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Don Shula on Falcons: 'They're good'
You can’t blame the NFL’s all-time winningest coach for laughing at the question that he knows is coming.
Don Shula is annually asked whether any team will match the league’s only perfect season posted by his 1972 Miami Dolphins. And every year, the challengers have fallen short.
The Atlanta Falcons (8-0) are this season’s only remaining unbeaten squad. Shula told FOXSports.com on Monday that he is impressed by the Falcons but perfection won’t come easily.
“They’re good,” Shula said in a telephone interview. “I like what they’re doing at quarterback (Matt Ryan) and with their head coach (Mike Smith). They’re playing good defense and they can score. But it’s a tough deal.”
Shula then cited how close the Falcons already have come to losing this season. With his son Mike serving as Carolina’s quarterbacks coach, Shula attended Atlanta’s improbable 30-28 comeback victory over the Panthers in Week 4. With no timeouts and 59 seconds remaining, Atlanta drove from its own 1-yard line to set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning 40-yard field goal.
“They shouldn’t have won,” Shula said. “They should have gotten beat that game. Carolina had them and let them loose.
“Now, you’ve got to have games like that if you expect to run the table. We just have to wait and see who else is going to give them that kind of battle.”
The 2011 Green Bay Packers made it to 13-0 before losing to Kansas City in Week 15. As it stands now, that’s also the next time Atlanta will play a team with a winning record in the New York Giants (6-3).
Shula has long said he would offer a hearty congratulations to any team that could run the table like his 1972 Dolphins, which capped a 17-0 campaign with a victory over Washington in Super Bowl VII. The 2007 New England Patriots were 18-0 before being upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
That loss preserved Miami’s unique place in NFL history, but Shula insists he and other members of the 1972 Dolphins don’t gloat when contenders fall short. That includes the belief that the Dolphins always celebrate with a champagne toast after the last undefeated team falls.
“We’ve been portrayed as a bunch of angry old guys who have big cocktail parties and celebrate,” said Shula, 82. “None of that is true. I think one year when the last undefeated team got beat, Dick Anderson and (Nick) Buoniconti were living across the street from each other. They went to the parking lot and did a champagne toast.
“Someone there took a picture of it, but they were too cheap to invite the rest of us to the party.”