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Falcons playing as a team

By Anthony Rhoads

Before the football season started, I wrote a column about how I wanted to see the Falcons win this year.

I got my wish and then some.

Can you believe it? The Atlanta Falcons are one game away from the Super Bowl.

As a long-suffering Falcons fan, that is sweet music to my ears.

They've only been this far in the playoffs once, back in 1998, when they beat San Francisco in the divisional playoffs and Minnesota in the NFC title game to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.

They lost to Denver in the Super Bowl but just seeing them get that far was special.

Six years later, they are poised to get back to the big game.

Can the Falcons beat Philadelphia? That really is a tough call. Philadelphia is playing at home and that's definitely an advantage for the Eagles. Philadelphia should definitely be able to play in the elements better than the Falcons, who haven't had to worry about the cold, wind, rain and snow in the Georgia Dome.

But one advantage the Falcons have is Michael Vick. Vick is the type of player who can break a game open at any time. If a game is close and Vick is in the lineup, you can't count the Falcons out because Vick can turn the tide of a game in just one play.

Vick didn't put up gaudy passing numbers in the Falcons' 47-17 victory over the Rams but he didn't need to. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns but he gained 119 yards on eight carries. It also helped that Warrick Dunn contributed 142 yards with two TDs and T.J. Duckett added 66 yards on the ground.

The team's performance against the Rams proved a good point - even though Vick is the catalyst that drives the offense, the Falcons are playing as a team. The Rams game proved how good the Falcons can be if all the cylinders are firing at once from the offense, defense and special teams.

I really like the Falcons' defense this year. They've gotten burned a few times this year, most notably the Kansas City game, but it seems like they haven't let things get to them this year. In past years, if the Falcons' defense had one bad game, it would be followed by several more bad games but this year the unit was able to put the Kansas City disaster behind them. The came back the next week and put a hurtin' on Denver at Denver, which is no small task.

Keith Brooking is the heart and soul of the defense and lead the squad with 102 tackles. He's followed by Bryan Scott with 87, Matt Stewart with 67 and Patrick Kerney with 66. Kerney leads the team in sacks with 13 and Rod Coleman follows with 11.5.

When's the last time the Falcons have been that good on the defensive line? I remember there were times when the Falcons were pushed around and bullied on the defensive line and sacks were a were a rare occurrence.

How about the Falcons' special teams, especially Allen Rossum, who put on a clinic against the Rams with three punt returns for 152 yards (an average of 50.7 per return) and one touchdown. He added four kickoff returns for an average of 20 per return.

With all this going for the team, I feel pretty good about the Falcons and I hope they can beat Philadelphia. It's going to be tough but they definitely have a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

But I am already thinking about next year. It would be nice if they could follow up with another winning season and do something they have never done before - have consecutive winning seasons.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .