CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Can we stop it, already?
If you happened to be one of those fans hoping to see the Falcons throw in the towel and play a bunch of backups to solidify a better spot in the coming NFL Draft, you were, well, probably disappointed Sunday.
The Falcons won, 24-10, improved to 6-9 on the year and … dropped a handful of spots in the draft order. And get this – cover your eyes, towel throwers – they were happy about it, too.
This game was obviously important to them. To the players, the coaches. Everyone wearing red and black.
Don’t just look at who played, but how they played.
Julio Jones, who entered the game dealing with multiple injuries (rib and hip) and was a game-time decision, played – and caught a touchdown pass.
Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ $150 million quarterback, played, too. He passed for 239 yards and three touchdowns and, oh by the way, moved ahead of Warren Moon for 13th-most touchdown passes in NFL history.
And all of the usual starters – on both sides of the ball – played, too. Heck, the defense forced a season-high four turnovers.
Coach Dan Quinn was asked multiple times during the week leading up to the game if, you know, the Falcons would (ahem) evaluate some of the younger and inexperienced players over the final two games.
And each time the Falcons head coach said no.
“I wouldn’t and the reason why I wouldn’t is because, at the core of it, the players want to battle and play for it,” Quinn said. “At the very front of it, they deserve our very best for everything they do.”
And while it didn’t always look pretty against the Panthers, that’s exactly what the Falcons did.
There were no mass substitutions, not even when the Falcons went up by two scores in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Matt Schaub didn’t play a single snap, either.
Look, I get what many Falcons fans are thinking right now.
Play the young guys. See what unproven players can do. Yeah, we saw you and your 115 rushing yards today, Brian Hill.
Don’t risk getting stars like Ryan and Jones hurt. The Falcons are out of the playoff race, after all.
I get it, but it ain’t happening.
The Falcons made that crystal-clear Sunday, against a Panthers team desperate to end its then-six-game losing streak.
So take those towels and cover your mouths the next time you want to talk about tanking.
And brace yourselves for a possible 7-9 finish.