Being nicknamed “Mattie Ice” for making clutch plays and icing his opponents, quarterback Matt Ryan‘s “Freeze-Gun” was nowhere to be found at the end of regulation against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game.
Instead of the Atlanta Falcons celebrating in front of their home crowd and going back to the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history, the Falcons became witnesses to a 17-point comeback and endured an embarrassing loss in a game where they had complete control.
As the Dirty Birds of Atlanta were shot down with criticism and labeled as the team who can’t win the big games, the Falcons will be looking avenging their disappointing exit in 2012 this season and will be focused and sharp in their first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on August 8, 2013.
Though it is too early in the year to make any true assessments on any given team, especially during the preseason, I expect the Falcons’ starters to be swift but deadly in their execution against the Bengals, and play every single game of this year with a chip on their shoulder.
Although the Bengals will be missing key players including their top receiver A.J. Green and defensive end Carlos Dunlap due to injuries, they are a formidable foe and should present a good challenge to a Falcons team that will be anxious to take the field.
Make no mistake about it, however — the 2012 Falcons knew how to soar though the sky, but the 2013 Falcons have discovered their talons and will be catching their prey with multiple deadly strikes, eager to rip through the hearts of their opponents.
During the offseason, coach Mike Smith has preached to his team on numerous occasions that they aren’t 10 yards from making it to the Super Bowl, but that they are 100 yards away from it and will need to prove that they belong there. Many players, however, will use that memory to avenge their loss.
While most fans know that the Falcons’ defense is their biggest weakness, it was their dynamic offense that failed them when they needed it the most. With the Falcons’ bringing back most of their offensive personnel from 2012, expect the first-team offense to be lightning-quick, yet thunderous as they bring down the hammer.
On the very first possession, expect the Falcons’ offense to take some early shots downfield in hopes of spreading the opposing defense wide and far. Just like a falcon who scouts the area before attacking its prey with its keen eyesight, Ryan will try to do the same and pick his spots in attacking the the Bengals’ defense.
Most people believe in the cliche that it takes time to heal certain wounds, but for the Falcons, this cliche doesn’t exist. In time, the Falcons have used their experience as motivation and instead of trying to “heal”, the Falcons have hardened their hearts.
The 2013 NFL preseason is all but here, and the Falcons have waited months to get back into action to prove that they have what it takes to win a Super Bowl ring. The Falcons will not be the tamed bird we have grown accustomed to since 2008, nor will it be the wild bird from when Michael Vick ran the team to the ground … literally.
Instead, expect the Falcons to be a focused bird with one goal in mind: winning the Super Bowl.