Sports News

Analysis: Dangerous Falcons enjoy flying under the radar

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Atlanta Falcons may not have featured in many Super Bowl prediction lists before the season began, but 10 weeks into the NFL schedule they are tied atop the league and proving to be one of the hardest teams to beat.

In a season where teams are struggling to find consistency and parity reigns supreme, the upstart Falcons have found good performers across all key areas and at 7-2 share first place in the league with the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

The Falcons have defeated some quality teams like the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens -- one of this season’s popular championship picks -- but they have still yet to draw much attention from league analysts.

“They don’t seem to like us too much,” wide receiver Roddy White told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “They don’t have to talk about us. We’re fine with flying under the radar.”

The schedule has been relatively kind to the Falcons so far and it is also valid to point out that they have lost to two of their toughest opponents, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The Falcons, who are 5-0 at home, play four of their next five games on the road in a stretch that will likely determine whether the Georgia team have what it takes for the playoffs.

If their last two wins over the in-form Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are any indication, the Falcons have shown they have the ability to battle to the end in dramatic fashion.

Against Tampa on November 7, Atlanta’s defense did their job stopping the Bucs on a fourth-and-one on their own goal line to preserve a 27-21 victory.

Then after squandering a 13-point lead against Baltimore on Sunday, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan connected with White on a 33-yard pass with 20 seconds remaining to cap an 80-yard drive that took 45 seconds and sealed a 26-21 win.


That pairing have been highly effective this year and the 25-year-old Ryan showed his maturity in the win over Baltimore with his cool decision making and execution against one of the most feared defenses in the league.

It takes something special to complete a career-high 32 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns with 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis staring you down.

White is proving to be a great outlet and is second in the league with 934 receiving yards. Running back Michael Turner has rushed for 733 yards and five touchdowns while defensive end John Abraham’s eight sacks is fourth best in the NFL.

Add in field goal kicker Matt Bryant, who is ranked third with 18 out of 21 attempts successful, and you have a balanced team that has many of their bases covered.

Center Todd McClure, who has been with Atlanta since 1999 says there is something special about the current Falcons.

“I’ve never been on a team like this,” he said.

“There’s just a confidence that this team has. Never say die. As long as we’re within a score we’re going to be able to go down and win the game. I think that will go a long way this season for this football team.”

Editing by Frank Pingue