The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a 2021 season where they went 7-10, lost their starting quarterback, had no offensive line, lost their two starting receivers, did not have a running game, and underperformed on defense. But they do have a stud at tight end. Nobody is giving this team a shot to be productive for the 2022 season. But I have a different take.
It was the end of the 1997 season, and Head Coach Dan Reeves was coming off his first year as the Falcons’ head coach. Falcons finished third in the NFC South that year with a 7-9 record. The football world did not have any money riding on the Falcons for that next season, and neither did I. The Falcons went 14-2 in 1998, beat the number one seed Minnesota Vikings at there place to win the NFC, then to lose Super Bowl XXXIII 19-34 versus Quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Miami.
The 1998 Falcons had a bunch of journeymen on the team that gelled well together that year. Quarterback Chris Chandler was injury prone, but when he played he won games. Starting running back Jamal Anderson was a one hit wonder for the team that year putting up more than 1800 rushing yards. Wide receivers Terance Mathis and Tony Martin both had over 1000 receiving yards. Kick returner/wide receiver Tim Dwight had the speed, and also had a kick return for a touchdown during the Super Bowl against Denver. And let’s not forget the defense. There was not one known name on that squad except cornerback Ray Buchanan, who was another one hit wonder for the team that year. But the defense worked hard together and became one of the best defenses during that year.
Offense Can Turn Heads
Turn the clock forward 24 years to the 2022 season. Falcons coming into the season with a similar record as 1997. They were 7-10 in 2021, NFL now plays 17 regular season games, not 16 anymore. They are uncertain at quarterback, as Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ritter fight it out in training camp. Head Coach Arthur Smith has already committed to Mariota starting week one. But as we all know, he could be sitting the bench in week four if he is not playing well. Falcons have a stud of a hybrid player, RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson, who is a beast trying to take down.
Not to forget that some have labeled will be the best tight end of all time, Kyle Pitts. Some say even might surpass Chiefs/Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez when it’s all said and done. The Falcons drafted BYU running back Tyler Allgeier who is a bruiser such as was Jamal Anderson. And if the offensive line can sure up and surprise everyone, the entire offense can be a force and play under the radar.
Defense Still An Open Book
This year’s defense is not a top defense, but they have players that want to play hard. Former Falcons’ linebacker Jessie Tuggle’s (who played in 1998 Super Bowl team) son, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, is the lone sole that defenses try to stop and play around. Then you have A.J. Terrell, who is this team’s Ray Buchanan. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees doesn’t believe this defense is soft, as other teams, fans, and media have claimed them to be over the last 10 years.
Pees is opening the playbook 100% and letting the players do the talking. Hoping for good results…but that is still an open book. Let’s check back at the end of the season to see if there are results on defense.
End of Season
Let’s check back at the end of the season if this team is anywhere like the 1997 team going into the 1998 Super Bowl team. Odds are not in the Falcons’ favor that they are. But that’s why they play the game to win, and anything can happen.