2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Column: Falcons are content just winning, baby

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP National Writer
    2012-12-06 17:00

ATLANTA (AP) - Al Davis would've loved these Atlanta Falcons.

All they do is win, baby.

Sure, it's rarely with a lot of flare.

Who cares?

There's no voters to impress or computers to win over in the NFL.

``Style points don't get you a ring,'' linebacker Mike Peterson was saying the other day, holding court beside his locker before practice. ``Our goal is way bigger than pleasing the media or winning with style points. We've got some hefty goals. Everyone knows about them.''

For this team, it's Super Bowl or bust.

With each grind-it-out win - seven of the triumphs on their 11-1 mark have been by seven points or less - the Falcons are looking more and more like a team that can finally bring the A-T-L its first Super Bowl championship. Don't listen to the skeptics, who seem to think the inability to blow out teams is a sign of vulnerability.

The Falcons are perfectly content to win by one or two or three points, as they should be, especially when they see what happened this past week. The 49ers losing at St. Louis. The Super Bowl champion Giants falling to Washington. The Bears getting tripped up at home by Seattle.

Just win, baby.

``There's no doormats in this league,'' offensive guard Justin Blalock points out. ``If you're not playing well, you can be made to look pretty stupid in any game. They're not all going to be pretty. But we do our best to make sure we come out on top. At the end of the day, hardly anyone is going remember any games in September or October.''

What they will remember is January.

The playoff-bound Falcons are carrying a troublesome monkey on their back; actually, more like a gorilla. Atlanta has made the postseason three of the last four years. All three times, they lasted about as long as Snooki at a Mensa meeting, including a blowout loss at home to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers as the NFC's top seed during the 2010 season.

In all likelihood, the Falcons (11-1) will be in that No. 1 spot again, even if hardly anyone seems to think they're the NFL's best team. They've already locked up their division and hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the next-best team in the conference with just four weeks to go.

So, why should people believe this team - with many of the same guys from the last three playoff flops - is suddenly going to shake its reputation as chokers?

For one, the Falcons have displayed impressive versatility. Some weeks, quarterback Matt Ryan has carried the Falcons on his sturdy right arm, taking advantage of perhaps the game's most impressive trio of receivers (Roddy White, Julio Jones and Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gonzalez). Other times, it's the defense that provides the big plays, as was the case in Atlanta's most recent victory over New Orleans. With Ryan and the offense struggling, the defense picked off Drew Brees a career-high five times and ended his record touchdown pass streak at 54 consecutive games.

``You've got to find a way to get it done,'' Ryan says. ``That's one of the reasons we've had a lot of success this year. We've found a lot of ways to get it done. It hasn't always shaken out the same way. It's a different person, a different unit, stepping up week in and week out.''

Another thing to like about this team is the close-knit locker room. A lot of the credit for that must go to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who factors character into the evaluation process, and coach Mike Smith, who leaves little doubt he's the boss but is willing to listen to his players, especially the veterans.

``I love the unity of this locker room,'' Gonzalez said. ``There's no jerks on this team. There's no cancers on this team. Guys love to come to work, love to compete, love to get better.''

Rest assured, getting on the Falcons bandwagon goes against everything I've learned over a lifetime.

Full disclosure: I grew up in Atlanta cheering for the Falcons. It was a largely an exercise in frustration, one losing season running into another, the slightest bit of hope always snuffed out quickly. They weren't lovable like the Chicago Cubs, either. No, they were just bad. Turnovers and missed tackles. Poor coaching and botched draft picks. Gallows humor was about the only thing that got you through. Hey, did you hear about the guy who left two season tickets on the windshield of his car, hoping someone would take them? When he got back, he had four.

The Falcons reached their only Super Bowl during the 1998 season with an entertaining group that called itself the ``Dirty Birds.'' Of course, they found a most unique way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The night before the big game in Miami, safety Eugene Robinson, probably their most respected player, was arrested for trying to buy sex from a woman who turned out to be an undercover cop.

Robinson played anyway. Not surprisingly, he got beat for a long touchdown pass on the game's most crucial play, the Denver Broncos romping to their second straight championship.

But, truth be told, things have changed over the last decade, ever since Arthur Blank bought the team.

Three of the five division titles in franchise's 46-year history have come during the Blank era. Most impressively, the team bounced right back after star quarterback Michael Vick went to prison for running a dogfighting ring. Dimitroff, Smith and Ryan arrived the following year; since then, the Falcons have strung together five straight winning seasons.

Not bad, considering they had gone through their entire history, which begins in 1966, without putting together two in a row.

Now, there's only one thing left.

Just win, baby, in the playoffs.

