Shanks: It’s time for the Falcons

January 12, 2013 

Every week the Atlanta Falcons play at home, they play a video before the team takes the field to help fire up the fans. Samuel L. Jackson, the accomplished actor, stands at the center of the Georgia Dome in the video and asks everyone to “Rise Up.”

It has become the rallying cry of the fan base. But I wish there would be another two-word mantra for this week’s game for the Falcons.

“It’s Time.”

It’s time for the Falcons to finally win a playoff game. We’re in year five of the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. They are 0-3 so far in the postseason, with the past two losses leaving a very bad taste for everyone who cares about this franchise.

But it’s time for that to be history and for the team to take that next step. Use whatever cliché you prefer -- turn the corner, get over the hump, etc. The Falcons must beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

The home-field advantage should be in play here. If you were at the Falcons’ playoff game two years ago in Atlanta against Green Bay, you can only hope Sunday’s environment is close to that. It was tremendous. The Georgia Dome had never been louder. But the cheers didn’t last long.

That was when the old Falcons mystique hit the fan. It was as if Rankin Smith Sr., the team’s original owner, was still pulling the strings and messing every single thing up. The Packers hit the Falcons in the mouth, and the Falcons had no idea what to do.

Then it happened again last January in New York. The Giants overpowered the Falcons. It was like the Falcons were Notre Dame and the Giants were Alabama. Yes, it was that bad.

But this year is different. This Atlanta team seems more prepared for the challenge of this year’s flavor of the week. And while Seattle has been a great story and is getting the national attention, Atlanta is still the team with the best record and the No. 1 seed.

This Atlanta team knows it can’t defend running quarterback Russell Wilson like it did when it faced running quarterback Cam Newton last month in Charlotte. That loss to the Panthers might well be a blessing in disguise. It seemed to wake up the Falcons to avoid future embarrassment.

Seattle is headed south with a wounded defense. Chris Clemons, a former Georgia Bulldogs player, tore the ACL in his knee last week in the Seahawks’ win over Washington. He had 11.5 sacks this year, so he would have been a force if he could have played.

His absence might help the Atlanta offensive line protect Ryan in the pocket. And if Ryan gets protection and is upright for most of the afternoon, chances are he’ll hit Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

Seattle has a very good defense, with or without Clemons, but chances are the Seahawks haven’t faced a trio of threats like they’ll see with the Falcons. They have quality on defense, but the Falcons have quality and quantity on offense.

If Ryan is in rhythm with his receivers and if the Falcons get anything at all from the running game, the Seahawks are going to take the long flight back to Seattle needing more than a good cup of coffee.

These Atlanta players know the whole world believes Seattle is going to win Sunday. They’re only human, and they can hear the pundits, one by one, picking the Seahawks. But what happened when everyone thought the same thing last month when the Giants came to Atlanta?

The Falcons had just lost that awful game to the Panthers. Most believed it was time for the Giants to kick in and make their annual late-season run into the postseason. There were plenty of reasons to believe that. But the Falcons demolished the defending Super Bowl champions 34-0.

It might not be that easy Sunday, but that game against New York did show how the Falcons could react when most believe they won’t even show up. They’ve got to quiet those critics, and the only way to do that is to finally win a playoff game.

They’ll do that Sunday. They’ll rise up and beat the Seahawks. And it’ll happen simply because it’s time.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on twitter@yahoo.com.

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