There has been a lot of confidence rolling around the Peach State the past 10 days or so. Atlanta Falcons fans believe their team will win Sunday in Houston.
And with good reason. Atlanta has become a great team. The Falcons will play a great team in the New England Patriots. That’s what we want in any Super Bowl.
Fans are nervous, anxious. We all know the world thinks the Patriots will win. They’re the Patriots, and the Falcons are the Falcons. But we all need to get past the past. We need to stop feeling the Falcons’ spotty history will be a factor in this game. It might give us all reason to be concerned, but it shouldn’t.
If the Falcons lose Sunday, it won’t have anything to do with their past. If they lose, it won’t have anything to do with the Dallas game 36 years ago, Eugene Robinson’s arrest the night before the last Super Bowl appearance, Michael Vick’s arrest, or Bobby Petrino’s quick exit out of town or anything else.
If the Falcons lose, it’ll more likely be Tom Brady to blame or that Bill Belichick figured out some way to stop Atlanta’s offense. It’ll have nothing to do with Atlanta’s history.
It is worthwhile, however, to look back on the last time the Falcons were in the big game. On Sunday, I finally watched the NFL Films 30-minute lowlight show of the game against Denver in 1999. I had refused to watch the tape I made of the game or even this show when it has been on before.
The Falcons had no chance in that game. John Elway was determined to go out a winner. The Broncos got up 31-6 before the Falcons made it a somewhat-respectable 15-point spread at the end. But it wasn’t really close.
Morten Andersen missed an easy 26-yard field goal attempt. Quarterback Chris Chandler threw three interceptions. Running back Jamal Anderson lost a fumble. Atlanta did everything wrong, while Denver did everything right.
Aside from what Robinson did the night before, when he was picked up for solicitation, the Broncos picked on Robinson all day in the game, perhaps knowing his mind had been distracted. Robinson got beat on Rod Smith’s long, 80-yard touchdown reception and didn’t even look like he was running that hard.
You think this year’s players care about that or the franchise’s dismal history?
Nope, and neither should we. If anything, the past should only make us feel better about the team we have seen develop this year into a championship contender.
This year’s Atlanta team is so much better than the one that last played in the Super Bowl. In fact, it’s not even close. The Falcons’ offensive line is much more capable of protecting the quarterback, and Matt Ryan is much less likely of handing the ball back to New England.
And Atlanta’s defense, while young and inexperienced, is playing with a mission. The Falcons’ defenders didn’t care about Russell Wilson. They didn’t care about Aaron Rodgers. So why should they care about Brady?
The Falcons have never had an MVP on their side, until now. Ryan has never had a great offensive line on his side, until now. And this team hasn’t had a chance like this to be a champion, until now.
Win or lose, this game should signal a new era for the Falcons. It’s time to start a new history. They have a great chance to win. But if they lose, aren’t you going to feel great about Atlanta’s future? Won’t you feel that this team will have a great opportunity of getting back to the Super Bowl a year from now?
But the heck with the future, and the heck with the past. This Sunday is the present, and the Falcons have an outstanding chance to bring this state its second professional championship.
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.