Rise Up

Falcons-Logo1Tonight, the Atlanta Falcons will play in the second Super Bowl in the team’s history and go for their first championship.  As they stand on the precipice of this historic moment, I think ti’s important to realize that as critical as fans can be, we should sometimes turn our critiques towards ourselves, and admit when we were wrong.

Last season, when Matt Ryan was totally off his game, I lamented that he had peaked and that he would never be more than a solid, unremakrable quarterback.  Last night, he won the MVP and deservedly so.  He’s been lights out.  His growth this season has also highlighted how he reached where he has come now.  He wasn’t a leader in the early days of the team as he let veterans take on that role.  Now he’s finally stepped up, taken that leadership role, and it’s paid huge dividends.

I also said last season that Kyle Shanahan was the root of the team’s offensive woes, and that it was insane to keep him around.  But as it turns out, Ryan and Shanahan just needed a season and some long talks to get on the same page.  Combined with the right personnel and Ryan understanding this new system, the Falcons offensive has been outstanding.  I’ll be bummed to see him leave to go coach the 49ers, and I hope that his replacement is as good at play-calling and working within the scheme that has given the Falcons unprecedented success.

After the Falcons imploded after last year’s 5-0 start, I wondered if this was the same old team.  I couldn’t contain my fury after the home loss to the Chargers, crying out on Twitter how this was the same old team and that they couldn’t go the distance.

Yes, some things broke the Falcons way.  When Julio Jones got injured, we had two of the easiest teams up on the schedule.  The Seahawks lost the #2 seed, which made room for the Falcons to get a bye week and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs after the Cowboys lost to the Packers.  But those are ultimately just opportunities, and the Falcons made the most of them.  Even without Julio, the Falcons dominated the Niners and the Rams.  They didn’t play down to their opponent.  They destroyed them.  When it came to home field advantage, they didn’t just squeak by the Seahawks and Packers.  They won in decisive fashion.

I became a Falcons fan at the beginning of the Mike Smith era, which conditioned us to experience games the following way:

- First 2 quarters: The Falcons are doing great!

- 3rd quarter: Everything goes to hell.

- 4th quarter: Can Matt Ryan pull out a last-second win?

It’s become clear that the problem was both coaching and personnel, and that both have been remedied thanks to Dan Quinn’s clear vision on what kind of team he wanted.

I don’t know if the Falcons will win the Super Bowl.  I think they have a real shot to do so.  But either way, I’m sorry I doubted them, and I’m grateful for this amazing season.

Rise up.

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 sports

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