'Village Idiots' key to Falcons offensive success


Clabo said the old cliché about players' being a different person when they step on the field could not be truer than it is with Dahl.

"You hear that a lot but nobody really understands it," Clabo said. "But he really is a different person. When he's here when he's walking around, you look at him like he's hardly awake half the time. He's got his eyes half shut. He just looks like he's having a day at the beach but Sunday afternoon rolls around and he just comes to life."

On Sunday, Dahl became the focus when he and Singletary shouted at each other on the field during the game. After the game, Singletary realized his error and told reporters, "I wish I had more coaching etiquette."

But the equation is different when it's the player who is distracting the opposing team's head coach.

"This game is about focus," Boudreau said. "If you're focused on your job and that other guy is worried about getting hit or if that other guy is worried about you instead of worrying about his football team, you've taken the focus off of us. And our big thing is that's half the battle.

"People talk about Michael [Turner] carrying the ball too much. Well, if you're down field and I got five guys down field taking the hits off of Michael, he might be able to carry the ball ten more times because he ain't getting hit. And that's the big thing and if that means they get out of their comfort zone and they're out of their focus, that's good for us."

Said Dahl: "As long as we're not hurting our team and if we're getting under their skin, that's exactly what we want to do. Aggravate them and not hurt ourselves. And I think we set a pretty good example of that on Sunday."

McClure, who, in his 11th season with the Falcons, is the team's longest-tenured player said this group of linemen is the closest and most physical that he has been around. That closeness is evident in the way the players turn to sit towards each other in the locker room, with Clabo sitting in the middle of the hall across from tight end Justin Peelle.

And you can hear Boudreau's words echoed in the leader of the group.

"We take pride in the way we play and it kind of takes other teams out of their game," McClure said. "They start looking to come after you instead of going after the ball carrier."

Bears head coach Lovie Smith could see that cohesion come through on film.

"You look at offensive lines in general, they're normally the closest group on the field," Smith said of the Falcons line.

"That's what I see. I know they started a lot of games together. Just guys who played hard throughout the play, a tough group. Whenever you have a commitment to the run the way the Falcons do, it starts up front."

It's an idiosyncratic group from Boudreau on down.

Boudreau was worried that a story about the line and a mention of its lack of sacks over the last three games would prove a jinx.

Baker's beard is a hirsute protuberance that extends several inches from the bottom of his chin. During training camp, sweat drips from it like a dirty melting icicle.

"I can't speak for everyone else, but I like the beard," Clabo said. "I want a little more. I've been lobbying for him to braid it into two points, but he's not really feeling that."

It's a good thing he didn't speak for Dahl on that matter.

"I hate it," Dahl said. "I hate it and I think he should cut it off immediately. There's nothing good about that beard."

With such colorful characters -- mean, dry-humored, long-bearded -- it's easy to understand why Boudreau calls them the village idiots.

"When you think about it, we're all a bunch of village idiots," he said. "Really, what do you have to go out here every day and do? Go out and hit a sled. Everybody else catches a ball, does somersaults. We gotta hit somebody and get in a huddle and hit somebody again.

"You've got to have some kind of a deal, so that's our deal."

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