I’ve had to deal with a lot these past few months as a sports fan from the state of Georgia. Few fan-bases understand the agony, frustration, and stress involved with investing energy into Atlanta teams.
Well, I do, which made yesterday that much sweeter.
I tip my cap to the Seattle Seahawks because they fought hard and could have added to the misery. They could have sent Tony Gonzalez into retirement without a playoff win and the possibility to play for a Super Bowl. They could have furthered the conversation that Matt Ryan and Mike Smith were “regular-season champions” but unable to get things done when it mattered in the playoffs. The story lines were all there and I’m sure every writer in America, every Falcons hater in America, every fan since the Steve DeBerg or Jessie Tuggle-Struggle era was ready to pounce and proclaim this the same old Falcons.
That didn’t happen, though. Matt Ryan turned into “Matty Ice” just in time; making the necessary throws and winning plays that the Falcons needed to get within field goal range. Tony Gonzalez made the catch and run (more like he dragged two defenders the extra yards) needed to secure the Falcons position within field goal range to win this game. Matt Bryant was unfazed by the “ice the kicker” tactic as well, taking his practice shot as any veteran would and nailing the game winner shortly after.
I’ve been in the Georgia Dome during a big game and I can only imagine how loud it was throughout the game. But at that moment before Bryant made the field goal to win it I could only imagine it being the quietest it had been in years. It also may have been the biggest collective sigh of relief in quite some time for Falcons fans.
The fact that Seattle came back from 20-point deficits (twice) didn’t matter. The fact that play-calling became a little too conservative (again) didn’t matter. It didn’t make a world of difference if Michael Turner “only” rushed for 98 yards and Julio Jones and Roddy White became blockers after the first half. All that matters is that today, January 14th, 2013 the Atlanta Falcons have another game in the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks are behind them, no one knows that more than the Falcons players and personnel. No one deserves this win more than anyone else because each player, coach, and staff member worked to get to this point and get over the playoff performances that haunted them a year ago.
It doesn’t matter how they won, they got the job done. This weekend they have the San Francisco 49ers and if they win that game they would have earned the opportunity to play the AFC champion for a Super Bowl title. The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks don’t have that opportunity. Neither do the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, or Green Bay Packers. The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings also no longer have that luxury. But the Atlanta Falcons do.
Isn’t that what really matters?