In a season where the playoffs are now out of reach, most would feel any accomplishment would have a hollow ring to it.
But to long suffering Falcons' fans, such as myself, it could indeed be a historic day.
If the Falcons can beat the Buccaneers in their final game of the season, they will finish the year with a 9-7 record. They would then become the first team in franchise history to have back-to-back winning seasons.
Big deal, you say? Oh yes, very big deal.
As a Falcons season ticket holder for many of the past 25 years, I have witnessed the highs and many lows of this franchise. From Pat Peppler to Aundray Bruce to Michael Vick, this franchise has made a history of making something bad out of anything that even looks remotely good.
How is it possible that the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons?
Tommy Nobis, Jeff Van Note, Steve Bartkowski, and William Andrews couldn’t accomplish this simple task? Gerald Riggs, Deion Sanders, and Terrence Mathis couldn’t get it done? Jamal Anderson and Vick had no such luck?
Many close calls have left us scratching our heads through the years. This streak could have ended years ago. In fact, it could have ended in 1972.
The Falcons were coming off their first winning season that year. Finishing the 1971 season with a last second win over the Saints, the Falcons ended the year with a 7-6-1 record.
Heading to San Francisco for a showdown with the 49ers, the Falcons were 7-5 and had a shot at winning the NFC West. The West Coast would not be kind to Atlanta, as the 49ers won easily, 20-0.
The Falcons closed out the 1972 season at home against Kansas City, needing just a win to snap the streak. Dave Hampton would pass the 1,000-yard mark, only to lose six yards on his last carry to finish the season with 995 yards. The Falcons lost that day as well to finish the year with a 7-7 mark.
The Falcons have made an unfortunate habit of following a good season with a very bad one. In 1973 the birds went 9-5. They followed that season with a 3-11 mark in 1974.
In 1980, Steve Bartkowski and company went 12-4, only to sink to 7-9 in 1981.
1998 was a historic year for the Falcons: an NFC championship, 14 wins, and a Super Bowl berth that gave hope to all the Falcon faithful. This must be the beginning of something great...right?
The Falcons won only five games in 1999. A season-ending injury to Jamal Anderson in week two certainly didn’t help. The streak lived on.
In 2004 the Falcons went 11-5 and once again looked to be a franchise on the move. My friend Andy and I made a friendly wager that season. I was sure that this would be the year the streak ended. So I confidently picked the Falcons to win at least nine games. Andy, on the other hand, felt that history was not on our side.
The Falcons jumped out to a 6-2 start. I started looking for the jersey that I would buy with my winnings. Should I go with white or red?
I watched the rest of the season in disbelief. The Falcons would crumble, finishing the year losing six of eight to finish 8-8. Andy proclaimed once again that these were the “same old sorry Falcons.”
Streak intact, no jersey for me.
The Falcons took the field for the very first time on Sept. 11, 1966. In that game the Falcons did what they have done more often than not—they lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 19-14.
This coming Sunday, Matt Ryan will lead the Falcons onto the field for the final time this season. After completing an 11-5 season last year, the birds once again looked to be a sure thing. Injuries however, and a very tough schedule put the breaks on that sure thing.
But despite the disappointment, one goal is still attainable. This Falcons team can make franchise history. No jersey is on the line this time. Andy and I agreed that this would be the year.
One win and a 9-7 record will bring the streak to an end.
I think it’s time to end 43 years of disappointment.
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