When I left the Georgia Dome on Jan. 15, 2005 just after the Falcons picked apart the St. Louis Rams 45-15, it was a pretty routine exit. The franchise had a great future with quarterback Michael Vick, and the multiple postseason victories in the first few seasons of his career pointed to a steady improvement. We’d have plenty of postseason parties to anticipate in the Dome.
I never would have guessed it would take eight years to experience that feeling again as a Falcons fan. And if that seemed like a lifetime, imagine what Atlanta’s tight end Tony Gonzalez has gone through, waiting an actual lifetime to get a playoff win.
In what could have been the final game of his 16-year career (he says he’s likely retiring at the end of the season — why he would go out with so much talent left to give to the Falcons is anybody’s guess), Gonzalez caught a huge pass with less than 30 seconds left in the game to get his team into field goal range. When the Matt Bryant kick went through the uprights — a moment I didn’t actually see despite being at the game — and the remaining seconds ticked off thanks to a few more defensive stops, Tony G. had notched his first-ever postseason victory. People on the field would later say he was crying. Could you blame him?
The city of Atlanta should be very happy for Gonzalez, especially because he was a key reason why the chips fell so favorably for the Falcons on Sunday. This guy has worked so hard to be the All-Pro he still is, and to see him finally reap what he has sowed makes the moment even more special.
Now, can we get him to the Super Bowl?
Per usual, there’s another similar story going on elsewhere, and the media has locked on that narrative instead. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is the first person the cameras find after each of Baltimore’s playoff victories because he announced he will retire at the end of this season. Maybe Gonzalez hasn’t formally said he’s done when the Falcons play their last game in these playoffs, but it would still a pretty good story for the media to tell.
They’re just not telling it, because they have to tell everyone what a great player Ray Lewis has been and how much he’ll be missed.
Well, I’ll say it then: we’re really proud of everything Tony Gonzalez has done for the city of Atlanta, on and off the field, in the four years he’s been in Red and Black.
And I’ll let local talking-head Chuck Oliver take it from here:
Why isn’t national media giving Tony Gonzalez a daily parade as w/Ray Lewis? 88 every bit as good and was never involved in a double murder.
— Chuck Oliver (@kingcfb) January 14, 2013