Each week, in conjunction with Breda Pest Management, we’ll ask “What’s bugging you?” in the world of sports. There’s usually plenty to gripe about.
Except… the Atlanta sports scene is thriving. The Hawks have won 12 of their last 15 games and sit one game behind the two-seed Raptors in the Eastern Conference and just four games behind lead-dog Cleveland. Oh, and there’s a Super Bowl to prepare for as your Falcons shredded the Packers (pun intended) in the NFC title game.
Atlanta is headed to Houston to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5. But just like last week with Green Bay, the Falcons seem to be the secondary story line at the national level.
We’re easy to find and always thought-provoking. And because we’re partnering with the fine folks over at Breda Pest Management, it’s obvious we’ll be able to find a remedy for what’s pestering you.
While most fans took it very personally when the national media showered Green Bay with tons of love leading up to the NFC Championship Game, there are now a handful that feel flying under the radar into Super Bowl LI might be best.
It’s next to impossible to be pitted against the Patriots and not be overlooked. Atlanta has made 13 trips to the playoffs in its history as a franchise. New England’s made 13 trips to the AFC Conference Championship Game since 1985. The Falcons are making just their second Super-Bowl appearance ever. Tom Brady wears twice as many Super-Bowl rings.
For all the David vs. Goliath comparisons to make, the Patriots are just three-point favorites in the big game. That’s not a huge number when you think of how different these two franchises look on the charts of success.
But the Super Bowl isn’t played on charts and history has nothing to do with the outcome. The Falcons seem fine entering the biggest stage in football with the spotlight aimed directly at their opponent.
It sure seems that way, Lamar, and it’s been that way throughout the playoffs for the Falcons. And while the city of Atlanta and a ton of Falcons fans scream ‘pay attention to us,’ the team works out up in Flowery Branch exactly like it’s Friday of Week 7.
Dan Quinn has done a fabulous job at keeping exterior noise outside of the Falcons’ practice facility. The only difference in preparation for this game is that fact that the media corps sits at about 100 strong instead of the normal 20.
The Falcons surely don’t feel like it’s them versus the world, but I understand the sentiment from fans. National sports-media outlets have three New England articles for every one Atlanta bit. For every mention of Matt Ryan and his potential MVP award, there are four photos of Tom Brady and his four rings or six mentions of his six trips to the big game.
If the Falcons win Super Bowl LI, look at what they’ll have done prior. They swept New Orleans, the team’s fiercest rival in the final regular-season game in the Georgia Dome ever. The Falcons hosted Seattle and sent the Seahawks home after a stern and swift butt-kicking. Then Atlanta was handing a gift – a home NFC title game – and superbly overmatched the Packers to advance to the Super Bowl.
If the Falcons win Super Bowl LI, they’ll have taken down two of the hottest teams in football (Green Bay and New England) and four of the best quarterbacks on the planet. Speaking of Drew Brees, Russel Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Brady, those passers own a combined seven Super-Bowl titles.
I spent a little time above talking about how much Quinn is working to keep outside noise at bay, he truly is. When he’s unable to do so, Dwight Freeney, Courtney Upshaw, Philip Wheeler and Dashon Goldson have combined to play in five Super Bowls. That’s not a great deal of big-game experience, but it’s knowledge that can be handed down from the player level to inspire or reign in the younger guys.
And while Quinn’s defense, Kyle Shanahan’s offense, the maturation of the rookies, the result of Matt Ryan’s offseason work, the record-setting scoring and everything else that’s gone just right enough to push the Falcons to this point, the one thing every single player in Atlanta’s locker room will say is the real reason we’re talking Houston right now instead of the NFL draft is the brotherhood that’s brought this team together.
Or, as the term is frequently uttered… “Brothership.”
What does “brothership” mean? Quinn explained:
“It came from Patrick DiMarco and he was caught in between this friendship that we have and this brotherhood that we have. So in a moment he was bringing the team up and he said ‘this is awesome to a part of this brothership’ and he was kind of just caught between two words. So like most things, we just made it right up right there and that’s where it kind of took shape. That is 100 percent Patrick DiMarco and oftentimes we’ll break the team down that way just in honor of him. Two words mixed into one.”