As the game clock came to an end and the confetti went up in the air, everyone high-fived each other in the stands — the moment felt almost dream-like.
The Falcons played their last game at the Georgia Dome — also the NFC Championship game — with a chance to go the Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers were the only thing in their way, a team that was in Atlanta for the second time this season. This time, however, the Packers were coming off a win against the No. 1 seed Dallas Cowboys for their eighth win in a row.
The stage couldn’t be any bigger or any more perfect.
As any Atlanta sports fan will tell you, Atlanta pro-sports teams are known for making noise in the regular season, but, once the postseason comes around, they always come up short. It has happened too many times, whether it be the Braves, the Hawks or the Falcons.
As a 22-year-old college student and avid sports fan, I have endured nothing but disappointment from Atlanta teams. The Braves, mostly known as the “team of the 90s,” won the World Series in 1995. I was a year old when that happened, so I have no memory of it.
The Hawks biggest success came two years ago when they produced a 60-win season, but fell short of a trip to the NBA Finals. The Falcons came agonizingly close to Super Bowl appearances in 2004 and 2012 after impressive seasons.
Being one of over 70,000 fans who filled up the Georgia Dome one last time left me with a feeling that I hadn’t felt before — I was on the winning side. It’s something that many of us have thought about but never gotten the chance to actually live it.
As Arthur Blank was handed the George Halas trophy on the podium, I realized that, for the first time in my life, I would get an opportunity to watch the Falcons play in the biggest football game in the world — the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl in franchise history, and they have earned it.
A year ago, the Falcons started the season 5-0 but ended it on a sour note with an 8-8 record. Many Falcons fans criticized players such as rookie defensive end Vic Beasley and quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan received most of the criticism by fans saying that he didn’t show up in the big game and that the Falcons needed to replace him because he would never get us to the the Super Bowl.
One year later, he has put all the critics to rest.
Ryan has achieved career-high numbers, such as 69.9 percent passes completed, throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, and averaging 9.26 yards per pass. He also completed touchdown passes to 13 different receivers, which is an NFL record. “Matty Ice” put the franchise on his back and carried the team to where his doubters thought he would never be and is thought to be a sure bet to win this year’s MVP award.
Critics called Beasley a bust after his rookie year, but he has since emerged as a force on the pass rush, recording 15.5 sacks this year, which led the NFL.
Players such as Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal and many others have all had performances throughout the season that have led to wins.
Overall, the accomplishments that this team has achieved this season have been a total team effort. As the Falcons have said, the credit goes to the brotherhood.
And who is part of the brotherhood? Everyone. The players, coaches, Falcons employees, the employees at the Georgia Dome, and last but not least, the fans.
We’ve seen commentators doubt us in the playoffs or call us unsupportive. We’ve seen coaches leave us when things are going south. We’ve seen teams abandon us. We’ve seen only one championship in 50 years.
This year, it’s different. We’ve been witnesses to a team that has silenced the critics. We’ve been witnesses to one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL. We’ve been witnesses to a team that goes out on the field every Sunday and proves everyone wrong.
This Super Bowl run is the perfect opportunity to quiet the commentators. It’s the perfect opportunity for Atlanta fans to take pride when talking to fans from other cities. It’s the opportunity to make all the voices lost while we scream at the top of our lungs.