Eight years later, the Packers must come to Mr. Blank’s house

That happy night in Green Bay: Blank, Vick and Sonny Perdue. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That giddy night in Green Bay: Blank, Vick and Sonny Perdue. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Eight years ago, the rookie owner saw his sixth-seeded team upset Green Bay at Lambeau Field on a snowy Saturday night. This Saturday night, Green Bay will play here as the lower seed, as an underdog seeking to unseat a member of the NFL’s upper crust. Because that’s what Arthur Blank’s Falcons have become.

“We’re a relevant team in the NFL now,” Blank said this week. “This is an important team in the NFL.”

Note that Blank chose to use one word twice — “team.”

On the night of Jan. 4, 2003, the emphasis wasn’t so much on the collective as an individual. That famous upset was seen as a function of Michael Vick, described in the fifth paragraph of the Associated Press game report as “the 22-year-old improvisational genius.” But Vick would preside over only one more playoff victory as a Falcon, and he took his final snap for this franchise on Dec. 31, 2006.

Yet here the Falcons sit, the reversals of losing Vick and Bobby Petrino, head coach for all of 13 games, having been rendered a long-ago memory. They were a playoff team in 2008, a winning team in 2009, the class of the NFC this season. These Falcons, simply put, are constructed better than any Falcons have ever been.

Said Blank: “This team reflects Thomas [Dimitroff, the general manager] and Smitty [coach Mike Smith]. This team is very balanced — No. 5 in both offense [points scored] and defense [points yielded] and last in penalties. That’s not a formula for glamorous, but it is a formula for success.”

Back to January 2003: Vick controlled that game in Green Bay and the Falcons became the first visitor to beat the Packers in a playoff game; a week later, the Eagles controlled Vick on a blustery night in Philadelphia and won by two touchdowns. Those Falcons had but one way to win, and that way was tied to No. 7. These Falcons have many ways.

“We’re more balanced,” Blank said. “There’s not a single player who’s the focus. Michael was extremely talented, and win, lose or draw there were people who’d come to watch him play.”

Also this: “I’m thrilled about this year, but also beyond this year — and not just because of our quarterback Matt Ryan. We’re positioned for success for a very long time.”

Blank’s first season as owner was giddy beyond all expectation: He bought the team in February 2002, saw Vick rise from newly promoted starter to Pro Bowl quarterback, saw his team finish 9-6-1 but back into the playoffs when New Orleans lost at home to Carolina on the regular season’s final day. Then the Falcons went to Wisconsin and won, and in July 2003 the team arrived for training camp in Greenville, S.C., widely tipped as a Super Bowl team.

Then Vick broke his leg against Baltimore in the third preseason game, which undid the 2003 season, which led Blank to fire Dan Reeves and hire Jim Mora, who led the Falcons to the NFC title game — also in Philadelphia, also a comprehensive loss — before running out of ideas. So Blank fired Mora and hired Petrino, and by the shank of 2007 this team had become an object of pity: Quarterback in jail, coach in Arkansas.

The Falcons weren’t seeking excellence when they went out hunting a new GM and a new coach in January 2008 — they were hoping for a shred of credibility. They found Dimitroff via webcam and Smith via a series of interviews at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and now Blank’s beloved franchise appears built to last. Which beats the heck out of being built to finish last.

First things first, however: The Packers in another playoff game. Who’s Blank picking? The Pack by a touchdown? “Yeah, right,” he said, unappreciative of the insolence.

Then: “We’re certainly in a better position [as opposed to eight years ago, when the Falcons, as the No. 6 seed, couldn't play a home game] … We’re set up to have a chance to do well. That said, we’re playing a team that travels very well.”

Eight years ago, the Falcons had to go play in the snow to announce themselves to the NFL. This time the road to the Super Bowl leads through Atlanta — where as we know it never ever snows.

By Mark Bradley

238 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

January 14th, 2011
10:07 am

First on Friday!!

rawdawg

January 14th, 2011
10:07 am

rawdawg

January 14th, 2011
10:08 am

Buck Commander

January 14th, 2011
10:08 am

rawdawg, come out and play. The weathers fine.

