This Falcons season didn’t turn out the way anyone hoped or planned. But that doesn’t mean it was completely devoid of fun moments.
Matt Ryan had a stellar year, up to and including his receiving touchdown in Week 17. We saw impressive development from young players that gives us hope for a resurgence next year. And there were plenty of other thrilling plays and encouraging moments along the way.
Here’s a look back at the season through the rose-colored glasses of our Falcoholic team.
Watching Damontae Kazee develop
Much of this season was a flaming dumpster fire. Damontae Kazee was decidedly not. He had a couple of big missteps here and there — that hit on Cam Newton that got him ejected in Week 2 comes to mind — but overall, he demonstrated that the team is going to have to find a way to keep him on the field next season. Kazee finished the season with 15 starts, 82 tackles, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and seven picks, which tied him for No. 1 in the league this year. That’s encouraging. - Jeanna Thomas
Watching Matt Ryan persevere as everything came tumbling down
Matthew Thomas Ryan is a franchise quarterback. He’s the epitome of what front offices look for as they wade through a sea of game tape and ask strange, occasionally offensive interview questions. Countless sure thing quarterback prospects have fallen flat on their faces not long after the hopeful investment of a first-round pick. But not Ryan. Nearly 11 years after the Falcons drafted him, he’s still doing his job; he’s still the franchise quarterback. His resilience in 2018 notwithstanding everything that went wrong was truly remarkable. It absolutely kept me invested this season and it keeps me excited for what lies ahead. - James Rael
Calvin Ridley’s emergence
Though the offense fell off the face of the Earth in November, we can’t forget how fun it was to watch rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley torch people on deep routes and rack up unbelievable touchdown numbers throughout the first half of the season. Ridley and Ryan developed a quick chemistry, and the Alabama grad flashed the kind of potential that makes you flabbergasted he fell so far in the 2018 draft. All rookies leave their first year with a skill to refine, and for Ridley, it’s his hands. Once he furthers that along, he will be one of the league’s premiere receivers. How exciting will it be to watch him get better? 2018 was a fun preview of what we have to look forward to with The Riddler. - Cory Woodroof
Money is still Money
My personal favorite moment of 2018 only happened a week ago. The Atlanta Falcons were losing on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and needed a savior in the final moments. In steps the 43-year-old legend himself, Matt “Money” Bryant. He of course connected on the 37-yard field goal, in typical Bryant fashion, giving the Falcons the victory. He missed a few games with an injury, but he still had his most accurate kicking season in 2018. He made 20 of his 21 attempts, kicked a 57-yarder, and finished with a career best 95.2% field goal percentage. I’m not sure how many more years we’ll have the best kicker in Atlanta Falcons history, but for now, Money is still Money. - Evan Birchfield
Grady Jarrett’s continued rise
Jarrett has been one of the team’s top players over the past three seasons. For all the havoc he causes on a weekly basis, the disruptive interior tackle never quite received the recognition that he deserved. This past season seemed like the start of Jarrett being considered as one of the top defensive tackles in the league. He set career highs in sacks, pressures, and forced fumbles despite missing two games. Between producing more stops on third and short to generating more consistent pressure, Jarrett had an outstanding season in becoming a true difference-maker. Other than Deion Jones, no defensive player on the roster is more valuable than Jarrett. The front office will have to do everything possible to make sure one of their cornerstones stays in Atlanta. - Allen Strk
Julio Being Julio
The conversation of best wide receiver in the NFL has it’s usual suspects every season. But there may not be a more physically gifted receiver in the NFL than Julio Jones. His 2018 season came at the conclusion of an offseason that had Falcons fans on the edge due to his desire to be compensated as he should. The talk around social media prior to the season was Jones coming off a 3-touchdown season in 2017 that seemed out of place. Jones scored eight touchdowns on the season this time around but his first, a 35-yard score against the Redskins, saw Julio break the goal line thanks to his speed and animal-like strength. Watching the team celebrate with Jones and the number of fans in the stands was a joy to say the least. It felt as if weight was being lifted and still showed why Julio is arguably the most dangerous weapon in the NFL. - Eric Robinson