Ghosts of Super Bowl 51 still haunt the Atlanta Falcons

It’s Week 5 of the NFL season and the writing is already on the wall for a select few of NFL franchises. Among them is the Atlanta Falcons. After a disappointing 24-10 home loss to the middling Tennessee Titans last Sunday, the Falcons are facing an uphill battle in a tough NFC South to qualify for the postseason.

As is the case for the 31 other NFL franchises, when things go wrong it’s time to assess the quarterback position. So far this season, former NFL MVP Matt Ryan has thrown for 1325 yards, 8 touchdowns and a troubling 6 interceptions.

Last season Ryan threw 35 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. This offseason, Dan Quinn was forced to let go of much of his backroom staff, among them was former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian was tasked with emulating or even improving upon Kyle Shanahan’s record breaking offence that led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in February of 2017 (something a lot of NFL coaches would not be able to do.) Sarkisian wasn’t up to the task and harshly let go this past summer.

To replace Sarkisian, the Falcons brought in Dirk Koetter. The man who was run out of Tampa Bay for miserably failing to reach the playoffs with a young, exciting team. Whether or not Koetter is an upgrade on Sarkisian remains to be seen, however, Ryan’s rough start is not a good indication of things to come.

One of the main reasons for Ryan’s struggles is the lacklustre run game. With this new wave of play-action focused offences sweeping the league, many offensive coordinators feel the need to ‘establish the run game’. This results in predictable run plays on first down for a maximum of 3 yards. The main focus of the play-action game is to not establish the run – it is to achieve clear and pre-established reads for the quarterback. Against the Titans, running back Devonta Freeman ran 12 times for 28 yards with an average of 2.3 rushing yards per attempt. Rough.

Shanahan’s Hangover

This year on offence the hallmarks of Shanahan’s time in Atlanta still remain. The Falcons run a tonne of play-action from under-centre. Every Sunday if you watch the Falcons you’ll see Matt Ryan rolling out and hitting Julio Jones on a comeback route for 20-40 yards. But there’s something deeper going wrong with the Falcons. More psychological.

The Falcons have really failed to recover from the humiliating ’28-3′ loss in Super Bowl 51. Even with one of the most talented offences in the NFL, time and time again the Falcons have failed to get it done. The ghosts of Super Bowl 51 still haunt the Atlanta Falcons, this Halloween season this team is in need of an exorcism. No team is afraid to enter the Super Dome. Matt Ryan himself projects apathy, it constantly seems that Ryan is reliving the ending moments of Super Bowl 51, like a Korean War veteran.

Julio Jones is on this team and they still can’t muster any other emotion when watching them but ‘meh’.


Matt Ryan is not at fault for the Falcons recent troubles. However, this franchise is in dire need of letting old ghosts go. The most likely solution will be a full coach clear out come ‘black Monday’ this January. With a tough schedule ahead playing the Texans, Seahawks, Rams, Saints x2, Panthers x2 and 49ers, time has appeared to run out for Dan Quinn.

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About Matthew Bowen 115 Articles
Matthew is an MA history student at Swansea University. He is an avid supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @MatthewJBowen7

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