By Lucas McMillan
All wins count equally in the NFL, but the Falcons wins have been particularly lucky or dramatic, depending on whom you ask. The Falcons are 10-1 and tied with the Houston Texans for the best record in the NFL after their narrow 24-23 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday. They haven’t exactly played as well as their record suggests.
Among the Falcons’ numerous nail biters this season, the one against the Bucs may not even rank in the top three. Two weeks ago, Matty Ice and company beat the Arizona Cardinals 23-19 despite Ryan tossing five interceptions and zero touchdowns. They beat the Carolina Panthers 30-28 in September after the Panthers failed to convert a key fourth and one.
They beat the miserable Oakland Raiders by a mere 23-20 score. The Falcons aren’t exactly winning in impressive fashion, yet they are winning. 10-1 is still 10-1.
On Sunday against the Buccaneers, Matt Ryan did what he does best and led a six-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a Michael Turner touchdown that sealed the game. The Falcons have been finishing like this all season; it was their fifth fourth-quarter rally of the year.
“The last drive, that’s something we’ve done before this season,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said after the game. “I really think that’s a positive for us to be able to come up with plays like that when we have to like that. … I’m really happy with the way we responded.”
Winning so many close and ugly games is a product of a good football team, of course, but why are the Falcons in such bad positions to begin with? Most talented teams don’t need to scrape together late heroics to win games against the likes of the Oakland Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals.
In fact, the Falcons have seven wins this season by seven or fewer points, tying the NFL record for teams that started 10-1 or 11-0. The only other team to do that? The 2006 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. After such a brilliant start, the Falcons have their minds on the same goal.
“Ten-and-1 is great, but I’ll tell you what I’ve said since the beginning of the season: We’re just jockeying for position,” Gonzalez said. “We just want to put ourselves in the best position, playing the best football.
“Right around this time is when you want to start gelling as a team and take it on into the playoffs because that’s the most important thing.”
However, if they want to reach the Promised Land, the Falcons will first have to figure out their offensive identity. They whipsaw from week to week. Sometimes they want to be a power running team, while other times they want to air it out 50+ times a game. And there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when they select their offensive philosophy.
The Falcons ran the ball 24 times for 79 yards against the Bucs’ top-ranked rushing defense, good for a measly 3.3 yards per carry. Why did they do that when the Bucs have the worst pass defense in the NFL, and the Falcons have one of the best passing offenses? It was a mystifying choice, but no more mystifying than this entire Falcons season.
If it’s possible to be both extremely shaky and 10-1, they exactly that. We’ll have to wait and see where their curious recipe of not really having a recipe ultimately gets them.
Lucas McMillan is a writer for FootballSchedule.me. To checkout the week-by-week Atlanta Falcons Schedule as well as the latest NFL and college football news, visit Football Schedule. Follow Football Schedule on Facebook and Twitter @FBSchedule.