With another win, Falcons reach higher
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 7:02 pm
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Ho hum, another winning season for the Atlanta Falcons.
That’s not such a big deal anymore.
This team has much higher goals.
Putting together its most complete effort of the season, the Falcons clinched a fourth straight winning record with a 41-14 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night. Matt Ryan had another big game, throwing three touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work, and John Abraham terrorized rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert with 3 1/2 sacks.
Atlanta (9-5) strengthened its hold on an NFC wild card, shrugging off the immediate accomplishment of another above-.500 finish.
“Our expectations are much higher than winning seasons,” coach Mike Smith said. “I’m glad we’ve been able to accomplish that as an organization and a football team. But believe me, It’s not one of those expectations we really want to talk about. If we’re where we think we are as an organization and a football team, that’s expected each and every year.”
It wasn’t so long ago that nine wins was a big deal. The Falcons went through the first 42 years of their existence without so much as back-to-back winning seasons. All that changed when Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008.
Since then, Atlanta has been to the playoff two times and is closing in on a third appearance.
“I can’t speak to the people who came before, but I know since Thomas and I had the opportunity to be here, we’ve just kind of put our heads down and gone to work,” Smith said. “When you do that, good things usually happen. We are not finished, believe me. Our expectations and internal goals are much higher than having a winning football season.”
This one was over by halftime. Atlanta led 27-0 when the teams trotted to the locker room, Blaine Gabbert and the shellshocked Jaguars (4-10) saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard.
Atlanta stretched out its lead to 41-0 before Jacksonville scored on a blocked punt. Going back to the previous week, when the Falcons overcame a 16-point halftime deficit at Carolina, they ripped off 65 points in a row over five quarters.
Now that’s more like it from a team that was projected as a Super Bowl contender but had not quite lived up to expectations.
“I feel like we’ve hit our stride,” said Roddy White, who had 10 catches for 135 yards and became just the eighth receiver in NFL history with 80 receptions and 1,000 yards in five straight seasons.
Published in The Messenger 12.16.11