So much for that undefeated season.
Now the Atlanta Falcons can get back to more realistic goals.
Like a division championship. And home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Falcons (8-1) will be looking to shake off their first loss of the season when they host the slumping Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, a game that can't come fast enough for a team dealing with the unfamiliar sting of defeat.
"We're just ready to get this taste out of our mouths," Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We hate losing."
Even with a 31-27 setback at New Orleans, the Falcons are still riding high as they face Arizona (4-5). They hold a three-game lead over Tampa Bay in the NFC South and are one game ahead of Chicago for the best record in the conference.
But they don't want one loss to turn into a different kind of streak, especially facing a team mired in a five-game skid.
"What you've done in September and October ... it doesn't matter," Robinson said. "We have to be playing our best football starting right now. It has to carry us right into 2013. The road is still long, man. We're not excited about anything we've done up to this point."
As if to show that no one's job is safe, even on one of the league's top teams, the Falcons made a bold move early in the week by cutting defensive end Ray Edwards. He was team's major free-agent signee in 2011, agreeing to a five-year deal with $11 million in guaranteed money, but never made much of an impact lining up opposite from John Abraham.
Edwards lost his starting job to Kroy Biermann and had only nine tackles — no sacks — when the Falcons handed out the pink slip.
"Everybody around here knows that the only thing this organization cares about is getting wins, moving forward and doing positive things on the field," defensive lineman Corey Peters said. "If you're not doing that, everybody is on notice that they're going to be looking for someone else to do it."
Through the first four weeks, the Cardinals were even with the Falcons in the NFC standings. But Arizona hasn't won since, its season on the brink of totally falling apart.
The Cardinals were off last week, at least giving them a chance to regroup even though it's tough to get over what's happened.
"It would have been nice to go into a bye with a couple of wins under our belt," said Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' star receiver. "But it's good to have a bye week before you go against the best team in the NFL. We're fortunate we had it."
Arizona's offensive line has played poorly and now has rookie starters at both tackle positions. Running back Beanie Wells is still trying to get over a severe turf toe, leaving 5-foot-7 LaRod Stephens-Howling and 5-9 William Powell to man the league's worst-ranked rushing game. The passing game isn't much better, with unheralded John Skelton back at quarterback after Kevin Kolb went down with a rib injury.
Skelton is the league's 33rd-rated passer, with five interceptions and just two touchdowns. Hard to tell that Arizona has one of the league's top receivers.
"I'm a professional," Fitzgerald said. "There's good days, there's bad days. That's life. I've got to find a way to push through and be a good teammate, regardless of the circumstances."
Despite their lofty record, the Falcons have some issues of their own. Start with the once-powerful running game, which is coming off a miserable performance at New Orleans. Michael Turner looked like he was running in mud on the Superdome turf, picking up 15 yards on 13 carries. The offensive line was overpowered time and time again in short-yardage situations.
Coach Mike Smith knows that must change, even though the Falcons have become a more pass-oriented team — and rightly so — with Matt Ryan at quarterback and a wondrous group of receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Stunningly, the Falcons have converted more third downs when they need 4 to 6 yards than when only a single yard is required.
So much for that undefeated season.
- Local Sports
Trojans get one hit, but win region title
If high school baseball games lasted six innings, Zack Bullard would have had a no-hitter and the Tift County Blue Devils would have been on top of the region standings. It was the last inning that cost both player and team. Coffee only had one hit, but it was all they needed for a 2-1 victory that clinched the 1-AAAAAA title.
Remembering Miss Mattie
The year was 1991.
My father and I were at McDonald's on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta on the way to a Braves game. We were standing in line when a big man behind him just out of the blue started up a conversation.
Coffee can’t brew any offense against Tift’s McCray
For at least a few hours, the Tift County Blue Devils will be able to say they share part of the Region 1-AAAAAA baseball lead. They were winners of the first game of a doubleheader Thursday over the Coffee High Trojans, 4-0. The sides were even with two division losses.
Panthers outlast Warriors, 2-1
The Tiftarea Academy Panthers provided a little more separation in the Region 3-AAA race Wednesday evening. Fresh off a 2-1 win Monday, they added another one, this a 2-1 win over the Brookwood School Warriors.
Devils to dine on Coffee and Crisp
Big games and a big trip. Life takes an exciting turn over the next few days for the Diamond Devils of Tift County High. They start with a doubleheader this afternoon at 4:30 with the Coffee Trojans. Two days later, they will sliding into bases at Turner Field.
Lady Panthers gouge GCS, 7-1
The Tiftarea Academy soccer teams had a windy Tuesday night for Senior Night but they didn’t let the chill in the air stop them from keeping the scoreboard heated up. Seniors Neeli Fortson, Lauren Goforth, Ali Rippy, Britton Robitzsch and Austin Tenneson were recognized after the Lady Panthers sealed a 7-1 victory against the Georgia Christian Lady Generals. The Panthers had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
Nashville hosts 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon
The 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon will be held on Saturday, May 3 at the Berrien County Parks and Recreation Department. The Duathlon Race course will consist of a 2.3-mile run into an 18.5-mile bike ride and end with a 2.3-mile run.
McMinn, Beier shut down Glenwood
The Tiftarea Academy Panthers mustered only five hits Monday night, but that would be enough for them. Behind the arm of Noah McMinn, clutch hitting from Zach Beier and a big trick play, they bested the Glenwood (Ala.) Gators by a 2-1 score.
Panthers ready for region track championships
Through early Tuesday, the track team at Tiftarea Academy knew they would be participating at a region track meet today. They just were not sure where.
Coach Ryan Branch said Monday that the meet was scheduled for Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany, but if the event it was hosting was rained out Tuesday, TIftarea would be the hosts. The rains came, but it was not enough to change plans. Branch confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they would be on the road.
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- Trojans get one hit, but win region title