It’s been a rough week at the Branch.
It started with the gut-wrenching 18-12 loss in Philly on Thursday night, particularly how that one ended – in the same darn end zone as the playoff loss back in January.
And then there was the kick to the gut the very next morning when it was announced that safety Keanu Neal, one of the Falcons’ most promising young players on defense, would miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury suffered in that loss to the Eagles. Then on Tuesday afternoon more bad news hit: Deion Jones, perhaps the best player on the Falcons defense, is heading to the injured reserve list with a foot injury he also sustained in the Eagles game.
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"That one hurts for us," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. And you, the fans of the Red and Black, are hurting, too.
Quinn provided some details surrounding the injury to Jones, and he also dropped some encouraging words in the process.
“We are bummed for Deion,” Quinn said, “but we do expect to get him back at some point this season.”
Look, injuries are a part of the game, but they still stink – even more for the players themselves. It affects their careers, their ability to provide for their families sometimes.
But with setbacks, come opportunities.
And when the Falcons take the field against the rival Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 53 men wearing the Red and Black will still run out of that tunnel.
And the spotlight will shine on some brighter than others.
The coaches, players and fans will be looking for someone – anyone – to stand up, fill the voids left by Neal and Jones and help the Falcons earn that first win of the season.
"All we can do now is play for him,” defensive end Takk McKinley said of Neal’s absence earlier in the week. “People got to step up, players got to step up, coaches got to step up. We've just got to do better."
This is a time for the leaders of this team – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Grady Jarrett to name a few – to put this team on their backs. And they’re certainly capable of it.
I’ve said repeatedly that one game doesn’t make or break a season. Nor does a player or two. Look no further than the team the Falcons just played on Thursday night for proof.
Maybe, too, a lesser-known or inexperienced player will stand up and surprise Falcons Nation. Maybe it’ll be a Damontae Kazee or a Duke Riley.
I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do agree with McKinley.
Everyone needs to step up and do better.