The Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl, something I would wager at least 90% of the Falcons fanbase did not entertain as a possibility before this season began. They destroyed some of the best teams in the NFL on their way here, put together one of the greatest offensive seasons anyone’s ever going to see, laid to rest questions about Matt Ryan’s ability to win in the postseason, and even silenced all of us who said the defense might not be good enough to get the job done in the playoffs.
What a way to say goodbye to the Georgia Dome, that loyal stadium that saw two NFC Conference Championships, several playoff games, and many fine (and many lousy) Falcons teams wander its turf. It’s hard to get sentimental about a stadium, I suppose, especially one that has only been around for about two-and-a-half decades. If you’re a Falcons fan, though, the vast majority of successful Falcons seasons happened while the team was playing in this stadium, and Atlanta just drubbed a good Packers team 44-21 here in the very last game on its turf. You’ve been good to all of us, Georgia Dome.
History looks like it may finally be history, in other words, with only one more win necessary to pat the earth down on fifty years of falling short and coming close. There are so many good memories of being a Falcons fan over that time that I don’t want to ignore, but you play to win a Super Bowl, and Atlanta has a shot to do so now. Imagine what a thrill it will be to never hear “well, do you guys have a ring?” again.
The Falcons have given us countless little moments of joy over the years, but they were doomed stars orbiting the black hole of this franchise’s crushing ineptitude. Every time they got close, they fell apart, including the greatest Falcons team I’d ever seen up until this year, which was the 1998 squad that made it all the way to the Super Bowl only to see a Eugene Robinson prostitution sting and crushing loss to the Denver Broncos ensure there would be no Lombardi for Atlanta. Too often, they never even got that close, with so many numbing failures, poor draft picks, critical injuries, terrible coaching hires, and Greek tragedies along the way that it felt like they might never get back here.
I gave in to doubt and fear heading into this last game, because after years upon years of big hopes for this franchise that were never met, I feared that ultimate letdown against a Packers team that had been impossibly hot themselves. After this one, there’s no more fear from me. This is a Super Bowl team now, and they may well be a Super Bowl team again next year. The Atlanta Falcons, I type with considerable satisfaction, are a great team. You have to give so much credit to these players for busting their balls all season long, and for Dan Quinn, his staff, and this front office for constructing the roster and putting it in a position to succeed. The Falcons waited and waited to hire Quinn, and now we all understand just why.
There’s still one more win to go, of course, before we can really talk about putting all the past misery and agonizing near-misses to rest. If any team can do it, though, it’s this one, with the (deep breath) best quarterback and best offensive coordinator and one of the best head coaches and best receiver and best running back duo and one of the best offensive lines and one of the best young defenses and certainly the best kicker the Falcons have ever boasted. They’re focused, hungry, and ready to join the pantheon of great NFL teams. Hell, we’re ready for it.
Let history be history, Football Gods. Let the Falcons win this one.