Volume 92, Issue 70
Tuesday, February 2, 1999
Chemistry brings down Falcons
Team chemistry is a very fine line.
It can lead teams to championships or it can lead to disaster. On Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons became unwilling victims of the powers of this strange phenomenon.
Throughout the season, the surprising Falcons managed to put together win after win despite the "experts" calling for their demise. On paper, they just weren't good enough to play with the Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers.
On the field, however, Atlanta beat all comers using a strategy which played to the team's strengths. They were a team which was tough to beat because they played as a team. Egos didn't get in the way as the "dirty birds" marched to the Super Bowl, with everyone playing on the same page.
Even Jamaal Anderson, the Falcons devastating running back was a virtual unknown before the Super Bowl hype, despite gaining over 1,000 yards this year. He was best known as the co-creator of the touchdown dance known as the "dirty bird" with Canadian tight end O.J. Santiago.
The Falcons got to where they did through hard work and team work. They managed to dance along the thin line of team chemistry all season long and then someone slipped.
On the eve of the biggest game of his career Eugene Robinson, safety for Atlanta, was arrested as he tried to procure sex from an undercover police officer in the Miami area.
As a result, on an evening when he should have been in the hotel early getting a good night's sleep, Robinson got to spend the night in jail, getting little if any sleep. If his performance on the field wasn't directly affected by his lack of sleep, then he had at least lost the faith of his teammates around him.
Robinson can argue until he's blue in the face that his actions off the field in no way interfered with his play, but the fact of the matter is he upset some of his teammates with his actions before the biggest game of their careers and therefore broke the bonds which previously tied this team so tightly together.
Regardless of Robinson's episode on Saturday night, the Falcons went about their business on the field, going toe to toe with the mighty Denver Broncos. That is until the death blow was dealt by John Elway and Rod Smith of the Broncos.
The Falcons had just missed a field goal which would have narrowed Denver's lead to 10-6 in the second quarter. Instead, Elway would find Smith deep over the middle and Smith would outrun Robinson to the end zone, making the game 17-3. Being down two touchdowns was not the end of the game, but this particular play effectively ended any hopes for an Atlanta comeback.
Denver coach Mike Shanahan realized Robinson was under the microscope and any mistake would be attributed to his behaviour the night before. With Atlanta still reeling from the missed field goal, this was a perfect opportunity to take a shot at Robinson.
When Atlanta players realized who was beaten on the play, many must have felt they had been let down by one of their own. Sure the play was executed to perfection by the Broncos, but the fact remains there will be questions as to whether or not Robinson would have been able to stop the play.
With those questions lingering, Atlanta lost all hope of winning the game. They were betrayed by the actions of a teammate off the field which led to their defeat on it.
John Dinner can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999