Michael Lough

America, get ready for a new team

The gap between visits is 18 years.

There were teases within the past decade, followed by mediocrity, fairly typical of mediocre organizations or programs. In between Super Bowl seasons, Atlanta is all of 134-137-1.

See, that’s why the Boston writer took a shot right after the conference championship games. There was logic and context.

If you’re a Georgia football fan, are you amped to get Mississippi in the SEC title game? Georgia Tech watchers, are you jazzed for an ACC championship game against Syracuse? No, you’re not.

And if the Rebels or Orange got off to a great start a year earlier and fizzled, wouldn’t you have some skepticism a year later? Yes, you would.

That said, Atlanta has become America’s Team, indeed, because everybody is so sick of the Patriots. Atlanta is an extraordinarily likable group as well as a superb football team, even with “only“ an 11-5 record. Those who call this the best team in organization history are right.

The 13-3 teams of a few years back were more lucky than good, 9-7 teams with a 13-3 record and rarely powerful enough to knock teams out. The first Super Bowl season? Atlanta had four regular-season wins by more than 14 points and lost two regular-season games by a total of 36 points.

The second Super Bowl season? Atlanta has two postseason wins alone by more than 14 points, after six in the regular season. The five losses came by a total of 22 points. The second Falcons Super Bowl team would beat the first one by three touchdowns. So this is, yes, the best team in organization history.

Thus, be prepared. Wise people told bosses Friday that they had a doctor’s appointment Monday. Yep, the Doctor of Delirious. The Medico of Merriment.

Atlanta wins 37-28 on Sunday — could easily be by double figures — and some people I know will become almost deranged with joy. They should have been told Friday to under no circumstances come to work Monday.

We interrupt this wisdom for a personal note to Kyle Shanahan.

Hey Kyle. First, congrats on what’s going to happen Sunday night. Second, condolences with what’s going to happen a day or two later when you take the San Francisco job. You participate in some contact drills minus a helmet?

Better money doesn’t mean better job. More power doesn’t mean better job. Can’t price piece of mind and stability.

And you’re going to a place that’s hiring a head coach whose teams are more than a dozen games under .500 with him as offensive coordinator. You.

It looked like you would be hired and then help hire your boss. But they hired your boss, a TV guy not named Jon Gruden, a guy who went from the field — great player, indeed — to the makeup room to the studio section of the press box and has as much coaching or front office experience as, well, somebody with no coaching or front office experience.

Two rookies taking over in a mismanaged organization that forced out Jim Harbaugh, stunned the football world and hired Jim Tomsula, fired him after a year, hired Chip Kelly, fired him after a year? These folks would bring back New Coke, change the Chick-fil-A recipe, offer a disco night and make a couple of “Waterworld” sequels.

Plus, let’s be honest, Kyle, you’ve had six employers since 2004 and volunteered to coach with the Cleveland Browns. Your debut season in Atlanta left a faction hoping you’d have a different debut season in 2016. It was hard to figure out what the plan was, and certainly there was some level of disconnect with Matt Ryan. And then came this year, which absolutely nobody saw coming. Nobody.

So, it’s hard to say which Atlanta offense is actually yours.

Nevertheless, here’s hoping Sunday is the continuation of the current version, and if so, enjoy that. Even if the Falcons somehow lose, enjoy the experience, because if you take this job, you won’t experience this for a while, anywhere.

Now, back to the monologue about the ever-so-mild upset set to take place in the adopted hometown of Westside graduate and Houston Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson.

First, Atlanta should go ahead and take an early 15-yarder with a clean but, oh, a half-step late helmet to the ribs of the Patriots’ 39-year-old quarterback. And maybe another one a little bit later.

Second, folks shouldn’t panic if Julio Jones is quiet for awhile. That’s actually a good thing. Atlanta is 5-1 in the games in which he caught four or fewer passes and 1-1 in the two games he didn’t play. The loss was that freakish Kansas City game with the Pick Two on the final play to lose it for the Falcons.

Jones will be slowed some early, but look for a few big second-half plays and drawing penalties.

Third, New England eventually will struggle with consistently covering running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Fourth, Atlanta has to play Alabama defense, which means to just do your job, cover your guy, read your key, make your play and move on. Compounding mistakes loses the game.

The big games are won by doing the little things, as New England has done for years. This time, somebody else will do them better, and a nation will rejoice.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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