That is the biggest reason to feel good about Atlanta right now. These Falcons realize that they’ve been down this road before, and they don’t want to falter again. The hidden blessing in last year’s collapse was that it hardened this team in such a way that it won’t start believing it’s arrived too quickly. The more the Falcons talked after Sunday’s game, the more they sounded like a group of guys who won’t be savoring their success until they’re playing deep into January.
Sunday’s game was a perfect example of that focus. The Falcons were facing the best defense in football, and they marched right down the field on their first possession for a touchdown. They knew Denver would try to take away Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones — who had gained 300 receiving yards a week earlier in a win over Carolina — so they relied on other players to deliver big plays. A defense that had struggled in the first four games of the season also harassed rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch all day long, as that unit finished with six sacks.
So, given this preamble, it’s easy to foresee Atlanta suffering a Super Bowl hangover of epic proportions, right? After all, this team blew a 25-point, second-half lead in Super Bowl LI, handing the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Can you imagine the figurative pounding headache that comes from that kind of choke job?
But here’s the thing: I believe in the 2017 Falcons. I think Atlanta’s only gotten better this offseason. I think February’s unthinkable heartbreak is going to fuel this prideful bunch. I think the experience has only made these Falcons stronger.
The Atlanta Falcons announced Thursday they have agreed to terms with first-round pick Takkarist McKinley, who was selected No. 26 overall last month.
A two-year starter at UCLA, McKinley logged 99 total tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, six forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed in his three years in Westwood. Atlanta traded up five spots to select him last month.
The Falcons’ $1.4 billion new home, which is set to open August 26, will rise to 30 stories high, feature a retractable roof that can open and close in seven minutes and many amazing views of Atlanta’s skyline.
However, all of that will be overshadowed — figuratively and possibly literally — by this gigantic stainless steel bird. The statue is 41.5 feet tall and weighs 73,000 pounds. It was created by Gabor Miklos Szoke, who has a thing for nightmarish birds, having constructed the largest bird monument in Europe for the Hungarian football club FTC.
“Rich has been so important to our businesses and cheap jerseys and Atlanta’s growth for many years. We are thrilled to extend his contract with the Falcons and AMB Sports & Entertainment,” AMB Group, LLC, chief executive officer Steve Cannon said in a statement. “He has been instrumental in the success of the Atlanta Falcons on and off the field and has played a very important role in making Mercedes-Benz Stadium a reality, and in bringing Major League Soccer to Atlanta. Rich is a great champion of our core values and will continue to be a strong leader in our organization and community for years to come.”
In addition to his role with the Falcons, where he’s spent the previous 13 years, McKay has also been a key member of the NFL Competition Committee for 23 years, serving as chairman since 2011. He was suspended from his competition committee role for nearly five months in 2015 after a league investigation found the Falcons used fake crowd noise during games at the Georgia Dome in 2013 and 2014.
The Falcons were excellent last year, obviously. I don’t think of them as super fun, though. The Dirty Birds of the late ’90s, however? Now that was a fun time. Crazy to think Dan Reeves would be the leader of a fun club, but it really was one, thanks to a cast of characters like Jamal Anderson (among others) who did the “Dirty Bird” touchdown dance. They went 14-2 in 1998 and beat the Vikings to advance to Super Bowl XXXIII.
I know that Vikings team is lauded for being a juggernaut that just missed, even getting some love on “How I Met Your Mother” and a spotlight in NFL Network’s “America’s Game: The Missing Rings” series. But for (expletive) sake, the Falcons won 14 games. It’s not like they were some 9-7 curtain-jerkers who got lucky in the playoffs (ï¿½ï¿½ la the Giants and Eli Manning in 2011). That Atlanta squad was great. So quit acting like the Vikings were robbed. The Falcons were just a better team that year. Deal with it.