Great, we suck again.
And, so it ends. The Dirty Birds got shut down offensively against Philly’s elite defense, and had a few bad habits resurface for their emerging defense. On the road in the playoffs, sometimes that’s all it takes. The 2017 Atlanta Falcons will forever be seen as a transition team -- the bridge between 28-3 and whatever’s to come next. There’s a reason no team since the early 90s Bills have made it back to the Super Bowl after losing it. It’s just hard to do. This team took a sharp step backward on offense just as they took a sharp step forward on defense, and we ended up with a team rife with tantalizing potential and growing pains. With a quarterback in his prime, an offense still loaded with talent and a young, hungry defense on the rise (and a third-place schedule/the AFC North in 2018), it’s hard not to feel optimistic about where the future lies for the Dan Quinn era of Falcons football. But, for now, it’s just a bummer to be stuck in the middle of ultimate defeat and future victory. Anyone have a magazine? But, hey, chin up, buck-o. The Birds will get there...one day.
Disappointing performance, plain and simple. This game energized those that blame Steve Sarkisian for the enormous offensive regression this season, and for good reason. The offense was bland, predictable, and many of the play calls were downright stupid. Sark would probably be fired for a season like this by some teams, but for better or worse, the Falcons appear to be sticking with him for 2018. The defense wasn’t quite as elite as they were against the Rams, and Neal’s botched INT looms large, but you can’t blame them for a loss after holding a team to 15 points. The Falcons are still incredibly talented, but Sark will have to show serious improvement next season if this team wants to be a legitimate contender.
In the end, the issues that we expected to doom the Falcons doomed the Falcons. It just took longer than we anticipated it would, given that the Falcons made the playoffs and actually won a game.
The Falcons were undone by an anemic offense that couldn’t score enough points, a handful of defensive mishaps, and one big, weird, random mistake that no one could have predicted and would have seemed implausible in a football movie. That mistake, of course, was a ball that bounced off Keanu Neal and into the hands of an Eagles receiver, which set up the field goal that would help determine the outcome of this one. There’s no other way this season could have ended, really.
I have very high hopes for the 2018 season, which I hope will build on this roster and this season to bring the Falcons back to the Super Bowl. But after watching the Falcons fall short against the Eagles, I also have a lot of appreciation for the task ahead, and what might go wrong next year if the Falcons can’t clean up the offensive struggles and lack of discipline that ultimately cost them so dearly at the end of this year.