The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Dallas Cowboys 19-13 in front of a prime-time audience on Sunday. The Falcons faced a desperate Dallas team in what could have easily been an upset. Dallas' defense relentlessly hounded Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, and Tony Romo was solid in a turnover-free night. Despite two missed field goals earlier in the game, Atlanta took over in the fourth quarter to win the defensive nail-biter.
Randy Cross, of Atlanta's 92.9 The Game, begrudgingly called the Falcons one of the NFC's better teams. He was quick to add that the other shoe would soon drop.
ESPN's Mike and Mike radio show quickly side stepped the Atlanta Falcons' win in order to discuss the Dallas Cowboys' loss.
All this a week after Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez made headlines griping about a perceived lack of respect.
Putting It All into Perspective
As a team that has topped multiple power rankings for several weeks, it sounds odd to hear Falcons players and fans complaining about a lack of respect. It does make one wonder if Atlanta has a persecution complex.
Or maybe not.
The Atlanta Falcons were undefeated when they were underdogs traveling to 3-3 Philadelphia the week prior to facing Dallas. The game against the Eagles was billed as Atlanta's first true test. When the Falcons routed the Eagles 30-17, the Eagles became "hot garbage" in commentators' eyes. And the Cowboys became Atlanta's first true test.
This, in and of itself, is normal for all sports debates. Success is a constantly moving target. Have a good game, the expectation becomes have a good season. Have a good season, the expectation becomes win in the postseason. Win in the postseason, the expectation becomes winning a championship.
But when you compare the national reaction to the Atlanta Falcons "boring" win over the Dallas Cowboys to other nationally broadcast games, then there might be some validity to Gonzalez's complaint.
In Week 7, the Chicago Bears eked out a win against a 2-3 Detroit Lions team. The following day, the Chicago Bears were being touted as the most "complete" team in the NFL. The six-point win over a team with a losing record was proof positive that the Bears had arrived.
Yet in Week 9, the Atlanta Falcons' six-point win over a team with a losing record means little.
An Inconvenient Truth
The average NFL week consists of 14 games. It is impossible to break down every second of every game in a week, much less overnight. Those who cover the entire NFL are forced to rely on what they know in order to fill in the gaps. And one of these fillers is history.
The long-term history of the Atlanta Falcons is mostly bleak and dotted with fluke seasons. The recent history of the Falcons is one of great regular seasons and playoff disappointments. Those hoping to maintain their status as an "NFL expert" are going to be weary of hitching their wagons to the Falcons' cart. This is only natural.
There is no way to win a playoff game in November. The Atlanta Falcons will not face an "undeniable" opponent until Week 15, when they face the New York Giants. By then, both the Falcons and Giants may well have their divisions sewn up and be looking to rest players. There might be no respect to be found until January.
The Atlanta Falcons might want to use the perceived lack of respect as fuel during lean times. Their fans might do the same by filling the Georgia Dome. (An awful lot of blue and white jerseys on Sunday night.)
But no one and no team has ever complained their way to respect. And for the Falcons, it will be a long road to earn it.