THE LAST THUG OF KRYPTON

January 14th, 2011
10:09 am

WHEN MATT RYAN THROWS THIS GAME AWAY TOMORROW NIGHT YOU HATERS WILL BE WISHING MIKE VICK WAS BACK HERE TO LEAD THE FALCONS TO VICK-TORY!

PLEASE BELIEVE THAT!

Mark Bradley

January 14th, 2011
10:09 am

Buck Commander by a nose over rawdawg. Kudos in a classic “first” finish.

Buck Commander

January 14th, 2011
10:10 am

Look Mark, rawdawg is back and in second place where he belongs.

chewyandrw

January 14th, 2011
10:10 am

One thing man…I went to a game in Green Bay the year after Atlanta had gone up there and put them out…I wore Falcons gear bc the Packers were playing the Eagles and I wanted to support the Birds. I caught so much crap and hell for that. We need to return the favor in a non-physical way to those who are coming to watch the Packers. We need the amazing fanbase that the Packers have in GB down here in Atlanta.

PMC

January 14th, 2011
10:18 am

We’re not “relevant” yet. Relevance comes with winning games like this one routinely.

Relevance comes over time, it comes from beating good teams in the playoffs. All we can do is hope for more of that.

Herschel Talker

January 14th, 2011
10:22 am

MB:

We’re gonna get it done this weekend!!! What say you on the prediction for the game?

HT

dean

January 14th, 2011
10:22 am

I’d like to see another blocked punt to start the firestorm on GB.

Lasting memory of that game: Fox sports gal tells Vick, “Green Bay has never lost a home playoff game in their history.”, Vick: “I guess we’ll go out and try to make history.” He trotted off. And we did.

Hate him or love him, he had a helluva game that night.

dean

January 14th, 2011
10:23 am

I’d like to see another blocked punt to start the firestorm.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

January 14th, 2011
10:25 am

is sonny perdue coming to the game anybody know ?

Dr. Warren

January 14th, 2011
10:26 am

Ryan or Rodgers? Who would you take as your qb in a playoff game? Gotta say Rodgers right now, but I’ll take our running back and our receivers. It’s gonna be a tough one, and let’s hope Gonzalez didn’t bring the 13-3 one-and-out curse from KC.

Ted M

January 14th, 2011
10:27 am

Who’s Blank picking? The Pack by a touchdown? “Yeah, right,” he said, unappreciative of the insolence. That’s pretty funny.

So Mark is blog the result of one on one interview you had with Blank?

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:28 am

Simple – Punch them in the mouth in the 1st quarter. They’ll be licking their wounds the rest of the game

Buck Commander

January 14th, 2011
10:29 am

Sonny is going ice fishing this weekend.

Ted M

January 14th, 2011
10:29 am

oops, So Mark is “this” blog.

I ran out of coffee 2 days ago. I am so looking forward to that next cup.

RobbE33

January 14th, 2011
10:29 am

Today’s relevance becomes tomorrow’s respect if the Falcons can take the next step ahead of them. Only with a Super bowl can they ever hope to silence the “Yeah, buts.”
I am so thankful that Thomas and Smitty have collected a team built on character and intelligence. Thank you, Arthur! We’ll do our best to repay you in kind.

FALCONS SORRY

January 14th, 2011
10:31 am

AUTHUR BLANK! YOU MADE THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU STAB MIKE IN THE BACK! HE WAS LIKE A SON TO YOU! AND YOU BETRAY HIM FOR YOUR SORRY ILL LEGITMATE SON MATTY HOPELESS! MIKE GAVE YOU THE BEST MEMORY OF YOUR LIFE BLANK! THEN YOU TOSS HIM AWAY LIKE TRASH! YOU ARE THE ONE THAT TRASH BLANK! AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET BURN FOR PLAYING WITH FIRE WHEN YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER! YOU COULD HAVE CONKERED THE WORLD WITH MIKE BLANK! THE WORLD! BUT YOU THREW IT ALL AWAY JUST TO GET YOUR PRETTY POSTER BOY QB THAT DO ESPN COMERCIAL! WHEN CRYIN RYAN COST US THE GAME AGAINST THE PACKER YOU WILL BE DOWN ON YOUR KNEEZ LIKE MONICA LOU WHISKY TRYING TO GET MV THE MAN TO COME BACK AND SAVE YOUR FRANCHISE AND FROM GOING BROKE! WHERE YOUR WALLET AT! BETTER RUN GO TO YOUR SORRY HO DEPOT AND GET YOU SOME GARDEN KNEE PAD BLANK! DONT SLIP ON FALL ON NO ICE RUNNING TO TH CASH REGSTER BLANK!

