Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots: What it means for the franchise

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Matt Ryan /

Atlanta Falcons: Despite what anyone else might say, Falcons vs. Patriots: Part Two represents more than just a game.

In a word, Sunday’s game means everything. The Atlanta Falcons enter this week’s Super Bowl LI rematch with the New England Patriots in a position they didn’t want to find themselves when the season started.

Coming off two straight losses in which they had no business losing, Atlanta faces the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxborough with their backs against the wall. A loss on Sunday night would all but bury their 2017 season.

Reading those words can’t be easy for anyone apart of Dirty Bird Nation. After all, it was these same Patriots that put an end to the Falcons’ 2016 season.

For them to do it twice in an eight month span would be downright debilitating for all involved. Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Head coach Dan Quinn. Quarterback Matt Ryan. The Brotherhood.

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This game pits each one of them face-to-face with their respective demons. At the end of the day, they will either overcome the issues that have plagued them or it will define them for the rest of their careers.

Arthur Blank

As the owner of the Atlanta Falcons since 2002, Mr. Blank lifted the franchise to prominence with the team making the playoffs in seven of his 15 seasons. For an organization that only made the postseason six times in the 36 seasons prior to Blank’s arrival, Uncle Arty – as Falcons fans affectionately refer to him as – deserves praise for his work.

However, as it goes with most things in life, people only remember the bad moments rather than the good ones. And there was no worse moment in Blank’s tenure than when he had to watch the ultimate prize slip away from him this past February in the Super Bowl.

With the wound still fresh, Mr. Blank must confront his worst loss in the face on Sunday as he sits in their building and glances at their championship banner. A win would go a long way in easing the pain of our beloved owner.

Dan Quinn

As is the case with owners though, they are virtually helpless when the lights are on bright and the game begins. That is where the hiring of a head coach comes into play.

Dan Quinn became the seventh head coach (included interims) in the Arthur Blank era as he wowed the front office with his exuberance and clear vision during the interview process. So far in his head coaching tenure, Quinn has had a myriad of catch phrases, if you will, to bring that vision to life.

From “fast and physical” to “relentless” to most recently “all gas, no brakes,” the entire team has bought in to Quinn’s many messages. However, for a group that boasts monikers such as “all gas, no brakes,” they sure do seem to take their foot off the gas pedal quite often in the second halves of games.

The Falcons enter their Sunday Night Football clash with the Patriots as one of the worst second half teams in football.

It’s put up or shut up time for Dan Quinn and his team. If Quinn fails to get past the Patriots for a second straight time, the DQ doubters will start to surface.

Matt Ryan

Speaking of critics, Matt Ryan has had his share of them since the day he was drafted. Despite winning last year’s MVP award, naysayers still chose to double down on their bad takes and credit everyone but Ryan for his historically great 2016 season.

With Matt coming back down to Earth in 2017, the haters are now puffing their chests out six weeks in. But the great thing about professional sports is that each week is a new opportunity to prove those people wrong.

What better way to do that than in prime time, on the road, versus a team you have never beaten before? If Ryan bests Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday, that would leave the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only franchise left for Matty Ice to conquer.

The Brotherhood

As we know, football is the ultimate team sport. That sentiment rings even truer for the Atlanta Falcons and their Brotherhood culture.

Last year, Dan Quinn instilled the Brotherhood concept with his team after finding out that many teammates didn’t have each others’ phone numbers. In his mind, if the players got to know each other better off the field, then they would be more willing to sacrifice themselves to do whatever necessary for their brother next to him.

And wouldn’t you know it, it worked to great success. That is, until the Super Bowl, when each brother had nothing left to give to prevent the Patriots’ furious comeback.

It took only five games into the 2017 season for the same issue to rear its ugly head once again. With Falcons safety Ricardo Allen calling out the defense for their second half letdown versus the Miami Dolphins, we’re about to find out just how tight the Brotherhood is on Sunday.

A second loss against New England could lead to a ripple effect in the locker room.

Right now, the Falcons are seen as the biggest choke artists in the NFL. And rightfully so.

You don’t blow three 17-point leads in a calendar year and get away with it in this business. But in a game that represents the very thing that troubles them, Atlanta has a prime opportunity to put the past in the past with a win on Sunday.

Next: The answer is Julio Jones, now what’s your question

The question is: will they answer the challenge or will we see the same ol’ Falcons once again?