This was one large NFC championship game lead the Atlanta Falcons were not going to squander. The magic that has now lifted this team to a date in Houston in two weeks was simply not going to run out in the Georgia Dome’s football finale.
Four years ago, in this same game the Falcons led the San Francisco 49ers 17-0. They lost that game by four points. That disaster was simply not going to be repeated. Instead, the catastrophe happened to the visitors from up north, who had no idea they would be unable to score for the first 35-plus minutes on the clock.
The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl. Go ahead, repeat it with me. The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl. This isn’t a dream. It’s real. And if you don’t believe it, ask anyone walking around with a big thing of cheese on their head.
This was one game Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t going to save. There was no miracle in his back pocket. Even his excellence was not enough to overcome a team that was just determined to beat the heck out of his team Sunday.
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Atlanta’s defense was almost possessed to be the story here. That unit knew the Falcons’ offense would score points, but they had to stop Rodgers. And they did. They shut him down. They embarrassed a quarterback not really used to this type of treatment.
This time the hot quarterback belonged to Atlanta. This time the hot team was Atlanta. This time the Falcons are the ones going to the biggest show on earth.
The Georgia Dome has never been louder than it was Sunday, and it will never get that loud again. The Falcons closed the doors with the most impressive win of the season, a blowout over the team everyone in the other 49 states had fallen in love with.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Falcons looked awful in the preseason. They then looked weak in the season opener against Tampa Bay. But then things clicked, with a four-game winning streak after the opening loss that included three road victories.
The defense, with three rookies and three second-year players starting, grew up in a hurry. It developed a confidence you don’t see from an inexperienced defense. It was one thing to stop the ordinary offenses of the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, but in the playoffs, they stopped Seattle’s Russell Wilson and now Rodgers.
Let’s not forget about the offense. You know, the one that scored 44 points in a conference title game. Matt Ryan had more options this season than ever before, throwing passes to nine different players Sunday. Then there’s that receiver Ryan has. Julio Jones is incredible. The Ryan-Jones combo may go down as one of the best in NFL history if this keeps up.
The Falcons had a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession in the first half. The goal Green Bay had to keep Atlanta off the field failed miserably, and by the time the third quarter started, it was simply too late. It was over, and there was no massive collapse, no epic Falcons failure.
It doesn’t matter how many Green Bay players were hurt or how many had the flu. The Falcons’ defense dominated an offense that was dangerous. State Farm couldn’t have even saved Rodgers on Sunday. It was worse than the fire in his driveway on his commercial.
Who cares (right now) who the opponent will be in Houston. The important thing the Falcons will be there. Forgive fans for being crazy at work Monday. This sort of thing only happens once every 18 years or so.
And people everywhere in this state will be walking around practically saying it under their breath, “The Falcons are really going to the Super Bowl.”
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.