Revamped Falcons Pride: How Last Year Rekindled My Fanaticism

Chris HaseldenContributor IMay 13, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 23: Wide receiver Harry Douglas #83 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates a touchdown return against the Carolina Panthers with fans at the Georgia Dome on November 23, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

In 2008, the Atlanta Falcons made me proud to be a Falcons fan again.  By definition, the word fanatic means "A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause."  When your team shows heart and execution, motivation is at it's easiest.  My enthusiasm overflowed into this article right before the playoffs.

Although we lost in the first round, I am unwavering in my support and hope for this team.

The New Falcons are winning games that the old Falcons would lose.  San Diego, Chicago, and now Tampa Bay.  We turned the ball over three times (again) and still managed to pull out a win.  The OT drive where Ryan fumbled; wow!  I clearly saw a TB guy fall on that but our boys pulled that from him underneath the pile.  There's no question of that when you watch the replay.  That was a huge play!

I tried to look up how far our "when trailing in the fourth quarter" losing streak got to, but I know it was over 20 games in 2006.  However, those days look to be behind us.  This team does not give up late in the game and that is a true testament to how hard they are fighting.  A team that fights is a team worth watching.  When you mix in execution and a bit of luck, you get success. 

9-5:  That is a guaranteed winning season, folks!  I couldn't be happier with that, until I started reading the articles.  Players like Lawyer Milloy saying "if you lose, you go home" during warm ups on Fox and after the game when Keith Brooking was quoted affirming "our goal at the start of the season was not a winning record."

I felt that last quote deserved a little more attention by the writer.  It could be construed as "we didn't expect/think about having a winning season."  I took it in a much different way:  The Falcons are thinking about more than just a winning season.  Our boys are thinking playoffs and now so are the fans.

Some have been calling this season our Cinderella season, for reasons that I refuse to mention because I believe focusing on the past is not something that the players are doing, so nor should I as a fan.

However, this is about the New Falcons attitude versus the old one, which inevitably is past compared to present.  Instead of bringing up a media-hyped overplayed debacle that is our former coach and QB, the work ethic should be the true story. 

These Falcons are fighters that took their licks at the beginning of the season, but healed up by Week Five and started playing like contenders:  Heavyweight contenders.

We beat Detroit but the skeptics said "so?  Beat a good team."
We beat KC but the skeptics said "so?  Win a game on the road."
We beat Green Bay but the skeptics said "so?  No wins over teams over .500."
We beat Chicago but the skeptics said "so? Beat a divisional opponent."
We beat Oakland but the skeptics said "it's just Oakland" and ignored the dominant performance.
We beat New Orleans but the skeptics once again said "beat a team with a good record."
We beat Carolina and the skeptics had no rebuttal.
We beat Tampa Bay and now the skeptics say "so?  You won't make the playoffs."

We have received great press concerning Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and coach Mike Smith.  However, in the long run, knowledgeable football fanatics know that Atlanta has never had back-to-back winning seasons, no Super Bowls, and might remember an article by Sports Illustrated deplorably titled "Loserville, USA." 

If you have been a Falcons fan for as long as I have, you know that our birds have lost more than their fair share.  I digress, that is the Old Falcons.  The New Falcons have "it."

"It."  Coach Smith stated that Matt Ryan has "it:  We don't know what 'it' is, but he's got it" during a post-game press conference following the Chicago victory.  We were all buzzing going into the bye week from that win, but something has transcended.  "It" is spreading. 

Could "it" be the bird flu?  It seems to be a fever spreading amongst Falcons with side effects of intensity, elevated play rate, and short term memory loss.  The defense is stepping up, ranking 5th in the NFC in the one stat that matters the most:  Points Allowed (20.1 points per game). 

The pandemic has spread to special teams which is closing in on Buffalo's record of fewest punt return yards allowed in a season.  With Jennings gone and Harry Douglas in as his replacement, the flip side also seems to be infected.

My attempt at a clever correlation might have failed, but this team has not.  They are playing with heart, fight, poise, and unity. 

In the book of the Falcons, the last chapter of 2007 is finished and the

The Falcons have flipped the page.

This excitement for the Falcons only gets stronger with each passing move.  A great draft, an excellent acquisition in Tony Gonzalez, and management that reminds me of the John Schuerholz/Bobby Cox combo in Atlanta.

I am forever a fan of the Falcons and it helps to have my fanatical batteries recharged every so often.