I thought about just not blogging about this Atlanta Falcons team until we know who our next opponents are. But hold on! Let’s look back at where this team was last summer. We were a team that was not supposed to succeed. Coming off three straight non-winning seasons. We had an offseason that was widely panned by experts who thought signing Mohamed Sanu was a mistake and that we should have gone after a pass rusher, not drafted two linebackers, a tight end, and a safety.
Then the preseason rolled around. Yeah, we won two games, but that was on the backups. the starters had only one good game. The others were the zero completion first game, the inept third performance (only preseason game in which the starters got an entire half to play). Not to mention the murderer’s row of a schedule we had, especially early on. So it was no surprise when the predictions (those that even cared to predict how a presumably bad team would do) had us doing as badly as 3-13.
The point is that if you’re a Falcons fan, you should never lose sight of where this team was at season’s beginning. We had a troubled, rookie-heavy defense that still hadn’t recovered from the losses. There were also questions of if Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast offense would work in its second year. As if having to follow up the tsunami of injuries that killed our 2013 team that was expected to be a Super Bowl contender for the second straight year, the mix of atrocious defense, bad fourth quarter calls from Mike Smith, and having to start backup centers with Joe Hawley going down again that left us incapable of holding a lead, and the 2015 season in which we blew 5-0 because we kept turning over the ball.
So let me state again, just for the record, that this team was not supposed to succeed. But it did! After losing a home opener 31-24, we managed to go on the road across the country and win over a very good Oakland Raiders team. Looking back, we improved that game. Sure, you can argue 11-5 isn’t quite a fantastic record, but when you look at the difficulty of our schedule and the three trips to the West Coast that it included, the record may be misleading.
What has kick-started our resurgence is a new and improved Matt Ryan. This season has been a rebuttal to every popular criticism of his. No arm strength? Ryan has been particularly good at the deep ball. An interception machine? He’s thrown just 7. Can’t function under pressure (actually, this was never true)? He’s gone up the best defenses in the league in still gotten it done. A product of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez? I was open to this possibility, but Julio (still arguably the best receiver in the league) was shut down a number of times and Matty Ice still moved the ball at will.
(And no, Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t get to go from bad play to streaking his way to MVP, especially since making the playoffs came down to squeaking by the varsity squad that is the Chicago bears and a Detroit team that couldn’t beat anyone good before Matthew Stafford was playing hurt. I can buy Tom Brady or Zeke Elliot winning MVP from Ryan, but if Rodgers gets it, the award is a joke.)
Whatever happens now, what a great f*ckin’ season! What about the playoffs, where it is said that we can’t win (even though we did very well there the last time we had opportunity, but never mind)? What about them? We beat our archrivals in prime time and weren’t hurt by West Coast trips, so I don’t see any evidence that this team can’t win a big game. The defense is a concern, but it’s been improving at a good clip. The rookies may be getting it together when they need to. I don’t require a Super Bowl run because with more moves to be made at guard, safety, and defensive tackle, next year could be even better! But at the same time, I won’t be shocked if this team wins it all! RISE UP!!!