In the NFL, being on top has its advantages. A division leader, most of the time, have room for error if a situation of difficulty surface and being in the driver’s seat could build confidence. The Atlanta Falcons is familiar with this advantage, as divisional winners for the last two seasons and throughout this campaign, thus far.
However, being on top can cause displacement, and if caught off guard, a costly lost during this period of the season could be monumental down the road.
The Falcons (9-1) nearly fell victim to a costly lost Sunday to the, now, free-falling Arizona Cardinals, who once were hot winners of four straight to start the 2012 season.
Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan completed 28 out of 46 attempts for 301 yards, but threw five interceptions.
Due to a solid performance by the Falcons’ defense, Atlanta escaped with the win, 23-19. If the Cardinals (4-6) would have held on, the Falcons would have been facing a potential three-game losing streak if the hot Buccaneers (6-4) were to be successful against them next Sunday at Tampa Bay.
The Falcons survived a classic trap-game, in which an inferior opponent caught a good team off guard, or over confident.
Falcons’ head coach Mike Smith considered his team “very, very fortunate.”
“No. You can’t really concern yourself with the previous game or the next game,” said Smith in his Monday press conference. “You got to really concern yourself about the game you’re getting ready to play. I thought we had a very focused week of practice. The practice week, I thought, was solid and we did not go out and execute. You can’t turn the ball over six times in a football game and win.
“Statistically, the chances of that happening are two or three percent,” he continued. “In fact, since 2003 there’s been, prior to yesterday, 61 games in which there is a five-or-more turnover advantage to one team and only two times did the team win that was on the wrong side of that ratio. 59-2 since 2003 and we made it 59-3 yesterday, so we were very, very fortunate.”