Let’s set the scene. It’s February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Atlanta Falcons have a 25-point lead in Super Bowl 51 midway through the third quarter against the juggernaut of a team known as the New England Patriots. Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank is in his press box suite dancing in jubilation with his general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, by his side. Have the Falcons started a new dynasty in the NFL for years to come? The quick answer to that question is no, but I will give you the longer answer.
The Falcons, in a year with the highest scoring offense in the NFL led under an MVP quarterback in Matt Ryan, had the Patriots on the ropes for three quarters. But, no lead is ever safe with Tom Brady at the helm for New England. As many probably know by now, the Patriots overcame the largest super bowl deficit in Super Bowl history, beating the Falcons in overtime on their first possession. The team that had given a whole city hopes for something great, instead let down thousands in heartbreaking fashion yet again and caused forever-long embarrassment to the franchise as a whole. 28-3, the lead the Falcons had over the Patriots midway through the third quarter of Super Bowl 51, would forever live in infamy.
The following season in 2017, the Falcons had to answer to all skeptics that they have forgotten about the Super Bowl, and have moved on. Many believed Atlanta would suffer from a Super Bowl hangover, and in a way they did. Reigning MVP quarterback, Matt Ryan, had admitted that he was still struggling with the thought of losing Super Bowl 51. He even said he would be in a grocery store, and think, “how did we lose that game?” The memories left in Houston would haunt Atlanta forever. The Falcons moved on to a new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, in 2017 after Kyle Shanahan left for the head coaching vacancy in San Francisco. Sarkisian was an interesting hire to many, considering that he was essentially blackballed as Head Coach of USC in 2015 after struggling with alcoholism. He was known to be an offensive genius, but instead, Atlanta went from being the highest scoring offense in 2016 to one of the league’s worst in 2017. The defense, ranked top-10, led the Falcons back to the playoffs. But, the Falcons choked away another late game lead against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Now, we’re in 2018. The Falcons are 4-8 heading into week 14 of the season. The offense is anemic, and the defense is lifeless. Ranking worst in the league in almost every category defensively, and having the worst rushing offense in the NFL, the Falcons can’t do anything right. You can blame injuries, because Atlanta has lost several key starters on both sides of the ball. But, injuries aren’t the problem in Atlanta. Key veterans that they rely on, as well as their coaching staff led under Dan Quinn, have failed them. Whether they want to admit it or not, they have never been the same since 28-3. Changes are on the way for the Falcons, and for the fans in the city of Atlanta, all they can do is sit back and wait. In the meantime, with a roster full of talent, the Falcons have utterly disappointed the NFL as a whole. We all expected better from this team. From being at the top of the NFC in 2016 to being one of the worst teams in 2018, life has come full circle for Atlanta. With four games remaining in the season, we will be able to learn a lot about this team.
-Allen Perez (Senior at Kennesaw State University, Sports Director of KSU Owl Radio, radio play-by-play announcer for Kennesaw State Men’s basketball and sports talk show host) (Twitter: @therealATLfan, email: email@example.com)