Happiness reigns in Falconville today.
It's not a Super Bowl, but you knew that. What the 20-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9-7 record and end of a four decade streak without back-to-back winning seasons brought fans of the Atlanta Falcons is a sense of better days ahead, and the certainty of better days right now. If you built an elaborate time machine, traveled back to December 2007 and told the 23 year-old version of your dear friend Dave the Falconer, I would've stolen your time machine and come back riding a stegosaurus. But I also would've laughed at you, because c'mon. Back-to-back winning seasons after the Bobby Petrino mess? Impossible.
And yet it happened. I'll admit to getting a little choked up yesterday, thinking about it. I can't imagine what it was like for those fans who have been doggedly following this team since 1966, waiting for a brighter tomorrow, but I'm sure there's enough of them out there who would be happy to share the tale. Speaking only for myself, it's great to get rid of a stupid streak that had come to define the entire franchise. It's even better to feel, somewhere deep in my feeling-place (the spleen), that this isn't the greatest heights the Falcons will aspire to. Next year could very well mean a return to the playoffs, and I'm awfully excited about that.
I'm sorry I can't come up with something more eloquent that would really tie the whole experience together, but I think that's the nature of the monumental. It's something too large and too varied for each person to be accurately capture. With that in mind, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Now we turn our faces to 2010, and before we move into the recap proper I leave you with this quote from one Matt Ryan:
"It was a huge win for us today. To finish the season off with three wins in a row says a lot about the guys in our locker room. To have two consecutive back-to-back winning seasons is huge for the organization. I am happy for Mr. (Arthur) Blank and his family, for everything they’ve done for us the past couple years. Also, for all the former players, all the guys we get to meet at practice, during the offseason and training camp, you get to know and see they have gone through in their time here. To have this not be a question from this point on is something I’m very proud of."
First off, a note about the format. I can't bring myself to do lowlights, even though there certainly were some, but feel free to discuss them if you'd like. Given that it was such a historic day and the end of the season, I think focusing on the positive is a good idea. Don't expect that to become a trend with me, though. My middle name is Negative, after all.
- It wasn't Matt Ryan's best game. Heck, it wasn't Matt Ryan's best season in a young career. Still, he was mostly healthy and he made a couple of nice throws when it counted, including what looked like a jump shot over the line to Justin Peelle. Look for bigger things from Matty Snowballs next season.
- I'm not sure what the Falcons will do with Jerious Norwood, but Jason Snelling is making a convincing argument that he deserves to complement Michael Turner next season. On a day where the Bucs defense looked pretty good, Snelling was the unquestioned offensive star, going well over 100 yards and chewing up the clock at the end of the game to help seal it for the Falcons. Though he hasn't been consistently close to great, it's amazing to think that our seventh round pick a couple of years ago has turned into such a quality back.
- Okay, his catch rate wasn't great for the season as a whole, but there was Roddy White again, doing what he does. There's few receivers in the game I'd rather have right now, and White wraps up his third straight season of nice numbers. Give him a few more good seasons and he'll be the greatest Falcon wideout of all time.
- Tony Gonzalez managed to gut it out and play, and he fell just short of hitting 1,000 career receptions. Still a quality game at 3 and 30 for him, though. Special mention to Justin Peelle, who showed us he's a great backup option.
- Matt Bryant missed a kick (and nearly gave me a coronary), but still managed a pretty good day against his former team. Not sure he'll be back in 2010, but he brought stability to the position after the Falcons cut Jason Elam, and I'm glad for that. I wish him well either way.
- When it comes to job security, Chris Houston couldn't have picked a worse time to get hurt. Chris Owens and Brent Grimes each managed picks against Josh Freeman Sunday, and Owens has proved to be more physical than expected given his height. Both could start next year, though I'm willing to bet the Falcons will target the position in the off-season. There's still some concerns with Grimes, his height and his awareness, but the Falcons would be insane not to give him a serious shot at a starting spot in 2010. He's a ballhawk and he's almost supernaturally athletic.
- Nice sack, Chauncey Davis!
- Thomas DeCoud forced a fumble, of course. I feel very comfortable with him as a starter going forward, and William Moore will hopefully be an excellent complement on the other side.
- We won! Yes!
Game MVP: You could make a good case for Snelling, Owens and Grimes, but I'll go with all three. Share and share alike, right?
Game Theme Song: Loud exuberance. It's music to my ears.
One Thing To Take Away: The end of 40+ year streak of futility. I couldn't love it more. To quote Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock, "I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant."
Next Week: The off-season. Join us. Tlozwarlock and I will be serving up hot, fresh content all throughout the slow months, and you know you'll want to be here when I do draft time. It's fun! I swear!
Final Word: Happiness.