How could we have all been so wrong at the same time?
Me, I’m not so good at sooth-saying in the first place. But Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News ... look, that’s different. These guys pay their debts by being right. Seeing the field and picking the winner. Me, that’s different. I was sitting right here on top of the game, loaded with hometown bluster. I couldn’t be wrong. It was our team, our guys.
But Peter King and Matt Crossman? They get paid to be right — and they better be, for they are spread from ocean to ocean. Me, I can blame it on home cooking.
Sure, the Falcons were just fundamentally sound, in fact, rather dull. Nobody paid them much attention, but they kept on keeping on with their plain vanilla offense and their tough defense. They just happened to be leading the NFL, the whole darned league.
“Fear the Falcons!” screamed the headline in The Sporting News, Well, maybe you could give them some leash. After all, TSN used to be known as “The Bible of Baseball” in the days of the Spink family. They’d just begun to branch out a few years ago, when they graduated from plain old newsprint to a slick magazine. (By the way, I didn’t care much for the cover picture of Ryan. Bad angle, too much teeth, sort of a bashful grin.)
But Sports Illustrated, and Peter King! Man, they’re heavy hitters. Peter quoted some NFL exec who sold him a bill of goods. “They don’t use a lot of gimmicks or wow you in any one area. They just play fundamentally sound football,” the NFL exec said.
Pretty good recommendation, wouldn’t you say? “Quiet consistency,” Peter went on to say on his own. “Efficient, disciplined and, yeah, a little dull.” But in the Falcons’ case, dull was good. It won. It won Mike Smith The Sporting News’ “Coach of the Year Award.” And Mike Mularkey the title of “Coordinator of the Year.”
Won mine, too, but mine didn’t count. I was biased. Who else could have been my Coach of the Year? Surely not Rex Ryan....and I’ll take another flyer right here....and that is, that the Jets have gone about as far as they’re going to go. They left it all on the frozen field in Foxboro. But I’m not picking winners here. I’ve had my turn and I struck out with the Falcons. And Matt Ryan.
I’d never seen the game that he couldn’t turn his way, or at least, have a card or two up his sleeve, still in the game until the end — until this one. That ace in most cases was the third down, and he led the league in third-down efficiency. Usually, he called on Roddy White, but Roddy was out of it against the Packers. And this had been such a glittering season for UAB (University of Alabama-Birmingham) alumni these last few months.
Remember, Graeme McDowell, the alum from Ireland, won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Well, we could be blamed, I guess, for not considering that these Packers were not the same Packers after they added James Starks and John Kuhn, or whatever else they didn’t have the first time around. What we counted on was that these would be the same Falcons that won THAT game, and surely would win this one, when all the marbles were on the line.
I’ll have to say this, that I had some high-class company, and misery loves company.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.