by Mike Lederle
The final series for the Atlanta Falcons pretty much summed up their 2017 season. Four chances within the ten-yard line to take the lead on Philadelphia. The dreaded “red zone”. Some teams are at their best when so close to pay dirt, but throughout this season, that area was a cause for concern week in, and week out.
Mixed into that four-down effort, a shovel pass to Terron Ward? Closing out the season was a broken play throw to Julio in the corner of the end zone after a slip on his initial pass pattern. The throw was catchable, but instead it went right through Julio’s hands. Season over. The struggle to score touchdowns was a season-long issue, and it showed on the four-down effort which would have enabled back-to-back NFC Championship games for the Falcons.
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about Matt “Money” Bryant, but the stories of his golden leg would have not come to the forefront if the Falcons had scored more touchdowns this season. Falcon fans must come to grips with Steve Sarkisian staying on as OC and running the Falcons offense. It will get better in year two under Sark—it has to. Another realization is that the identity of this team has changed. It’s no longer your high flying, scoreboard soaring Atlanta Falcons. Dan Quinn’s defense is where it’s at.
We’ll be entering year four under Dan Quinn when the Falcons take the field in 2018. Drafts under the Quinn/Dimitroff duo have been productive, and the defense has been fully rebuilt. There are, however, final touches needing to be implemented to become the monster Quinn has envisioned since his first day on the job. Defensive tackle would be a nice addition, along with cornerback depth. The offense cannot be ignored, as improvements must be made along the offensive line, as well.
This will be an interesting offseason for the Falcons. Who stays, who goes? Poe, Clayborn, Ishmael, Upshaw are up in the air. Gabriel, Bryant, Roberts on offense/special teams. The finality of a season ending is sometimes comparable to a round house kick to the face. Some fans have a harder time compartmentalizing a season ending versus what’s next? It’s tougher to do, especially when the Falcons took us all the way to the final whistle in 2017 on whether this was the end, or if they had one play in them to advance.
A glass half full kind of fan will say, “we need to address the OL/DL in the draft”, “what free agents are available?”, or “who do the Falcons play week 1?” Versus “trade Matt Ryan”, “fire Quinn/Sark”, or “we’ll never win a Super Bowl.”
I’ll never tell anyone how to grieve, but we didn’t lose a family member. The Atlanta Falcons will be back under the Georgia sun in training camp at Flowery Branch in no time.
Let’s go into this offseason with a positive view on our Falcons, and also ask yourself this question: When was the last time the Atlanta Falcons had a dominant defense? Well, in my time, the answer is never. The closest thing to it was the ’98 defense, which was top-five. The Falcons are coming off a season in which the defense ranked top ten in both yards allowed and points scored. We’re trending in the right direction.
The mad scientist, Quinn, must add the window dressing onto what can become the Falcons feeding frenzy defense. There is a lot to look forward to. Atlanta will also be hosting Super Bowl LIII. Let’s dream of our Falcons taking part in the home game, and pummeling the opposing QB into submission. I can’t think of a better way to go into our winter slumber. Visions of Super Bowl trophies keeps me warm at night.