NFL 2011

Are the Atlanta Falcons Really the Dirtiest Team in the NFL?
The stadium scene.
Jan. 6 2012 11:47 AM

NFL 2011


Are the Atlanta Falcons really the dirtiest team in the NFL?

Dunta Robinson
The Falcons' Dunta Robinson scuffles with the Bucs' Donald Penn.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Don’t play dumb with us, Tommy. The Jets are the subject of so much hype and, now, so much schadenfreude because Rex Ryan declares every year that his players will win the Super Bowl, crush their enemies, and hear the lamentations of their groupies. If you sign up for the role of carnival barker, you’ve got to expect that the suckers will light the stage on fire when the sham gets exposed. Sure, we should’ve recognized that the Jets were a fraud. But don’t blame the victims for believing the hype that spews forth from a championship-caliber hype man.

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

I’m fascinated to see what the Jets do with Mark Sanchez, who is just 25 years old, has made the AFC Championship Game twice, and is tied for the NFL record with four road playoff wins. When he beat the Patriots last postseason, Sanchez “was the most poised and precise quarterback on Tom Brady's field.” When he played poorly in this season’s final three games, writers and Jets fans were ready to send him back to whatever lifeguard stand GQ plucked him down from.

But Mark Sanchez is not Curtis Painter. As Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz argued back in November, the way we talk about Sanchez is the way we talk about all quarterbacks:


"Our minds tend to place passers in one of two categories: 'elite' and 'terrible.' We have a hard time considering that some quarterbacks are going to be a little above average, or a little below average, rather than at the extremes."

For a quarterback, every game—and really every play—is boom or bust. As fans, we’re incapable of averaging out those highs and lows. Mark Sanchez, then, is a ping-pong ball, bouncing between heroism and villainy until someone gets fed up and slams him off the table. (In this metaphor, the floor is the Washington Redskins.)

As we head into the first weekend of the playoffs, I’m interested in the noise emanating forth from New York’s other franchise. “Most people, you would call them dirtbags," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said this week, referring to his team’s first-round opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons’ offensive line, in particular, has been called out all year long for alleged dirty play. The Packers’ B.J. Raji said they “indulge in … cheap stuff” and that they’re “coached to play after the whistle.” "They'll hit you late, and around the pile they'll hit you in the back," Titans defensive end William Hayes said in November. And Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh—pot, meet kettle, stomp on kettle—claimed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan got what he deserved when he turned his ankle against the Lions. "To me it's karma for all the bad stuff they've done in the past," he said. "Their offensive lineman hurt their own quarterback."

What exactly are the Falcons doing to get these defensive linemen so riled up? I just watched the Falcons-Lions game from Week 7 on NFL Rewind, and I saw a bunch of shoving after the whistle—you know, because it was an NFL game. Falcons left tackle Will Svitek also cut the Lions’ edge rushers below the knees on a bunch of plays, a perfectly legal maneuver that nonetheless riles defensive linemen who live in fear of a torn ACL.

Nate, what’s your take on this—does the fact that so many players from so many different teams have complained about the Falcons indicate that they really are doing something that violates the NFL players’ code of fair play? Could the Falcons’ offensive line coach, a milquetoast-looking gentleman named Paul Boudreau, really be the mastermind of such a diabolical scheme? Come on, he wears glasses!



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 4:33 PM Walmart Is Killing the Rest of Corporate America in Solar Power Adoption
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.