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The Atlanta Falcons and their New Found Hope: Part 2

The 2009 season was infested with injuries. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, both key cogs in Mike Mularkey’s offense, went down for multiple weeks. Cornerback Brian Williams, a new addition to the 2009 squad, was lost around midseason. Even franchise favorite running back Jerious Norwood spent time out. Some fans were beside themselves when the Falcons limped into the locker room, absolutely destroyed by the Eagles. With fans draped in red and black chanting "We want Vick" as what seemed to be the 2007 iteration of the Falcons took to the field, many fans simply left the stadium or turned off the TV. Maybe it was "karma" for the surprise playoff-reaching 2008 campaign, a season where no one expected anything out of a rookie head coach, GM, and quarterback. This was, after all, a franchise known for habitually squandering successful seasons by following them with collapses the next.

Many fans started to resign themselves for more losses when the Falcons entered week fifteen with six wins and seven losses. After all, they had seen this scenario before. In 2004, the Falcons rose all the way to an eleven and five record on the wings of a rookie head coach and an electrifying playmaker under center. They won a berth in the NFC Championship before being handily beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles. The next year, they "broke even" with eight and eight, followed it with seven and nine, and then ended 2007 with a disheartening four and twelve.

Perhaps that’s why that in 2008, a year after being abandoned by coach Petrino and having its star quarterback carted off to jail, everyone was so surprised to see a competent, if not talented football team taking the field in the Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan, drafted that year, threw a sixty-two yard touchdown pass the first time he officially dropped back as a NFL passer. Running back Michael Turner, pulled from the Chargers' backfield, drove into endzone after endzone, relentlessly scoring and making a mockery of every defense he faced. The team was good. The fans were cheering. The city was galvanized.

And there they were; six and seven with only three games left. The fans just knew the team would be the same old team they had been watching for years. The Falcons needed three straight wins (one against a strong, playoff bound Jets team) to grab that elusive winning season. They knew they were already eliminated from a playoff spot. Some fans (myself included) felt the collapse certain, even deserved; but it didn’t come. The 2009 Falcons were determined. They had a goal, a purpose. Just because the playoffs were gone, they were not going to give up. They still had fight left in them; and they succeeded. Three wins later, a streak fell, and collapse expectations were shattered. Inconsistency was shown the door. A winning tradition was established.

One of the most beneficial side effects of winning is confidence. J. Michael Moore, managing editor of AtlantaFalcons.com, agrees.

"Any time a team shows it can win consistently, it builds confidence among its fans. I say that as someone with experience covering the team and as a fan of what the organization is doing. The recent success does nothing but point to a bright future."

Now, perhaps more than ever, some fans are feeling that the Falcons will have a legitimate shot at the playoffs year in and year out. Such strong confidence is almost unheard of in the Falcons’ fanbase, but it’s a product of a major turnaround that has fans anxiously awaiting the return of Falcons football.

Fans like Tom Quist, whose confidence is infectious to say the least, are starting to pop up more and more within the fanbase.

"I am more confident than ever in the Falcons organization," admits Quist. "Their recent success has been greater than anyone expected in such a short time after the team's disastrous 2007 season. To borrow a phrase from Dimitroff, this team's arrow is definitely pointing up, thanks to the team's commitment to sustainability."

Dave Choate has a similar view. "I feel like we've got the front office, coaching staff and players to be successful for years to come. In my 20 years as a Falcons fan, I've never before felt this confident that the team can and will win frequently in the future."

Reid Adair of Birmingham, Alabama, thinks "the [newfound] ‘greater confidence in the ability to win’ came with the hiring of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, along with their first draft. Ever since Dimitroff and Smith arrived, I have been impressed.  As a Falcons fan for more than twenty five years, I have never had this much faith in the organization as a whole."

Lee Rochester of South Carolina has had his faith in the team restored. "For the first time we not only have an amazing owner in Author Blank who shows the passion of a winner no matter the cost and an extremely intelligent GM in Dimitroff, but also a coach in Mike Smith that seems to not only care about his players but about bringing the city of Atlanta a championship"