Before the start of the season, if you were to say my Atlanta Falcons (who went 6-10 last year) would start off 3-0 against the three best teams of the dangerous NFC East, I would have politely laughed in your face. This is the team that I’ve watched embarrass themselves over and over again in the past two seasons. This is the team that could not even beat out the seven-win Carolina Panthers to win the division. My emotional scars, my trust issues, my pessimistic outlook on life can all be blamed on this team — this God-forsaken, pitiful excuse for a team.
But not this year. This year, they’ve changed. This year, the boys have become men. This year, the darkness has turned into light. They have taken off the cloak of failure and put on the breastplate of glory. This year, they — no, we — are going to the Super Bowl.
While watching the first three games, there were times where previous feelings of disappointment crept up. Each game, the Falcons were behind in the fourth quarter. They had either given up a double-digit lead or were trying to come back from a double-digit deficit. Either way, signs of the Falcons-of-old seemed to be ever-present.
But in 2015, something is different: They finished. They played strong until the end and stayed resilient, and they finished. Is it pretty? Hell no! They’ve had about six quarters of ugly football. But for three weeks in a row, they have continued to silence my doubts.
Let us start with the offense. It’s absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen anything more majestic. This year, Matt Ryan has the opportunity to hush any doubters and thrust himself into the coveted category of elite quarterbacks. So far, he’s making the most of it. Not only has he orchestrated three fourth-quarter comebacks, but he’s doing so with the poise and gracefulness of a Mongolian gazelle. Look at the numbers: He is currently top 10 in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage.
Let us not forget about his partner in crime, Julio Jones. Unlike Matt Ryan, Julio is already in the elite echelon at his position, but is he good enough to be the best of the best?
Absolutely. Right now, he is the top receiver in receiving yards and yards after catch, and he is also tied No. 2 for touchdown receptions. He is managing to do this all while opponent defenses are focusing their efforts to neutralize him. They know who’s getting the ball, yet they still cannot stop this beautiful specimen. While he may lack the flash of last year’s poster-child Odell Beckham Jr, his sheer talent and consistency are second-to-none in the NFL. Along with the creative genius of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan and Jones are on course to be the most dangerous duo in the league.
Next, let us look at the defense. Good God, the defense. Yes, I’m talking about the defense that has been nothing short of awful for the past two years. In terms of giving up points and yards, they have been living at the bottom of the barrel. But after this season’s start, they have been just below average. They are No. 16 in giving up points per game and No. 23 in giving up yards. Allow me to rephrase: They’re not the worst anymore!
Now let us focus on the magical wizard behind it all: First-year head coach Dan Quinn has changed the mentality of this Falcons squad. From watching multiple interviews and press conferences, his energy, focus and love for the game is certainly contagious. The discipline and intensity of the Seattle Seahawks, for whom he was defensive coordinator, has carried over to Atlanta, and it shows.
Unlike in years past, the Falcons’ defensive squad can take the field on third down expecting a stop, finally approaching the level of their high-powered offense. The 2013 and 2014 Falcons never would have been able to win these past three games. However, there is a new level of toughness we Atlantans haven’t seen in a while.
They aren’t even in their best form right now. Quinn and Shanahan have only been here eight months. The offensive line was assembled just days before opening kickoff. Devin Hester and Tevin Coleman have been out with injuries. Imagine how much more dangerous they could become by winter. Along with one of the league’s easiest schedules, these Dirty Birds are looking at a future brighter than Rihanna’s diamonds. Personally, I don’t see a reason they couldn’t go 19-0.