Steve Bartkowski on these Falcons: ‘The team of destiny’

photos-medleyphoto-6211029

Peachtree Bart picks the Birds. (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

HOUSTON — Steve Bartkowski is 64. He threw his final NFL pass – as an L.A. Ram – in 1986. But there are moments, he concedes, “when I’d like to stand for one game in No. 2’s shoes (meaning Matt Ryan’s) and have the weapons he has around him. He has the best receiver ever to play the game. They’ve got Thunder and Lightning in the backfield.”

The first true franchise quarterback in Falcons history isn’t in Texas yet. He’s flying in Sunday morning. He has a ticket for the Super Bowl. (“I haven’t seen it yet, but I have one.”) He’s picking the Patriots by two touchdowns.

Sorry. That last part was my little joke. The man known as Peachtree Bart is a believer in these Birds. “We are the team of destiny,” Bartkowski said Friday, speaking from Atlanta. “The whole Brotherhood theme is more than lip service. They’re clearly committed to each other and they care about each other.”

Does the Patriots’ offense scare him? “This defense only needs four or five stops. People laughed and scoffed when Matt said in training camp that this was a 30-point-a-game offense. It was like that ESPN thing: ‘C’mon, man.’ But look at it now.”

Then: “The hallmark of Dan Quinn’s defense is guys who can run. That’s what he has – guys who can run and play fast and arrive, as they say, with a sense of urgency.”

What about Bill Belichick, the famous defuser of great offenses? “I wouldn’t want to be sitting in his chair right now or (New England defensive coordinator) Matt Patricia’s. But they’re thinking the same thing: ‘We only need to make them punt a few times.’ ”

As great as Tom Brady is, Bartkowski sees Ryan having a better chance against the Belichick/Patricia defense than the Patriots’ offense will have against the Falcons’ defenders. “With our quick linebackers, I don’t think there’ll be many yards after the catch for (Julian Edelman) and (Chris) Hogan. And (strong safety Keanu Neal) is like (former Bartkowski teammate) Scott Case – when he arrived, you felt it.”

Since you asked, Bartkowski does still think of the lost fourth-quarter lead in a playoff game against Dallas at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on Jan. 4, 1981. Had they held on that day, the top-seeded Falcons would have played host to Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game. The Eagles wound up losing to the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl.

“ESPN’s nice enough to run that game every Christmas,” Bartkowski said. “That always reminds me. We thought we were the best team in football that year, and in the Super Bowl I’d have been playing against one of my heroes – Jim Plunkett. But that was a while ago. You can’t live in the past.”

Back to the here and now. Bartkowski’s predicted score: “I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I don’t think it’ll be quite as high-scoring as people think. I’ll say 31-24.”

Sounds about right, does it not?

Super stuff:

Photo flashback: The 1970s Falcons

Photo flashback: The 1960s Falcons

The Falcons’ Ben Garland: A do-it-all who might need to do more.

Atlanta scores a huge win in Houston. And no, not the Falcons.

The highlight of my Super Bowl week: Seeing Lady Gaga.

So far, it’s Tom Brady’s Super Bowl. (So far, I said.)

ESPN: 4 out of 5 dentists … er, coaches … prefer the Patriots.

The face of Dan Quinn’s Falcons? Big hitter Keanu Neal.

Super starters show Signing Day isn’t always a stairway to heaven.

Super question: What will Belichick try to take from the Falcons?

Shanahan loses backpack with game plan, gets it back.

Opening Night: Belichick denies knowledge of underwear bearing his name.

The Falcons’ ultimate challenge — the dark lord Belichick.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn: The winner who went to dinner.

Falcons arrive, are mistaken (by my Uber driver) for a funeral.

Hope for the Falcons: The Patriots’ defense isn’t really No. 1.

Football Outsiders: ‘Nightmare’ scenario sees Falcons blown out.

The Falcons are headed to the game that defies simulation.

A revealing take on Matt Ryan from someone who knows him well.

Memo to Boston: I won’t apologize for Atlanta or the Falcons.

The Falcons are underdogs, but they absolutely can win.

Facing the hated Patriots, the Falcons are now America’s Team.

A Super day: Atlanta domination, Atlanta validation.

Reader Comments 0

8 comments
stiffneck
stiffneck

One of my favorites....he was the best Falcons QB till this guy Ryan showed up.


BetterDog
BetterDog

Great Quarterback.  What a Team.  The Grits Blitz.  They were fun to watch.  A lot of Buzz in Atlanta when this team played.  A lot of air went out of the city the day Dallas beat the Falcons.  Matched the excitement we are seeing right now.  Leeman Bennett was fired shortly after that I believe.  Downhill from there for a long time.  The Falcons wore a lot of Cowboy Boots and Hats back then.  A great Team.  When Bartkowski played against the Eagles it was called the Pol Bowl.  Remember Ron Jaworski.  Long Time Falcons Fans deserve this Team.  Go Falcons.     

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BetterDog: "A lot of air went out of the city the day Dallas beat the Falcons."

_________________

BINGO!

That loss and the way it happened--blowing a 4Q lead--set the franchise back for years. 

Columbus68
Columbus68

Miss Bart and the late 70's early 80's teams. Great times. Yeah the Dallas loss was heartbreaking after dominating them most of the game.  And still hurts a little.  That was a great team that just could not get past, what at that time was, America's team. That Falcons team had so much heart and skill and man could Bart throw the long ball. So well that Rodgers would be jealous!  He sure could sling it. Scott Case was awesome, so were all the players.  That was a special team that were a better team than the Cowboys that year and should have won that game. Had that game man!  There was a song too, I think it was the 12 days of an Atlanta Falcons Christmas! Back then it was the Falcons, Saints, Rams and 49'ers in the division and there were some really great games, especially against the Rams and Saints. 49'ers got strong a little later.  Anyway, miss you Bart, you were the face of the Falcons and a very class act. All the way from California to our Georgia. Many great memories and I hope todays Falcons are about to give you one.        

GTroller
GTroller

@OH:IO

Not sure who that is.  I think that guy was on some reality TV show a couple of years ago, wasn't he?