Atlanta Falcons: What we learned from Super Bowl 50
By Curtis Hobbs
After watching the Super Bowl, it was even more obvious that the Atlanta Falcons have further to go than first thought this off-season. To many, including Dan Quinn, they were close but just short a couple of pieces or a needed a little more time before they, too, would be challenging for a title. But when you watched the game play out as it did on the field, that short jump that Atlanta thought they needed to make was just made a canyon-sized leap.
It may not come as a surprise, but this game should be even more of a litmus test to every organization-including Atlanta- as to how they go into the next season. But, for Atlanta, there were glaring positions on the field that showed how far this team must come if they wish to continue in the right direction for playoff and Super Bowl berths.
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First off, the Carolina Panthers had cultivated an amazing season behind the heroics of Cam Newton, but his heroisms were made possible by the great play of his offensive line-the same offensive line that was torched in what seemed like every play. And, for the Falcons, the distance between the Panthers and Falcons offensive lines were far enough, but, after seeing Denver’s defensive front rushed Newton at will last night, the Falcons need to go back to the drawing boards with their plans, because there is no way the Atlanta offensive line can prevent half of what was shown last night from the Broncos in their pass rush.
Not too far behind the offensive line play was the play from the linebacking corps in Denver. Spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, the play of this unit should all the galvanize that the first round selection from the Falcons must be a linebacker like Reggie Ragland or other linebackers who can wreak the same sort of impact on offenses. The old adage, “defense wins championships” became legitimized, once again at the end of this game. And though it will be remembered as possibly the last game from Peyton Manning, it was the play of this defense-namely, the linebackers- that led to this victory. And for the Falcons, they need to copy what Denver did in allowing the linebackers to be the strength of the team, and Atlanta must follow suit if they wish to compete moving forward.
Lastly, one of the most forgotten units from the game is the special teams play. It was plays from this unit that helped vault Denver points making positions, whether it was a long punt return or a field. And, for the Falcons, the days of Devin Hester’s punt returns for touchdowns look like a thing of the past as he continues to see the end of his career coming. But the Falcons must address the void of this team in an elite special teams star that can place this team in a position to succeed, much like what Denver did, allowing Brian McManus to become a special place kicker.
Again, after watching the game on Sunday, it was made blatantly clear that the Falcons have much further to go before they can compete on the same level as the Broncos much less the Panthers who steamrolled the division for most of the year. And though the canyon-sized leap is daunting, let’s hope that the team is having a huge wake-up call.