``We can't steal that from Oakland. That's their thing,'' Peterson says, when reminded of the late Davis' famous mantra as owner of the Raiders.

But he can't help himself.

``Just win, baby,'' Peterson repeats, mulling it over for just a second. ``That's nice. I like it.''

---

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) felt some progress in his sprained left medial collateral ligament Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald was pretty upset [ More ]

Julius ThomasNov 26 01:23p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited at practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Geno SmithNov 26 12:23p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will return to the starting quarterback role in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, after QB Michael Vick saw only three starts. The [ More ]

Timothy WrightNov 26 10:43a

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright has 23 catches on 26 targets this season. 'Every time we throw to him it's a touchdown - we'll try to find him [ More ]

R. Griffin IIINov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Colt McCoyNov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 11:43p

The Washington Redskins are planning on benching QB Robert Griffin III for the Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts in favor of QB Colt McCoy. However, Griffin still [ More ]

Jace AmaroNov 25 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (concussion) is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Rex Ryan, after suffering the concussion in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 04:23p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was named the starter for Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts Monday, Nov. 24, by head coach Jay Gruden, but he left open [ More ]

Michael BushNov 25 04:13p

The Arizona Cardinals signed free-agent RB Michael Bush (Bears) and cut RB Kerwynn Williams Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Brandon McManusNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos waived PK Brandon McManus Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Connor BarthNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos signed free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 25, after waiving PK Brandon McManus, according to a source.

Reggie BushNov 25 03:13p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he'll be ready to play Thursday, Nov. 27, after missing Week 12 with an ankle injury.

Latavius MurrayNov 25 02:43p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) will undergo baseline testing for his concussion Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to a league source. He is feeling good, but he must go [ More ]

Brian HoyerNov 25 01:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer was never in danger of being benched in favor of QB Johnny Manziel in the team's Week 12 win over the Atlanta Falcons, according [ More ]

Blake BortlesNov 25 01:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles went 15-for-27 for just 146 yards and an interception in the team's Week 12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and he hasn't tossed a [ More ]

Matthew StaffordNov 25 01:23p

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford had the worst completion percentage in his career in Week 12 against the New England Patriots at 39.1 percent), and the Lions haven't rushed [ More ]

Brodrick BunkleyNov 25 12:03p

New Orleans Saints DT Brodrick Bunkley (quadriceps) is believed to have torn his quadriceps in the team's Week 12 game Monday, Nov. 24, but he'll undergo an MRI exam [ More ]

Jordan CameronNov 25 11:53a

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) is expected to play in Week 13.

Michael VickNov 25 09:53a

New York Jets QB Michael Vick (calf) is expected to start in Week 13 if head coach Rex Ryan is still calling the shots and Vick's calf is healthy.

Andre SmithNov 25 09:23a

Cincinnati Bengals OT Andre Smith (triceps) will miss the rest of the year with a torn triceps that will require surgery.

Justin ForsettNov 25 12:13a

Baltimore Ravens RB Justin Forsett ran for 182 yards and two scores in a 34-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints Monday, Nov. 24.

Latavius MurrayNov 24 08:13p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) remains a question mark heading into Week 13 against the St. Louis Rams. Head coach Tony Sparano said Murray hasn't passed the league's [ More ]

Larry FitzgeraldNov 24 08:03p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) is unsure when he will return from his knee injury, according to head coach Bruce Arians. We still don't know anything about Larry, [ More ]

Andre EllingtonNov 24 08:03p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington and WR Michael Floyd both saw the fewest offensive snaps of the season in the Week 12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Ellington played [ More ]

Jorvorskie LaneNov 24 06:43p

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed FB Jorvorskie Lane (ankle) on the Reserve/Injured list Monday, Nov. 24.

Chris JohnsonNov 24 05:53p

New York Jets RB Chris Johnson will receive work on third downs, because RB Bilal Powell (illness) has been declared inactive for Week 12.

Fred JacksonNov 24 05:43p

Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin) is active for the team's Week 12 game.

Bilal PowellNov 24 05:43p

The New York Jets have declared RB Bilal Powell, OL Dakota Dozier, DE IK Enemkpali, CB Josh Thomas, QB Matt Simms, WR Walter Powell, OG Wesley Johnson inactive for Week 12.

Cyrus KouandjioNov 24 05:33p

The Buffalo Bills have declared DE Bryan Johnson, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, FB Frank Summers, DL Jarius Wynn, TE MarQueis Gray, WR Marquise Goodwin, LB Randell Johnson inactive for Week 12.

Eric BerryNov 24 05:13p

The Kansas City Chiefs placed SS Eric Berry (illness) on the Non-Football Illness list Monday, Nov. 24, according to a source. Berry will miss the rest of the season.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group