This week has been one long therapy session for Atlanta Falcons fans. They’ve clung to each other, shared stories to feel each other’s pain of what happened Feb. 5 in Houston.
It must end at some point. It can’t linger forever, but there’s no denying the loss the Falcons suffered will not go away any time soon.
For decades, older Falcons fans have talked about “the Dallas game.” Now, this generation has “the New England game” as the new example of why Falcons fans are like they are.
There will be a skepticism like never before. The Falcons must win this fan base back, to show that at some point this 51-year string of bad luck will eventually end.
This pain will stay with fans until the Falcons win a Super Bowl, and most are praying it will be in their lifetime. No matter how big the lead may be the next time, there will not be one Atlanta fan who will believe it will happen until the final second ticks off the clock.
But what about the team? How will it get past this heartbreak of losing a game it had won, only to fail in the end? That is a more important question, knowing at some point the Falcons must put the uniform back on and try to win again.
Most of this is on Dan Quinn, the head coach who has not proven to us he can be a championship head coach — at least not yet. Sure, Quinn deserves tremendous credit for getting the Falcons there, but in crunch time, Quinn failed miserably.
This wasn’t just a loss, with a game going back and forth between two great teams. This was a game in which a team had a 25-point lead and blew it. That falls first on the head coach, especially with the play calls made to not help the situation in the fourth quarter.
Quinn is a rah-rah coach, almost like a college coach. It was good to rally the team to prepare it for the playoffs, but how will that work when Quinn now has to rehabilitate his players? How will that “all is good in the world” mentality work when his players are going to hurt for a while?
The hope is Quinn will learn from what went wrong, even if he won’t admit the epic fail falls first on him. He must lead the effort to get his players focused and allowing this catastrophe to be the motivation to bounce back and get another chance in the biggest game of the year.
Last year the Carolina Panthers slipped after going to the Super Bowl the season before. They lost to Denver and the quarterback, Cam Newton, moped and whined like no loser had ever done before. Carolina went from a talented Super Bowl team to one that finished 6-10.
The Falcons must avoid this. They have a good roster, a good core of talent that even the Panthers did not have a year ago. Atlanta should again be favored in the NFC South, and analysts should give the Falcons have a good chance to compete for the conference championship again.
This team must heal first. It is not going to be easy to get over. Quinn will earn his money this spring and summer to lead the healing process, so his team can get on to the business of getting another chance at being a champion.
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.