Atlanta Falcons Still Living With Ghosts Of Kyle Shanahan & Super Bowl 51

Atlanta Falcons, Dan Quinn (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, Dan Quinn (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After their dominant win last Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons will go on the road for a game with the San Francisco 49ers. The game on Sunday will be a reunion when Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan get to face off against their once offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan.

Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan, and the Atlanta Falcons, for the most part, will have their careers defined through the lens of Super Bowl 51. Fair or not, when historians look back to revisit Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan’s careers’, that will be the first line in most of what you will find. Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, and scapegoat around Atlanta, moved on to San Francisco and has done a good job of leaving the stink of Super Bowl 51 in the past. Unfortunately, Atlanta can’t distance themselves from that stink.

The San Francisco 49ers, at 11-2, currently hold the lead for the top seed in the NFC. After their topsy turvy win over the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers cemented themselves as the team to beat in the NFC. Despite the stellar season the 49ers are having, the NFC West is still not locked down. The Seattle Seahawks, at 10-3, still have an outside chance of taking the NFC West from the 49ers. The 49ers have one more game against the Seahawks in the last week of the season, so the 49ers will be pushing hard to win the rest of their games to assure the top overall seed in the NFC and NFC West title.

On the other side of the field, the Atlanta Falcons are limping to the end of the season. After the 1-7 start, the Falcons have righted the ship, somewhat, winning three of their last five games. While the Falcons are unlikely to win this week in San Francisco, the Falcons have a chance to finish the year at 5-11 or 6-10. If the Falcons can find a way to win this Sunday, Quinn could start to feel a lot more secure about his job security. Don’t expect the Falcons to win this week, however.

The Falcons will need to focus on protecting Matt Ryan this Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers are 3rd in the NFL in sacks with 45. Led by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, the 49ers boast a fearsome defensive front that could give the Falcons all kinds of trouble on Sunday. The 49ers are built on a solid defense which is accustomed to getting to the quarterback. The Falcons young offensive line will have to work hard to keep Ryan upright, similar to last week against Carolina when the Falcons only gave up one sack.

On the other side of the ball for the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan has built a fast and dynamic offense led by Jimmy Garapolo. A stable of reliable running backs provides the support and balance to the 49ers offense that has provided enough all season to lead their team to the slew of victories. The Falcons defense will have their hands full all day trying to keep up with the 49ers offense.

The Atlanta Falcons have looked like a better, more competent team than the team that started the first eight weeks of the season. Despite the upturn, the Falcons still have little to no hope in Sunday’s game. Even if the Falcons put their best game together, it’s still likely they’ll be outclassed by the much superior 49ers. It’s no shot at the Falcons to say Kyle Shanahan has built a better foundation in San Francisco than Dan Quinn has in Atlanta in his time without Shanahan. It’s the reason Shanahan is likely to get his team to the Super Bowl while Dan Quinn could get searching for a new job.