by Matt Karoly
Good news, Falcons faithful. 2017 is a thing of the past and it cannot hurt us or our beloved Dirty Birds anymore.
But wait, I have even better news. Despite an arduous 2017 year, Atlanta remains alive and well as they qualified for the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Yes, the Falcons exorcised their win-or-go-home demons from 2014 by dispatching of the Carolina Panthers by a score of 22-10. With the win, Atlanta earned the sixth seed and will travel to face the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
They also became the lone representative from last year’s NFC playoffs to return to the postseason this year. So much for that Super Bowl hangover, right?
However, as we know, this season threw as many monkey wrenches at our team as one fan could bear.
It started with the injury bug infecting Vic Beasley, Ryan Schraeder, and Mohamed Sanu. Then it evolved into a rookie offensive coordinator attempting to navigate treacherous NFL waters, often times unsuccessfully. And last but not least, who could forget everyone’s favorite sitcom “how could the Falcons beat themselves today?”
It was here where we received the infamous Julio Jones face plant, the Devonta Freeman butt fumble, and my personal favorite the Marshon Lattimore Buttception. All kidding aside, though, these moments have made the Falcons battle-tested. If those unfortunate events were not enough to rattle the Dirty Birds’ cage, nothing will during the postseason.
And that should scare the other NFC contenders that stand before them. But you know what else should instill fear into future Falcon adversaries?
The fact that Atlanta is a more complete team than they were a year ago. Thanks to a defense that has suffocated their opponents since the Seattle game (17.5 PPG allowed in their last six contests), the Falcons boast a well-rounded group that has proven it can win a game on either side of the ball.
And speaking of the ball, Dan Quinn’s team did something on Sunday that they hadn’t done all season long—force at least three turnovers. The Atlanta secondary picked off Cam Newton three times in the season finale, which ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.
While the Falcons offense only converted those takeaways into two field goals, it was those extra possessions that broke the game open. Now one could argue those interceptions were a product of errant throws or lack of receiver talent for the Panthers, but the fact of the matter is, Atlanta did not take advantage of those miscues earlier in the season.
Maybe they just needed to be backed into a corner one final time. Or maybe the Falcons have been playing us this entire season.
Whatever the case may be, Atlanta now has a clean slate to work from in 2018. They will also be playing with house money from here on out. Given the way their season unfolded, the Falcons should not be in the position they’re in.
But they are, and they make one helluva six seed. And who knows, maybe the revenge tour was always meant to take place in 2018.
AP Photo/John Bazemore