Before the beginning of the season, there were more bets for the Browns to win the Super Bowl than the Atlanta Falcons. The Browns ended up going 1-15 while the Falcons were able to knock off the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC Divisional Crown. So how did the Falcons get to this point? Today I’ll pinpoint exactly what went right for the Atlanta Falcons and how exactly they were able to go on this improbable run.
Matty Ice is Playing the Best Football of his Career
Before this season, everyone saw Matt Ryan as just an average quarterback. This year he’s been one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s executed well in the red zone throwing for 38 TDs compared to only 21 TDs last season. His career high 117.1 Quarterback Rating is the second best in the league, just behind Tom Brady who will Ryan’s counterpart in the Super Bowl. He’s also been smart with the football only throwing 7 interceptions the entire season, which once again is a career best for Ryan. Now that Ryan has more than just Julio Jones as a reliable receiver, you can see a dramatic spike in his performance. Ryan has proven himself to be an elite quarterback and a front runner to win the Most Valuable Player.
Dan Quinn is Settled InHead Coach Dan Quinn is surprisingly only in his second year of being a head coach in the NFL and has already solidified his position in Atlanta. Last year Quinn was able to get the Falcons off to a hot start winning their first 5 games but were a dismal 3-8 to end the year. After a year as the big man in Atlanta, Quinn has been able to adjust his personnel enough to make it through the grind of a full NFL season. Along with adding offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to his coaching staff, Quinn has been calling all the right shots this year and as a result has gotten the Falcons to the big game.
Carolina’s Fall From GraceNo doubt the Falcons have improved and I don’t mean to take any credit away from them. But having the Panthers go from a 15-1 team to a 6-10 team definitely helped them when it came to seeding. The Falcons dominated the Panthers in both the games they played against them. If the Panthers had similar success like they had last year, the Falcons may have fallen to a wild card seed and wouldn’t have benefited by playing on their home turf throughout the playoffs. Playing the Seahawks or the Packers on the road would’ve been a taller task for the Falcons and may have swayed the outcome of those games.
The Falcons New Talent Have Been ProductiveMost of all, the Falcons have improved thanks to the young talent that emerged this season. Starting with the defensive side of the ball, Vic Beasley, who’s playing in his first season after missing all of his rookie season due to injury, has emerged as the dominant pass rusher for the Falcons. The Clemson alumni had 15.5 sacks and forced 6 fumbles. Running back Tevin Coleman has emerged as a much improved back after having a lackluster rookie season, which was plagued by inconsistency and injury. The former Indiana Hoosier ran for 520 yards and 5 TDs. With Coleman helping out leading rusher Devonta Freeman, the Falcons were able to have the 5th best rushing attack in the league. On draft night, The Falcons added safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones. The second rounder, Jones, led the team in tackles with 108 and also added 3 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Keanu Neal, the first round pick out of Florida, was only second on the team in tackles but still put up an impressive 106 tackles for the year. The Falcons also did a good job bringing players in during free agency. The biggest splash was Center Alex Mack, who they signed to a 5 year deal. Mack has solidified the inside of the Falcons O-Line, that struggled to protect their quarterback last year. They also picked up former Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was the number two receiver for Atlanta and had 59 receptions. They acquired another great receiver on waivers when the acquired Taylor Gabriel, who the Browns released earlier in the year. His speed and big play ability helped him when it came to catching touchdown. He was tied for the team lead in that category. It’s rare to see new talent perform this well after only spending one year in the program, but the Falcons have been able to make it work and are playing fantastic football.
The Falcons will have a tall task ahead of them when they will play the New England Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday. But what they’ve been able to accomplish up to this point is absolutely stunning. In one year, the Falcons went from an average 8-8 team to the best that the NFC has to offer. With collective work of the coaching staff and front office the Falcons have put one of those surprising runs we’ve seen in awhile. The Falcons will look to end their improbable run with the first Super Bowl in team history.