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NFL Playoffs, Packers Vs. Falcons: Let Me Tell You 'Bout Your Blood

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Decades of bad history can't be erased by months of competence.

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Four dogs in the house for our viewing party, but only one actually lives there. People came over, and they brought their dogs. That's just something people do. Which meant one-fourth of our manpower had to be devoted at all times to keeping the dogs from swallowing chicken bones and humping each other and fighting over the right to swallow chicken bones. Because that's the kind of stuff dogs do, even good dogs with good owners, no matter how much time and attention you put in.

Dogs always end up dogs.

Atlanta Falcons fans 25 years of age or less: now you know. You spent the past week and much of the regular season fuming about ESPN and Trent Dilfer and Peter King and the lack of respect afforded your team. You got frustrated when older fans didn't take the slights personally or even dared to doubt the team themselves. You didn't know what was coming.

But now you're in. This was your initiation. You've loved this team, and God bless you for it, but now you're officially a Falcons fan forever, if you're still down, you maniac. It's not too late to become a Panthers fan.

Darnell Dockett, 2005, 2004, Eugene Robinson, 1995, 1991, "Too Tall" Jones, 1978, 1977. I could go on and on and on. I don't want to hear the words same ole Falcons. "Same ole Falcons." It's like I think it would be bad for recruiting to hear those words, even though I really, really want to say them myself, and recruiting isn't relevant here anyway. I'm OK with Losersville, though.

We thought we thought it was different this time. We thought we'd talked ourselves into it. Rise up. We believed we'd turned the corner. A good owner, general manager, head coach, and quarterback. That's what it takes, right? No arrests, no penalties, no turnovers. Clean livin'. Boring, winning football. New South and a new day. We're doing it right, aren't we? Structure. The process. The foundation. The Dome. You make your own luck. 

Tell me how it's different now, how this data point is at all distinct from 2003, 1981, or 1999. I can't articulate the difference between this and the bleeding rest of this franchise's history, even though I know it's there. We'll probably have a pretty good regular season next year. That's a rare sentiment for the Falcons fan to have, and it's merited, and we should treasure that. God, how easy must it be to be a fan of the Steelers?

A close loss? That would've been fine. The Packers might be the NFL's best team, which I've been saying for months now. A 13-4 season, with all four of those losses coming to playoff teams, is progress no matter where your franchise has come from, especially if your franchise has come from a bid in USP Leavenworth solitary for forcing dogs to fight each other.

But a 27-point loss that could've been 40 if Aaron Rodgers hadn't gotten bored? We'll be pissed off all offseason, so whoever we get in week one next year better watch out? Is that the upside?

The wish list was: maybe a replacement offensive lineman, maybe a pass rusher, maybe a wide receiver. Now it's hard to think of positions that shouldn't be addressed in one way or another, short of quarterback, fullback, defensive tackle, and middle linebacker. This team can't win if it makes mistakes. That doesn't apply to the Packers, Saints, Colts, Steelers ... those teams can overcome mistakes and win. This team needs playmakers for the days when perfect ain't happening.

This team has further to go than we'd like, but it's still further along than it should be. But three years of patience and progress and process don't feel like they added up to much of anything on a night that felt like Jim Mora and Jeff George and all the ghosts of Falcons past were shambling forth to trollface the Atlanta faithful on national television.

Things get out of hand sometimes. You've made a lot of fans question the entire operation tonight, not that that's the right thing to do by any means. This team has fans who will endure absolutely everything, and fans who will turn their attention away from SEC football only after six-game Falcons winning streaks. You can't possibly shake yourself free of the former, but you need the latter too. Tonight you lost a whole lot of the latter, for a while at least. You know Atlanta. Things get ouf of hand sometimes.

After the second- or third-best regular season in franchise history, we're right back where we were 12 months ago. This team is going to be pretty good next year. I still believe this is the team that will change Atlanta pro sports. God knows they tried. I'd hoped they could do it next year, if not this year.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.