Alex

January 14th, 2011
10:31 am

Last sentence=funny stuff

Ted M

January 14th, 2011
10:32 am

This game is a toss up. I’m worried for the Falcons. Its gonna be real fun to watch though.

Buck Commander

January 14th, 2011
10:33 am

Well, that gave me a headache.

Ted M

January 14th, 2011
10:37 am

I hope the Falcons open up the offense. They should use 10 yard passes to Gonzo and 20 yard passes to White to open up the running game for Turner. I hope 7 of the first 8 plays are passes.

Ted M

January 14th, 2011
10:38 am

I’ve learned to skip all caps posts.

dean

January 14th, 2011
10:40 am

FalconsSorry again does not fail to disappoint with his Criminal Worship.

DawginLex

January 14th, 2011
10:43 am

Falcons sorry=MV7

Still looking for Vick in ATL this weeekend?

He might be there, if he BOUGHT A TICKET TO WATCH THE WINNERS PLAY.

Go away Troll Boy, your Vick ghetto we are the world representing thug trash ain’t welcome here anymore.

go play with your dog. If you still have one.

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:44 am

Mark- You just don’t seem very confident in the Falcon’s ability to win this game. Sure Aaron Rodgers is better than Matt Ryan but as a team the Falcons are much healthier (Pack without Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant) and much more balanced. If Brees threw for 400 yards and couldn’t win without a running game and a good defense against Seattle, I just don’t see the Pack coming into the Dome and beating the well rested Falcons anymore than those 03 Falcons going into Philly and beating the demonstrably better Eagles

P Rose

January 14th, 2011
10:45 am

I’m glad fools like FALCONS SORRY are horny for Mike Vick instead of being Falcons fans. Going to the Dome is much more enjoyable without drooling psychotics like this nut trolling the stands.

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:46 am

Falcons Sorry- Your stream of consciousness has never had any fish in it

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:47 am

I wouldn’t trade 20-2 Matt Ryan at home for 4x MV7’s

NFL FAN

January 14th, 2011
10:48 am

Falcons Sorry obviously is need of english and grammar classes! Also, your “boy” mike is a mass murdering, gangland hood who brought down a dark cloud over the Falcons franchise for his heinous crimes. Mr. Blank did the right thing in dropping his sorry ass! Vick still can’t win a playoff game and has shown once again this year that it is all about him and not a “team”. He was a prime reason the Eagles lost to the Packers; they should have won that game even with Akers missed FG’s but “mike” tried to be the man and couldn’t finish. Your post sounds like you’re the one who owns the knee pads and gets down for your “boy” mike! Watch out for his herpes, Falcons Sorry! Or, do you own a Ron Mexico jersey, too! Keep loving your hoodlums, Falcons Sorry, and keep following losers!

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:50 am

Falcons are a class and model NFL organization now unlike those ghetto team days Falcons Sorry is so fond of.

DawginLex

January 14th, 2011
10:50 am

Falcons sorry=MV7

Still looking for Vick in ATL this weeekend?

He might be there, if he BOUGHT A TICKET TO WATCH THE WINNERS PLAY.

Go away Troll Boy, your Vick ghetto we are the world representing thug trash ain’t welcome here anymore.

go play with your dog. If you still have one.

Hey ghetto boy!!!!!!!!
CAN YOU READ DIS??????????

LOSER

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
10:52 am

Good logic Ted M- All caps posts are people that are starving for attention.

PMC

January 14th, 2011
10:54 am

Every single Falcons blog devolves….. It’s almost not worth reading anymore.

Come on guys, focus on the present and what’s right with the world.

