Falcons coach Dan Quinn makes his point during disappointing second half in Pittsburgh. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Where do Falcons fit in this weekend’s relevance scale?

Losing happens. Losing is the “B” side of everyone’s hit single. Every market corrects, every bounce house deflates. Losing is the inevitable consequence of putting yourself out there and daring to try to win something. 

So, no shame in the inevitable loss here or there. Losing to the point of becoming irrelevant, though, that’s when it really becomes a problem.   

Less than a third of the way through a season that was supposed to be filled with significance, the Falcons already are walking the tightrope of irrelevance. It is only mid-October and the Falcons are 1-4. No one in the NFL has a longer losing streak than their three consecutive. The Browns have a better record. And in their division, New Orleans already is so far out front that from here, we can only barely make out the faintest trace of the fleur-de-lis on the distant horizon. 

On Sunday, a game at home against Tampa Bay represents the latest last stand for relevance. Beating the Bucs is mandatory. Losing is not an option if this team hopes to make any legitimate claim to the flighty affections of the locals. 

Isn’t the Falcons’ grip on the audience already pretty tentative?       

Start with the assumption that there is a finite amount of time to squander on the viewing of the human demolition derby that is football. Then, this weekend the Falcons already are scrambling for a place in their own market.

Saturday football is just looking so much more meaningful at the moment.

Yes, that includes Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have a big game looming Saturday afternoon against Duke. Let me repeat for emphasis, because these are words that are almost never uttered during football season: Big. Game. Against. Duke.

The fact that Tech is 1-3 in its past four games against the Blue Devils may be more an indictment than anything else. Still, here we find Tech at an important crossroads, with its offense gaining a good deal of traction and a very real chance to gain ground in the Coastal Division.

Playing in the ACC at the moment means always having a chance. There are no breathless challenges, no unbeatable teams in the Coastal Division. Such lack of an insurmountable favorite suits Tech’s needs quite well now. It’s good to be just another noodle in the soup. 

And, of course, any trip to Baton Rouge is fraught with implications and the very real chance of fainting from the brown liquor fog coming from the stands. That’s always a tough neighborhood, and really, it’s about time Georgia ventured into one? It has been dabbling in the well-groomed cul-de-sacs of college football long enough.

The physical advantages the Bulldogs have wielded over everyone else on their schedule will be mitigated this week. The penalties and the general sloppiness that have partnered with this unbeaten season might hurt a little more Saturday.  

What keeps such teams interesting is that we still don’t know exactly what they are. There is no clear concept of their ceilings, which is pretty much how it should be in October. There is supposed to be some intrigue left. 

With the Falcons, there’s the increasing sense that they are what their record says they are – a team unable to rise above the eviscerating injuries on defense and a bit player in a tough division.

Even their calling card of giving full effort in the face of adversity came into question a week ago, as they were getting outscored 28-7 in the second half in Pittsburgh.

The result: Yes, the Falcons are losing games, but beyond that, might they also be losing the audience?

The only cure to that is winning. And winning now.   

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.