The Falcons know better than everyone they underperformed yesterday.
And they know that the doubters who were in the shadows as as they started the season 11-1 will be out in full force after they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Panthers.
“I can hear everybody right now,” Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said, via Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “They’re getting off the bandwagon. I can hear them jumping off.
“Looking at our history, people are going to go, ‘See, I told you.’”
It’s easy to look at yesterday’s game and conclude the Panthers had more invested emotionally than the Falcons, fueled by Panthers who felt disrespected by Matt Ryan’s “Get the [expletive] off our field,” goodbye in the first meeting.
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who declared last week his team was the better of the two, repeated the words after the fact, leading Falcons kicker Matt Bryant to reply: “Watch us in January.”
Of course, the Falcons have more problems than the slings and arrows of a 4-9 team. They need to fix their run game (which underperformed again), and generally show more fire. It starts with next week’s meeting with the Giants, who flushed them from the playoffs last year and really created the perception of the Falcons as front-runners.
Sleepwalking against the Panthers will only strengthen that perception.
“We all knew we were flat,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “It seemed like every time there was a play to be made, we were almost there. You can’t be almost in this league.
“We get a chance to go after some guys who controlled our destiny last year.”
And to silence their doubters, such that they ever can in the regular season.