Smiling Jack

January 14th, 2011
10:57 am

Could we please have a moratorium on ignorance, stupidity, racism and criminal worship until after the Super Bowl? Please!!! Go Falcons! Beat the cheese out of the Pack!

nola falcon fan

January 14th, 2011
11:01 am

MB – you blogging live from the game? And any truth the rumor that ESPN even favors Green Bay snow storms over ATL snow? Dang nat’l media gives us no love

JohnHatINmacon

January 14th, 2011
11:03 am

The Falcons have to pressure Rodgers, if they rush 3or4 its not going to stop the run or the pass, last game even when we had good coverage Rodgers would find a running lane and pick up 1st downs. They have to get him on the ground, if we give up a big play or two so be it. A sack fumble will more than make up for it. Facons by 10!! The road to Dallas gos thru Georgia!!

Glenn In Florida

January 14th, 2011
11:03 am

Does Falcons Sorry have a sever mental problem? Mr. Vick lost last game, right? He also was about to get kicked out of Atlanta, before the Snoopy incident, because of his play. One game he looks like the best who ever played. The next he looks like he never played the game before. His INT in the 4th qtr cost the Eagles the game, so what is Falcon Sorry whining about? Also like so many have said before, “You get respect when you actually do something.” There are lots and lots of teams who make the playoffs, there are much fewer that bring home the SB Trophy. You want respect, you win a SB Title. Didn’t anyone watch what happened in Saint Land last year? You win it all and the Falcons will be all over TV and ESPN. Teams that use the “we don’t get respect” line, need to, because deep down, they don’t think they can win. Saturday we will see.

Reid Adair

January 14th, 2011
11:04 am

That was a great game at Lambeau Field and a proud moment for Falcons fans. But now, eight years later, things are different. Very different.

Sports Review

January 14th, 2011
11:05 am

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Hankie Aron

January 14th, 2011
11:10 am

Yep completely different Reid.

Coach Mike Smith is good.

January 14th, 2011
11:12 am

`
Only three games to go = Super Bowl Champions.

SimpleDawg

January 14th, 2011
11:15 am

Falcon Sorry is very adept at pushing people’s buttons. He’s also very good at the misuse of the King’s English, but not so much that we can’t figure it out.

I’m not sure if he’s a Vick lover, a Ryan hater, a guy with a need for attention, or merely a person who just likes to needle the populace for his own reading pleasure.

In any case, he’s a sick puppy…….HaHaHa.

vmguru

January 14th, 2011
11:22 am

Some people talk about the past, some people live in the past, some people can’t get past the past, and some are just past tense!

Go Falcons!

(Un-) Fair weather fan

January 14th, 2011
11:23 am

Mark, thought you might be interested in this little tidbit from the LA Times, another sign of the utter lack of respect this team is getting, still:

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-erskine-20110114,0,1515177.column

In Atlanta, Saturday’s forecast calls for temps in the 40s and a 70% chance of grits.

No matter the weather, 70,000 or so raving lunatics will show up at each venue, some of them carrying torches. Those are the reasonable ones. Be very wary of the others.

The lone indoor game is in Atlanta, where they play in one of those awful sealed tombs that remind me of Indian casinos. The only thing making that game worthy of your precious time is the Packers of Green Bay. By the way, if anybody should be playing in the snow, it is those guys. Indoor football is to the Packers what Cheez Whiz is to a pungent wheel of Wisconsin scamorze.

I am a visionary of the first rank, and foresee the eventual matchup of the Green Bay Packing Co. against the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field the following week. Bears-Packers for the NFC title? Is epic a verb? Is now. Because a matchup of such blood rivals could out-epic the Super Bowl.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 14th, 2011
11:24 am

This franchise has become relevant again with sustained regular season success. LOL- yes this franchise, how funny is it thatthe Flaocns and success can still be used after all these years. Forget the Vick years, what about the Fulton County Stadium Falcons! Those where lean years. I am just enjoying the moment b/c in sports they do not last forever.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 14th, 2011
11:25 am

wow- lost the keys I guess on Falcons, at one point.

vmguru

January 14th, 2011
11:27 am

Lowcountry, those of us who were Braves fans in the 70’s and 80’s never guessed the Braves would become relevant but they sure did. It will be nice to see the Falcons attain the same type of relevance.