You’d think by now I’d be used to disappointment. After all, I’m a lifetime fan of Atlanta sports franchises, particularly the Atlanta Falcons. Yet, just a few days after the Super Bowl, it seems that I can reach new lows in that department.
Let me start by being frank. We choked. Hard.
For the first half, I watched my team play a hell of a game. It was epic, but we were up against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, so we knew nothing was over yet. We knew there was still time and they’d make adjustments.
Boy, did they. What we saw on Sunday was everything Atlanta fans have lived with. We get our hopes up, and then see them dashed hard against the cliffs of reality.
First, we drafted a quarterback from Virginia Tech with feet touched by God who was darn near untouchable, a franchise quarterback around which we could build a juggernaut, only to see him get jailed for … dogfighting.
We hired a coach specifically to work with Michael Vick a short time before his arrest, only to see him abandon the team 13 games into the season, a season that was one of the most difficult in NFL history. If there’s a name more reviled in Atlanta these days than Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, or William Tecumseh Sherman, it’s Bobby Petrino.
2015 started off great, but the team collapsed and barely held on to end up the season 8-8. We hoped for a winning record in 2016, maybe a playoff spot. But even those modest hopes seemed to falter after an opening loss to Tampa Bay.
But they kept playing and something happened. Our boys on offense were good. The team hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but bounced back by blowing out everyone they faced the rest of the season. One of those special runs no one sees coming happened.
In the playoffs, we crushed one team that had beaten us during the regular season (Seattle) and one that we’d just barely beaten (Green Bay) en route to a date in Houston with New England. It was easy to get our hopes up, even if all the prognosticators said otherwise.
The first half, again, was epic from our perspective, but it was short-lived.
It’s ironic that it looks like our much talked-about offense let down our maligned defense. The defense was on the field far too much late in the game, just too much time for any defense to be expected to hold on.
Yet, despite the loss, there is still hope.
That defense that made life difficult for New England was full of first- and second-year players. Most of Atlanta’s key players are under contract for next season already, and we still have the draft coming up. There are more opportunities ahead. Kyle Shanahan — the mastermind behind that powerful offense — is now in San Francisco, but that’s only one piece of a complex puzzle.
So yeah, I still have hope for the future. Why wouldn’t I?
I’m an Atlanta fan. I don’t know any other way to be.