The Falcons enter the 2012 season as the favorites to emerge from the NFC South and to post their fifth winning season in a row. While the team is on an unprecedented run of success right now, it still has to make that next leap to truly become a Super Bowl contender. As Mr. Jackson says in the new Rise Up commercial, “They don’t give out participation trophies, not in this league.”
But what do the Falcons really need to do this season to get past the first round of the playoffs?
Using Samuel L. Jackson as our spirit guide, we’re going to explore the answer to that question and more, as explained through his greatest movie quotes.
“You refer to the prophecy of The One, who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this boy?” – Mace Windu
For the Falcons’ fans, who want to know if Matt Ryan truly is The One. This will be his fifth year in the league. His first four seasons have produced 43 wins, but none in the postseason.
Expert opinion is fairly consistent on Matty Ice: he’s good, but not great. Where the divide comes is when you ask if he has the ability to win playoff games for this franchise. This question has mainly been used as the proverbial softball for the talking heads on ESPN, so that in response they can shout, “Matt Ryan just can not win playoff games in the National Football League! He is not Elite! He doesn’t have the heart of Tim Tebow, the brain of Peyton Manning or the
????? tenacity of Mark Sanchez. He just is not clutch! Check out my enormous windsor knot!”
“Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!” – Snakes On a Plane
Thanks, Sam, for expressing my frustrations in a way that only you could. I am fucking tired of hearing that Matt Ryan can’t win in the playoffs because he isn’t “Elite,” whatever that means. Look, Eli Manning just won his second Super Bowl. The same Eli Manning who, despite that first Super Bowl ring, faced the exact same narrative up until he downed the mighty Patriots for a second time. Steven Godfrey of SB Nation pretty much nailed it when he detailed the NFL’s problem with merely being good.
Ask most NFL experts (this summer, at least) what the difference between Manning and Ryan is and the answer is almost always, “Well, Eli knows how to win, he has two Super Bowls.” Great, thanks so much for your help. The narrative being written about why Matt Ryan can’t win is because he hasn’t, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Want to know another quarterback who lost his first three playoff games? Peyton Manning. Suck it.
If there was a legitimate criticism of Ryan other than “He’s not clutch,” then I would listen, but there really isn’t another major flaw in his game. He isn’t great at any one skill, but he isn’t below average in any either. He is a good quarterback who, with a good team, can and will win playoff games.
“How’s it taste motherfucker?” – Chappelle’s Show
What I hope Matt Ryan can say to all those critics after he wins a Super Bowl this year. Hopefully with some inspired taunting and suggestive pelvic thrusts at the other team’s cheerleaders.
“Yes, they deserved to die! I hope they burn in hell!” – A Time To Kill
Let’s change it up a little bit. Yeah, this one is going to Sean Payton, Jonathan Vilma, et. al. Screw the Saints.
“If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions.” – Pulp Fiction
Back to reality. The two scary questions are the same ones as last year: Will the offensive line protect Matty Ice, and can the defense protect Matty Ice’s leads?
The answer to each is scary, because the answer is that we just don’t know. Thus, the fate of the season likely rests along the offensive and defensive lines.
The Falcons have a relatively weak division this year, and should win at least nine games. The playoffs look likely, barring a major collapse or the Panthers arriving two years earlier than we expect them to. Mike Smith needs to spend the season building depth along both lines with a large rotation because our first round (and subsequent) playoff game(s) will come down to protecting our quarterback and harassing the other teams’.
“Does he look like a bitch?” – Pulp Fiction
“Just ’cause you pour syrup on something doesn’t make it pancakes!” – Juice
As much as we want to pretend that we’re gonna go Mike Leach on the NFC South and throw the ball 50 times a game, we shouldn’t forget what this team is at its core. Yes we have a great collection of receivers and a very good quarterback. We should throw the ball more than running it this year (that’s going to be weird to watch) but don’t buy into the hype that we’re going to be a no-huddle spread offense. Michael Turner is still going to score more touchdowns than any of the receivers, and the power run game will be strong. Jacquizz Rodgers should get utilized more as Mike Smith looks to limit Turner’s touches to preserve his health. Just because we’re throwing the ball more doesn’t mean we’re going to an Air-Raid offense. We already had June Jones once, we don’t need to relive that painful part of our past.
This is a new Falcons franchise, one that is completely different from the pre-Ryan/Smith/Dimitroff years. All that’s left is to truly take the next step. The Julio Jones trade may have been the catalyst to this team truly being a contender, but it needs to believe in itself, and the power that it can unleash.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Coach Carter
Ok, so he didn’t actually say this line, but it still rings true. The stench of mediocrity hangs over this franchise. It is good, after 50 years of being terrible, and all it needs is to take the next step into being great. Dimitroff and Smith can’t be afraid to try and take this team to new levels because it might not work. It’s time to throw caution to the wind. It’s time to Rise Up.
“There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.” Now… I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. See, now I’m thinking: maybe it means you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here… he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd. - Pulp Fiction
Matt Ryan is the tyranny of men, but he’s trying real hard to be our shepherd.