And so it was, the 2017 Atlanta Falcons couldn’t make it straightforward. A season of ups and downs will lead to this: a final act of a strange season. One quarter of the season to get the result they want. Given the manner in which the 2016 season ended, there isn’t likely a more fitting manner to end 2017. One final quarter to get the job done.
The 4th quarter is something of a touchy subject for those in the ATL. As mentioned, the 4th quarter housed the most painful stretch of football in the organisations history. In 2017, the 4th quarter has been something of a of strange plain to traverse. Outscoring their opposition 67-66, the Falcons have threatened to throw away leads in at least 4 games, and have lost games in 4 more. For a team that preaches “finishing”, this is not how a successful team finishes.
The manner in which this season has played out for the Falcons is pretty typical of how they play their games, actually. Scarily similar. A strong start (3-1 through first 4 games), a middling second quarter (1-3 in games 5 through 8), before putting themselves in a position to succeed (2-2 games 8 through 12). So what do they do now?
Atlanta currently sit at 7-5, with the most difficult strength of schedule of any side remaining. Furthermore, they will play their 3 NFC South rivals over the next 4 weeks. Starting on Thursday night, the Falcons will host the dynamic New Orleans Saints, then travel to Tampa Bay and New Orleans back to back, before seeing out the season at home to Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers.
It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
Of course, you may recall last season the Falcons sat at 7-5 at this stage last season. And, again, they sat at that record under eerily similar circumstances. A mistake riddled offensive display led to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Last season it was the red hot Kansas City Chiefs. This season, the red hot Minnesota Vikings.
Last season the Falcons rallied, found a way to win out, and secured the second seed in the NFC playoff hunt. While second seed might be a bit much this season, it’s not inconceivable that an 11-5 repeat could be on the cards. 11-5 would win a second successive NFC South banner, for the first time in franchise history. 11-5 would give them a shot.
The Here and Now
In order to achieve this, however, the Atlanta Falcons must finally put to rest an issue that has followed them for the better part of 10 months. The Falcons must overcome their fourth quarter jitters, not only to succeed in each of the remaining four games, but to achieve success in the season as a whole. The Falcons cannot allow for another fourth quarter collapse. If they do, they risk losing more than just a shot at a playoff run.
However, hold strong and they give themselves a shot. The new home hasn’t felt much like an advantage so far this season, but Atlanta knows how to turn up for a post-season jaunt. If the Falcons can avoid another fourth quarter collapse, they may well find themselves curving into form at just the right time. And then? Well, anything can happen.
And In The End…
And so it was, the 2017 Atlanta Falcons didn’t have it easy. A season of ups and downs have led to this: the final act of a strange season. One quarter of the season left to get the result they want. One final quarter to exorcise the spirits of 2016. One final quarter to get the job done. On to New Orleans!