It has been 129 days since the Falcons went to Phoenix and their playoff run was scorched. This time, the Falcon rises from the ashes of Phoenix Stadium. Although this is not baseball, the Margaret Mitchell Report shows that the Atlanta Falcons offense for the 2009 season could test positive that the soot of last season is gone: Gone with the Wind.
"The Process," as coined by head coach Mike Smith, rolls along with the addition of Tony Gonzalez. Rookie of the Year quarterback Ryan brandishes multiple weapons in his offense now.
Michael Turner, second in rushing yards last year, can more than establish the ground attack with Jerious Norwood's open-field sprinting ability to force defenses to swell upfront.
Roddy White, (88 receptions, 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008) is the elite receiver down field while a lanky yet nimble Michael Jenkins and green Harry Douglas with one year under his belt provide excellent targets for Ryan in the secondary.
With Tony Gonzalez lining up off the tackle, defenses are forced to double up coverage on him or suffer the consequences of 5-10 yard strikes repeatedly.
Even taking a page out of the 1977 Falcons defensive playbook (the best defense of all-time, sorry Bears fans), 13 in the box won't work if Ryan's in the shotgun and Gonzalez goes uncovered. Defensive Coordinators will be seeing red.
Speaking of red, Tony Gonzalez should improve the Falcons in the red zone. In 2008, Atlanta had three basic strategies for the red zone.
1. Pound the rock with Turner or ocassionally Snelling.
2. Run the option with Ryan and Norwood (and hope that Ryan doesn't land on his head while diving into the endzone)
3. Fade pass to White or slants, quick-outs and swing passes..
Streaky at best, more times than not the end result was an Elam field goal. With Tony Gonzalez, you have the best tight end of all time menacing behind the goal line. Everyone knows this man commands respect and he can make those 6-point grabs.
So what stands in the Falcons way? Some speculate that it is the young rookies on defense to replace the starters like Brooking, Boley, and Milloy. Other talking heads agree that a much tougher schedule this year pothole in the road to a successful season.
Some even rely on history and mention the factual history that Atlanta has never had back-to-back winning seasons to stifle "the process." How soon we forget the predictions of last year by 99.9% of analysts and experts that the Falcons are rebuilding and won't win more than four games in 2008.
The motto for this year's Falcons is "The Hunt is On." I believe the unofficial phrase for naysayers should once again be "frankly, we don't give a damn."
Tony Gonzalez did not come to Atlanta before the start of the 2008 season because he wanted to join a playoff-caliber team. This year he is in high spirits about being on the Atlanta squad and was quoted saying, "I want to win a Super Bowl."
His first game of the regular season for Atlanta is in 123 days. The Falcons play Miami: The host of the upcoming Super Bowl.