The 2017 Atlanta Falcons haven’t always been good, but they sure were good enough for a chance to be great.
They haven’t always had it together, but they’ve got the path open to get all the together they need.
By some stroke of incredible something, this group of Falcons is going to the playoffs.
Through a lighting jolt of almosts, how-in-the-worlds, how-did-they-do-thats, and this-can’t-be-reals, the Falcons spent the entire 2017 season purging one of the most horrific losses in NFL history and learning to adapt to losing their offensive brain.
The crawl, as arduous and draining as it has been, took the world-weary Falcons right to where they wanted to be – in January, relatively healthy, with a chance to right the greatest wrong ever to hit the franchise. It made them tougher, more aware of how hard it is to mount the climb back and probably makes them not take any win for granted.
In a season that saw the team crap the bed to New England and blow a 17-point lead to the literal Miami Dolphins, the Falcons are now 0-0, and are the grizzled veterans in a field of newbies, roaring for a rampage of revenge.
Trying to figure out 2017 is both kind of easy and incredibly difficult – the 2016 offense was a beautiful symphony of electric play calling, stellar execution and audacious luck with injuries, and when the composer found a new gig, the tune changed. The new play caller was not nearly as crafty or balanced, the execution began to take a dip in trying to get into a groove with the new plays and the injury luck decided to dwindle.
The Falcons 2016 offense is dead. It is gone, and nothing will ever bring it back. The 2017 offense is uneven and doesn’t score a lot of points, but it somehow gets the job done when you least expect it (if they score 20 points). It’s prone to make mistakes, drop passes and generally frustrate. But, they’re always dangerous, and they can run the ball. Sometimes, that’s enough.
The 2016 Falcons defense is also dead. That one you don’t need a funeral for. The dramatic jump in pass rush and pass defense cannot be understated. New guys like Dontari Poe and Takk McKinley have made sizeable impacts, and the maturation of young players like Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Ricardo Allen has given this unit an exciting future.
The 2017 Falcons is a ramshackle rummage of good, bad and excellent, and in this round of playoffs, they’ve, quite literally, “been there before.”
Now comes the hard part – beating good teams to the final whistle.
The Falcons have scrapped with a lot of teams this season, but you can only really say they’ve beaten two playoff teams – Carolina and New Orleans. They lost a close one at home to Minnesota (a game they came effortlessly close in, but just couldn’t drive home), lost a drudge with New England (a game where it’s fair to argue they beat themselves) and dropped two to New Orleans and Carolina.
The excitement can blend with palpable worry like clockwork – the Falcons can go all the way this year just as easily as they can get bounced on Saturday by the Rams.
But, you know, before you size up how they can bottle up Todd Gurley, or how they can block against Aaron Donald, or how that Philly divisional game looks if the team can get the best of LA, just take a second and be thankful that, through everything the team has been through this year, they’re here.
They fired that little pew-pew into the exposed portal, and blew up the 2017 Death Star. After all the turmoil and brain-numbing badness that the Super Bowl and ensuing season had to dish out, the team is still standing. With Steve Sarkisian. With the Dolphins loss. With only a couple Julio Jones touchdowns. With all the bumps and bruises. The 2017 Falcons are alive.
And, the future is in their hands to do with it what they please. They can quite literally beat anyone who they play.
We may look back a week from now and shrug at what 2017 brought us. We may be trying to figure out how to best attack the Eagles defense. But, you know, it’s the New Year, and we’re still talking about football in the present tense. We all expected to in August, and a lot of us thought it kind of moot after the first Carolina game.
We know the stakes, how no win will be good enough but the big one, how hard it truly is going to be to get back to Super Bowl Sunday. There will be enough talk of 28-3 to feed the troops.
Right now, nothing matters but the future. Hey, there is a future for Atlanta, you know, in more ways than one.
Could be worse places to be to ring in whatever’s next.
After all, they were just good enough. Maybe, they’re just good enough for even more.