Campbell knew after last Sunday’s 28-16 loss to the Browns that they were bad, that they were lethargic, slow and half-committed to just about everything that they tried as a three-game winning streak vanished in the wafting smoke of a stink bomb aside Lake Erie.
So, yeah, he was ticked off after that game, after which he suggested that the team approached the game as if they were playing the lowly Browns rather than, you know, a legit NFL team.
Heck with that. Campbell said the Falcons should need no pills.
“Every week has to be championship week, you know. You’re in the NFL; everybody is good, and if you don’t treat every week the same, that’s when things tend to get away from you a little bit . . . ” he said Wednesday.
“Anytime you lose you’re going to be pissed but just based off the performances we put together before that game, leading up to it, it just wasn’t to our standard and we’ve got to make the corrections and make sure that never happens again.”
Maybe the outside linebacker has a special sixth sense.
Head coach Dan Quinn may not.
He doesn’t have the same ability as Campbell to read the Falcons. When he suggested that he didn’t see anything in practice last week to suggest that the Falcons might play against the Browns as if they were, well, playing the Browns, he was not the first NFL head coach to say that he didn’t see a practice-time barometer that would predict his team’s fate.
Matt Ryan said the same thing: practice is a laboratory for fickle judgements.
“Sometimes you know if you’ve had a better week of practice than others. The funny part is the correlation is not always the same, or sometimes you can have a rough week of practice and then play really, really well,” the quarterback said.
“The same can be true of having a really good week of practice and then not performing as well as you like and being prepared and not performing the way you want.”
You won’t find a Falcons player or coach who has a special antidote to the blahs that the team played with last week. There is no universal wake-up alarm.
With the Falcons (4-5) and Cowboys (4-5) about to fight for their playoff lives, no Quinn pep talk may turn the tide. No extra vitamin C in everybody’s lunch drink will flip the necessary switches.
The Falcons simply need to look in the mirror and jolt themselves.
“You go back to work. It’s not a magic equation on how to do it,” said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. “You strap up, go back to work.”
The Browns are better than they’ve been in a while and last week they took advantage of being the Browns, which is to say they capitalized upon the Falcons looking past them.
Man, does that infuriate Campbell. He’s seeking an even approach week in and out.
“The NFC’s a tough [conference]. Everybody knows . . . other than the Rams and the Saints, everybody’s kind of in the same class right about now, so everybody’s hungry. At this point, it’s just about who wants it more.”
There will be no knowing, or judging, until the Falcons play against the Cowboys, but if it makes anybody feel better, Wednesday’s post-practice reports were every bit as positive as Campbell’s recap of the walk-through that preceded it.
The Falcons seem more energized than when you last saw them.
“Everything’s going great. Positive energy, attitude, things like that. We’re taking the necessary steps to get better, coming out here every day just working on us,” said wide receiver Julio Jones. “Definitely the tempo felt right [Wednesday]. We can’t get sidetracked from that.”
Television cameras in Cleveland last Sunday showed Ryan to be more furious on the sideline in Cleveland than Campbell was in the locker room.
He seemed to feel better after the Falcons kicked off their preparations for the Cowboys, and smiled a few times.
“I thought today was a good practice,” he said after practice. “I thought in the meetings that we had this morning and the walkthrough, and then our practice this afternoon I thought our attention to detail was good and the sense of urgency was good.”
Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, whose unit was scoured for 211 rushing yards by the Browns, may feel the same way about the other side of the Falcons’ ball.
“I told the guys, ‘That’s a championship practice,’ “ he said. “Effort and intensity is always going to be the key to whatever happens.”