We were who they thought we were all along.
The following opinion and subsequent words are being written by a true ATL patriot. There’s your disclaimer, and for those of you who bleed black and red too, you’ll need it. In 2012 we fought the good fight in the football world to be called elite. We challenged the sports world to respect the Falcons as ‘one of the top tier teams.’ Our critics were quickly challenged with a 13-3 season, and a trip to the playoffs. Our critics were unimpressed. We rose up and got our first playoff win in the Mike Smith/ Matt Ryan era. Our critics, however, were still unmoved. But why? The remaining criticism was driven by our inability to put teams away. Our critics argued that our 13-3 season could easily have been an 8-8 season based on all of the come from behind heroics. They said that Atlanta could not continue the moment of barely winning, or that the heroics of Matty Ice could not continue every game. But were they right? Were they saying that our team had just the right amount of luck to make us competitive, but that sheer talent and determination was lacking?
ATLiens argued that we were missing just a few key elements to make us the Superbowl favorite. ATLhaters argued that we were always just one or two elements away from being a sub-par team. In the offseason, we didn’t make any real defensive moves. I would even argue that we took a risk relying on rookie corners to have the same impact as below average veteran CBs. An idea came to the forefront that resigning Tony Gonzalez and picking up a quality running back would yield more offense, more time of possession, and as a result less time on the field for our defense to blow the lead. Steven Jackson was signed and Tony Gonzalez would return to lead this team to a Superbowl championship. Our critics, our haters (the Saints), and our doubters were in store for some southern style quintessential humble pie.
In Week 1, we had a few setbacks and some big names on the injury report. Roddy White, Stephan Nicholas, and Asante Samuel. Week 2, Jonathan Babineaux, Sam Baker, Thomas DeCoud, Julio Jones, and Sean Weatherspoon. These were big names, but only a few elements in our championship caliber team. Then in Week 3, just one more element in Steven Jackson. These few elements missing from the team may not have allowed us to win the NFC South and another 13-3 season. However, 10-6 or 9-7 were still reasonable records for a championship caliber team to muster with only a few elements missing. Sitting in the Las Vegas Sportsbooks on Sundays, I argued with my peers and friends that our slow start was just that, a slow start. We’re an elite team, and elite teams still win games when a few elements are missing. Well my friends, it was I who would come to eat the southern style humble pie.
We were who they thought we were. We were a team that was barely winning games. We were a team that could not hold a lead. We were a team with just the right amount of talent and luck to win 13 games in 2012. 2013 took away a few elements, and the House that Ryan built fell. Like a house of cards. We were a team committing key penalties at the wrong time. There is some good news out of this. Now that we can accept where our REAL weaknesses are, we can fix them. Good coaching and play calling are elements of football that aren’t placed on the injured reserve. This is one element that will be corrected in the offseason. Mike Smith will keep his job, but others are on the chopping block with the butcher knife already in a downward thrust above them. Defense is next. Our lackluster season will allow us to draft some big names, and we can draft defense and names to trade for experienced defense. Finally, the offensive line. You can’t run the football with an under performing line to make holes. You can’t pass the football with an under performing line to protect the passer. Buy or draft some talent, period. We all survived the Chris Chandler era of Falcons football, we survived the Mike Vick disappointment, we survived Bobby Petrino, and we’ll survive the 2013 season too. ATL fans have answered the call to Rise Up; now it’s time for the Falcons organization to Rise Up and address our real shortcomings. Just as all of us ATL sports fans say, whether it’s a Braves, Hawks, or Falcons fan, i say once again….next year is our year.