I’m a glass half full guy. I believe that positivity can be found anywhere if you look hard enough. This is the reason why I am writing this article. That, and I’m already tired of the countless social media posts about how great the Patriots are. Oh and on a separate note, don’t believe any Patriots fan when they tell you they “never had a doubt” during Sunday night’s game. Yes, you probably had a ton of doubts going into halftime down 28-3, whether you’ll admit it or not. However, I must congratulate New England on their Super Bowl victory and especially Tom Brady, who is now the undisputed GOAT of football.
I digress. For three quarters of the game, the Falcons were the better team. They looked unstoppable on offense and their young defensive unit was playing fearless in the face of the greatest quarterback of all-time. But therein lied the problem. Young. A majority of the Falcons starting defensive players were drafted in the past two years and are under the age of 24. When Kyle Shanahan’s suspect play-calling opened the door for the most experienced quarterback in NFL history to mount a comeback, the pressure was on. Pressure of a magnitude that had never been felt by these players. A defense that looked fearless in the beginning of the game, ended the game playing with their tails in between their legs.
Youth may have cost the Falcons a Super Bowl, but it has the potential to uphold the Falcons position as a top team in the league moving forward. Just look at their defense. At just 23 years old, Grady Jarrett tied the Super Bowl record for most sacks with three. Jarrett was all over the place on defense, sniffing out a screen pass and constantly pressuring Tom Brady. After a performance like this, Jarrett’s potential is through the roof. Then, there is the other former Clemson Tiger, Vic Beasley. The 8th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft led the entire NFL in sacks this season with 15.5. Beasley has the potential to emerge as the NFL’s next star defensive player. And let’s not forget the pair of rookie linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones. Jones specifically made a number of key tackles that helped neutralize the Pats’ run game, played well in coverage, and forced a fumble. Finally, Keanu Neal (21) and Jalen Collins (23) make up a secondary that will only get better next season with the return of Desmond Trufant.
As far as Atlanta’s offense goes, there isn’t much for them to worry about there. At 31 years old, Matt Ryan just put together by-far the best statistical season of his career. In today’s NFL, quarterbacks stay productive into their late 30’s (and maybe early 40’s, Tom Brady?). I wouldn’t expect another MVP season out of the Boston College product, but I do believe he will finish as a top-5 quarterback for the next couple of years. Julio Jones and whatever supporting receivers line up with him will give Matt Ryan plenty of targets to rely on. But what really excites me about this Falcons offense is the future prospect of their ground game. In their second and third years respectively, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman had their way with a Patriots defense that allowed the third fewest rushing yards in the league. This two-headed rushing attack has a bright future ahead of it and will only proliferate the Falcons passing offense.
It’s no easy task to come back from a Super Bowl defeat. Take a look at the most recent example in the Panthers. In fact, many are saying that the Falcons will be set back for years after being the first team in Super Bowl history to blow a 21-0 lead. I truly don’t believe so. Not only has the Super Bowl given the Falcons’ youth necessary experience, but it will also serve as motivation going forward. With an elite offense and up-and-coming defense, the Falcons will enjoy deep playoff runs for years to come. My prediction for next year: at least a return to the NFC Championship game.