The undefeated start to the Atlanta Falcons‘ season means less to receiver Roddy White — and any Falcon who has endured their last two playoff losses — than how they perform at the end of the season.
They realize that a strong regular season has not translated into a strong post-season, so they hardly consider their 7-0 start something to be overly excited.
“We’re off to a good start, but until we finish strong, we’re just a big question mark,” the Pro Bowl receiver said in an interview with Yahoo Sports after manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles, 30-17 Sunday. “We can be 7-0, 10-0, whatever – but until we get into the playoffs and win, we’re just regular-season warriors.”
His point is well-taken. In 2010, the Falcons were the No. 1-seed with a 13-3 record, best in the NFC. But in their first playoff game, at the Georgia Dome no less, Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers buried them 48-21.
White asked Reebok to print up some T-shirts with “Unacceptable” on the front and the score of the debacle, “48-21,” on the back.
“I still keep a T-shirt in my locker,” White said to Yahoo Sports, “as a way of saying, ‘This can’t happen to us ever again.’ It’s just a constant reminder that we haven’t made it. That game hasn’t left my mind yet. I think about it constantly.”
He thinks about last year, too, when the Falcons were 10-6 facing the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs. After taking a 2-0 lead on a second-quarter safety, Atlanta did not score again — and gave up 24 points to the Giants, making them 0-3 in the playoffs in the era of coach Mike Smith and general manger Thomas Dimitroff. This year, they did not panic and, instead, tweaked a strong roster.
“Mike and I have been very communicative as far as our approach to being calculated with our decision-making, and not being easily moved by our emotions,” Dimitroff said to Yahoo Sports. “That’s something we’ve taken pride in. That game was rough on everyone, and the next day he and I sat in my office and had a very open discussion about the direction of this team.
“There were no kitschy phrases. It was, ‘How do we improve this team in all phases?’ We were able to keep our emotions in check and trudge forward.”
It’s working so far. But the playoffs will tell the real story.