points in one quarter the Bengals rung up on the Atlanta defense. If Dunta Robinson, the cornerback, misses any more time, this defense will give up big plays. They do not have a reliable third corner.
5. Matt Ryan is still young. He's OK in the red zone, not great. We'll see.
Oh, and those two plays that are keeping the Falcons from being 3-4? Garrett Hartley, the Saints' kicker, missed a 29-yard field goal that would have won the game in OT. Happens all the time? Not really. It happens, but not all the time.
The other was White's play to force Clements' fumble. It was a reflection on the whole team.