I was on hand to see the Falcons’ improbable win over the 49ers first-hand last week, and walked away with a distinct impression about the attitude of the team.
One of the game’s pivotal plays came with less than two minutes remaining, when Matt Ryan was intercepted by Nate Clements, who made a beautiful play and had a terrific game. As you’ll see in the video, as Clements was returning the ball he was stripped from behind by Roddy White. What struck me, though, was the overall mindset of the Falcons, something that has been imprinted on every player on the roster, something which showed through on that play.
The Falcons always pursue the football.
The Falcons’ offensive linemen always go downfield behind a play. When a running back gets tackled, you always see an extra offensive lineman or two getting an extra shot in, cleaning people off their running back. On pass plays, the linemen sprint 20 or 30 yards downfield in case they’re needed for an extra block.
White gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for making the play and knocking the ball loose against Clements. But the guy who recovered the ball was right guard Harvey Dahl. He began to pursue the ball downfield one way, and then flipped around and became a defensive player.
However small, this is what I took away from the game. I’ve heard this about the Falcons for several seasons, and the pursuit of the ball by all 11 players is very evident. The Falcons improved to 3-1 in large part to that terrific play, one that might ultimately be the play that saves their season and their playoff hopes.
Rich McKay, Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith came together to assemble a team in this type of image, and they’re living up to it. Dahl isn’t what you would call a household name, but he’s a mean, nasty, physical guy. He’s the Conrad Dobler of our time, without being dirty. He makes the types of plays that help the Falcons win.
White should be commended, but it was the mindset of the Falcons that ultimately got them the ball back. High schoolers and younger players should take a note from this about hustle.
– Charles Davis