Bye Week Ruminations: Remember, Remember, the Fourth of December

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04: Eric Berry /

Atlanta Falcons fans will have an early week without football, and an appropriate time to recall the defining week of the 2016 season.

December 4th, 2016, is a day that will live in Atlanta Falcons infamy.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Falcons lost at home to the Chiefs in one of the most gut-wrenching ways possible: The Pick-2-Heard-‘Round-The-World.

Considering this game was essentially visual ipecac syrup for the Falcons fanbase, we won’t revisit this one in too much detail–but as a brief recap:

Atlanta found the back of the end zone with a bit over 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter to push the score to 28-27. Attempting a two-point conversion to avoid a game-winning field goal scenario, Matt Ryan‘s pass was picked off by Kansas City safety–and Atlanta native–Eric Berry and returned for 99-yards.

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It was a brutal way to end a football game–akin to turning in a passing exam without putting your name at the top. And while the December 4th, 2016 game against the Kansas City Chiefs marked somewhat of a low point for last year’s Atlanta Falcons–it also marked a turning point.

This loss led right into the Falcons’ Week 11 Bye, and upon return, Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith relinquished his play-calling duties to Dan Quinn, and the offense refocused and seemed to somehow find another gear.

The result? Atlanta would win its next six games–including the playoffs–and score no less than 33 points in that span.

The all-important bye week proved to be a revitalizing force–and boy do the Atlanta Falcons need it to be the same this season.

At 3-1, the Falcons are clearly in the driver’s seat in the NFC South, and well-positioned in the conference as a whole. But as the injury bug has arrived early, Atlanta’s bye week now looms large.

With a number of marquee starters on the shelf, including Julio Jones, Ryan Schraeder, Mohamed Sanu, and Vic Beasley, this Sunday presents an opportunity to get healthy, regroup, and again: refocus.

While Atlanta still possesses one of the best records in the league, the last two performances have been a bit lackluster, to say the least.

Matt Ryan appears to still be getting his bearings in new Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s scheme, the group of normally sure-handed wide receivers are dealing with a bout of the butterfingers, and the tackling on defense has left much to be desired.

It’s fair to say that the Falcons could just as easily be 1-3.

But the spark that the bye week provided in 2016 could may well prove a similar motivator in 2017. A time to heal, watch tape, and correct some of the glaring errors that have peppered the first four games of the season.

Many fans were dismayed with the early bye week when the schedule was released, but it now seems like just what Atlanta needs.

So if you’re feeling a bit unnerved with the first quarter of the Falcons’ 2017 season, hearken back to their loss against the Chiefs in 2016.

That was the game that represented a true change for this Atlanta team, and ultimately led to a berth in Super Bowl LI.

Next: The Atlanta Falcons are 3-1 at the quarter mark. Will they return to the Super Bowl?

It’s unfettered optimism, but when reflecting on last season–and the potential parallels between this one–it’s important to Remember, Remember, the Fourth of December.