Taking the blame for title-game loss

January 30, 2013 

It’s not Matt Ryan’s fault Atlanta won’t be playing in Sunday’s Big Game. Yes, his second-half fumble hurt, but there were far more sinister forces at work.

Don’t 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 team’s 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 I’m the reason you won’t 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 conference’s clear favorite to earn a Super Bowl berth.”

Clearly, I wasn’t 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.

Here’s 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.

That’s 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 That young man’s joy has now been replaced by an older man’s frustration. What goes around, comes around.

Don’t doubt my stripes. I converted to Falconism when the wife and I relocated to Suwanee, former home of Atlanta’s training facility, in 1991. Drank beer with Mike Kenn, Chris Miller and Mike Ruether at Kenn’s pub, Rafter’s. 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, we’re 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 daughter’s 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 cdeighan@cox.net.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service