FLOWERY BRANCH – Robert Alford said he knew all along the Falcons were good enough to be where they are today (and beyond). Which, if true, puts him one up on every near-sighted sports writer/blogger with a working laptop, the entire Las Vegas Strip and, really, just about the whole NFL-watching world.
Which also means he is wasting his time playing cornerback for the Falcons. He immediately should be drafted into military intelligence. Or, at the very least, set up a palm-reading booth at the state fair.
Asked this week at what point in the season could he tell this team was headed for big things, Alford answered, “I’ve been knowing that since training camp. Just going out there being with those guys each and every day and just seeing the grind they put in each and every day. We knew that we had the talent. We knew we had the grit to make it to the Super Bowl. It was up to us to have that mentality and go out there and execute and play our style of ball.”
As handy as that information may have been in, say, late August, we nevertheless stand here today pleased that all this was so unpredictable.
The best parties are the surprise ones. The best kind of money is found money, as in, “I didn’t even know I had a Great Aunt Gussie until the probate attorney called.” Some of the best nights you ever had in your life are those that jumped the rails and took the unexpected path.
And that is one of the most endearing traits of this Falcons season: just how wonderfully unforeseen it all has been.
In the Falcons’ last run to a NFC Championship game – not so long ago, 2012 – they were cresting during the best of times under Mike Smith. Something good was fully expected, like a dividend from a blue-chip stock.
That was the third consecutive season in which the Falcons had made the postseason. In contrast, these Falcons missed the playoffs the three seasons before 2016.
That was a team which had won 23 games in the two seasons leading to its conference championship run. This is a team which won only 18 games the previous three seasons.
We came to the doorstep of this Falcons season with no clear idea what was to greet us. Was the team’s motivational speaker/coach really the right guy for this turnaround? How many years would it take the young defense to grow its competitive facial hair? Did we really trust the kudzu-like tangle that is the Falcons management organizational chart?
And maybe we did underrate the volatility of the NFL marketplace, where teams move up and down the standings almost by whim.
So, how far can the Falcons ride this wave?
I don’t know.
Just surprise us.