Its not Matt Ryans fault Atlanta wont be playing in Sundays Big Game. Yes, his second-half fumble hurt, but there were far more sinister forces at work.
Dont level a finger of blame at head coach Mike Smith or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for the Falcons inability to cover the tight end in either of the teams playoff games. One cannot out-scheme fate.
If, unlike myself, you manage the stomach to watch that West Coast team in the Super Bowl, understand that Im the reason you wont be rising up on Super Sunday. Please forgive me.
I used this very forum to brag on the Birds. In a Jan. 2 column in The Sun News, I wrote Atlanta is the best team in the NFC and is the conferences clear favorite to earn a Super Bowl berth.
Clearly, I wasnt thinking. Sure, media types pick winners all the time, but the result was too important to me. I should have recused myself. Better yet, I should have followed the feel-good line of betting/prognostication. Predicting a Falcons playoff collapse might have opened me up to ridicule from other Atlanta loyalists, but it would have all but guaranteed a team charter to New Orleans. I could have been right or happy. But I doubled down and came away empty.
Heres the thing, however: I really thought Atlanta would win. A lot of other fans did, too, I am sure. They just had the sense to keep quiet.
Thats not the worst of it. The other source of my complicity in the Falcons demise harkens back to the divisional playoffs near the close of the 1980 season. I was a college freshman then. And a Cowboys fan.
Almost exactly 32 years to the day before my Sun News column appeared in print, I was rolling around the basement floor of my parents house, celebrating the fact that the Dallas magic of Roger Staubach had been passed down to Danny White who threw a pair of late touchdown passes to rally the Cowboys past Atlanta. That young mans joy has now been replaced by an older mans frustration. What goes around, comes around.
Dont doubt my stripes. I converted to Falconism when the wife and I relocated to Suwanee, former home of Atlantas training facility, in 1991. Drank beer with Mike Kenn, Chris Miller and Mike Ruether at Kenns pub, Rafters. Held season tickets in 1998 and 99. Experienced the triumph and tragedy of Vick.
As the family has grown, so too has the loyalty. Like most these days, were 100 miles an hour in all different directions. But three hours of football on Sundays in the fall helps keep us connected. For the NFC Championship game, we donned our colors and reunited at a pizza joint near my daughters Kennesaw State campus. We wanted to be closer to the action, poised to celebrate with complete strangers.
For a time we did. And even late, it looked as though Ryan would deliver a miracle finish. Instead, Harry Douglas slipped when he should have scored. Ryan missed Tony Gonazalez on fourth-and-four.
There would be no football miracles for the Deighans. I had already used the family allotment on Danny freakin White.
Contact Chris Deighan at firstname.lastname@example.org.