*With the end of the Falcons’ season, AtlantaFalcons.com managing editor Jay Adams and contributing writer Daniel Cox will take a look back at a tremendous 13-3 regular season that was filled with thrills and chills in this week’s ‘Best of 2010' series. Today, Daniel Cox ranks the top five quotes from the franchise this season. *
5. Roddy War:Roddy White showed the league this year that he's one of the best receivers around, but he sent an especially telling lesson to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7.
In the days leading up to the game, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco made news by alledgedly sending the Falcons defensive backs Ochocinco shirts. His trick got some of the locker room revved up, just the wrong Falcon.
White responded saying "I wouldn't do that. That's like, that's not cool to do things like that. It's just disrespectful. It's going out on a limb and doing too much to do things like that. I know he's a funny guy and stuff like that, but those guys take stuff like that personal."
One of the most vocal players in Atlanta's locker room, White used his voice to defend his teammates.
"I just don't like it," he said. "I don't like it, period. Those are my teammates. I'm going to defend them for anything. When we get out there on Sunday, I'm going to be out there with them. If they knock him out of the game, who cares?"
Then on the field, he defended his words with one of the best games of his career, a 201-yard, two touchdown day, leading the Falcons to a 39-32 win.
Honorable mention goes to one of the other big voices in the Falcons locker room, linebacker Mike Peterson. After the win, he shared how he supported White and his comments.
“I love it,” Peterson said. “I told him earlier in the week when he came out and made that statement, as long as I’m here you can make all the bold statements you want because I’m going to back you. He came out and played lights out today. He had a big one. He was hungry and they fed him.”
4. Mularkey's Premonition:Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey was foreshadowing what was to come when he gave a comment in June that echoed all over the football world.
If anyone were to say such a thing, it'd be Mularkey, one of the coaches who worked closely with Roddy White throughout the entire offseason. He saw what everyone else would soon see and praised White's work in preparing for the 2010 season. * *
The coach said White had "maybe one of the best (offseasons) as a receiver since I've been in the league. It's been great for our passing game with timing and everything since he's been here and worked as hard as he has."
The receiver's place in the offense was critical and after a number of very good seasons, White experienced a breakout season that landed him All-Pro honors.
3. Coy Calms the Storm:It was a loss that snapped the Falcons' eight-game winning streak.
To compound it, it was at the Georgia Dome, a place in which the Falcons were beginning to feel invincible.
After a night of close calls against New Orleans, the Falcons got dressed in the locker room after Monday night game in a subdued form they'd not experienced in a long time.
Coy Wire, a player many turn to for inspiring words, felt the loss was necessary, to keep the Falcons on edge and help them grow. He shared a belief that the loss may be more beneficial than a victory.
“I can only hope, and I believe, that we will take the adversity and this bump in the road and allow it to make us stronger and more tight knit as team and will force us into a becoming a better football team than we were before the loss,” Wire said. “Every guy on this team will take it and use it as motivation to propel us further than we would have if we won tonight.”
A loss a few weeks later, in the playoffs to the Packers, had a similar feel and no doubt Wire was thinking the same thing again as he looked for ways to produce a positive feeling on an otherwise dark day. It may be another full season or two before fans see the effects of that Monday night loss and the eventual 2010 season-ender in the playoffs.
2. Ovie Explains It:The Falcons won the regular season matchup with the Packers and though the game was close, requiring a final-minute drive and game-winning field goal in the game's last seconds.
Against a potent offense like Green Bay's, the Falcons planned to exploit their running game and impose a physical dominance on the Packers equating to long drives and running clock that would keep Atlanta's offense on the field and Green Bay's tiring defense there as well.
It was a system that worked well for the Falcons for much of the season and after the win over the Packers in Week 12, fullback Ovie Mughellli, who led the way for running back Michael Turner and the ground game's impressive effort, explained some of the mindsets behind the offense, particularly the one they used to get the win.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” Mughelli said. “We’ve learned that killer instinct. If we see a wounded animal, we try to put it away. If we see a D-lineman on his knees or a DB cringing before they hit Mike or me, we take advantage of that. We go full steam ahead. It’s a swagger that we have on offense and on this whole team.”
1. Smith's Final Words:Even on one of his worst days, head coach Mike Smith is as poised and even-keeled as they come.
One day after his team suffered a tough playoff loss to the Packers, Smith faced the media and took responsibility for his team's play, but tried to put for a positive foot, reminding anyone that would listen that the Atlanta Falcons were 13-3 in the regular season and you don't find yourself in that position often by chance or luck, you earn it.
The Falcons earned because they were a well-run, well-coached and hard-playing football team. Smith said he believed his players should be proud of what they accomplished but be prepared to search for the ways to get better.
The coach answered the inevitable calls to make immediate changes with grace and his comments should remind every fan during this offseason that the Falcons are still headed in the correct direction and there's reason to be proud of what's been accomplished and what is still ahead.
“The sky is not falling I can assure you that," Smith said. "We played a very poor football game last night in terms of the performance. We coached a very poor football game. Everybody in that room has ownership of that and it starts with me. I don’t think you want to over react. You’ve got to take time. You sit back and you analyze and you go through that analysis and you make decisions in the calm after you’ve been able to take the emotion out of it. If you go on emotion right now, you’re probably not going to like what you’re thinking.”