When the Eagles beat the hell out of the Vikings last night, they didn’t just set up a 2005 Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots. They also became the fifth team to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs and ultimately make it to the Super Bowl while Matt Ryan has been under center. That’s...depressing.
Astute reader DyingLobster on Twitter was the first to point this out to me last night, and it was bracing both to realize the caliber of opponents the Falcons have played during their playoff runs and to realize how maddeningly close they were to being a Super Bowl team more than once pre-2016.
Has every team Matt Ryan lost to in the playoffs gone to the Super Bowl (ARI, GB, NYG, SF, PHI?)? GB and NYG won. @TheFalcoholic— Alaaddin Baskurt (@Dyinglobster) January 22, 2018
It all began in 2008, Matt Ryan’s rookie season, when the Falcons battled the Arizona Cardinals pretty fiercely before some poor Keith Brooking coverage helped doom them. It continued in 2010, when the Falcons were shellacked by a Packers team that would go on to win the Super Bowl. It got way worse in 2011, when the Falcons scored just two points against the Giants team that would go on to triumph over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And it was heartbreaking to watch in 2012, when the Falcons got the game of Matt Ryan’s life but ceded a big lead and watched the 49ers go on to lose to the Ravens in the big game.
Now, five years later, history has repeated itself. The Eagles fought through what looks like a hellaciously impressive defensive effort from the Falcons to win 15-10, and now they get the honor and pleasure of trying not to lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Falcons have needed to be good an awful lot of the time over the last decade to keep winding up in this position, but in the end they’ve only been good enough to actually make the Super Bowl once in that span, and they’re still in search of their first Lombardi Trophy.
We’ll hope that Falcons fix that particular trend in 2018, when they’ll have the chance to win one in Atlanta and still will have one of the NFL’s most talented rosters on paper. I’m awfully tired of watching other teams roll past Atlanta en route to the Super Bowl, and next year might be the best opportunity the Falcons get for a while.