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Fazio: Excitement of win awakens Atlanta
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Finally this city is awake.

Atlanta has the Braves, the Hawks, the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs - all with winning experience. But it also has trouble getting behind those teams.

If you travel to where a city's name is engraved on a championship trophy, you'll see businesses showing support with signs; you'll see buildings alight with the team's colors, newspapers will be plastered with stories and updates, citizens will be covered with the team's logo and an electricity will be humming from public walkways, transportation and parks.

But I find that typically doesn't happen here. However, Sunday it finally came to the capital of the South. 

Atlanta sports fans have finally awoken.

The Falcons picked up their first playoff win, finally, in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era, and it has created as much buzz as I've seen since I moved to Atlanta - and for that matter, as much as I've seen in each of the cities I've lived in (other than the '86 Mets).

The city is still talking about it days later, something that hasn't happened since American Idol introduced us to an Atlanta resident who regaled us about "Pants on the Ground."

The Georgia Dome seats over 70,000 but that doesn't always mean a loud 70,000.

Oh, on Sunday it did.

In the other home games this season, there was a solid sounding crowd, even with an engaged fan base against the Saints, and none of those games - all but one a win - were half as loud and exciting as Sunday's win.

It began long before kickoff. The radio talk shows were constant Falcons 24/7, their phones constantly ringing with local fans.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a spread on the importance on the game. And a ride to the Georgia Dome on MARTA, which is usually filled with available seats a half hour before the game, was jammed with Falcons shirts, jackets and hats.

Everyone was talking about the game.

During the game, the Georgia Dome crowd set electronic decibel readers above 107 making your eardrums feel like they were shaking. Even as the Falcons stretched the lead to 20-0, there was still an intensity.

But then the Seahawks came charging back. I was thinking that things were the same in Atlanta.

The city's teams can't get the big ones long-time residents say. The Bulldogs are top 5, never top 1, the Hawks beat champions but never become them. The Braves made four straight World Series and had three future Hall of Fame pitchers, six Cy Young Award winners but one World Series. So it made sense that the Falcons secure the No. 1 seed but let everyone down again. And you could tell that as Atlantans began to prepare themselves for the familiar.

But nope, not this time.

When Matt Ryan got the ball back on his greatest drive, the city awoke. As Tony Gonzalez put the Falcons in field goal position, Arthur Blank told legislators that a new stadium needed to be built because the roof was going to crumble on the Georgia Dome as Matt Bryant's kick sailed toward the end zone.

The Georgia Dome held up but Atlanta's sports expectations were shattered. The Falcons are one win from a championship game and two from a title - all to be played out in front of the home crowd.

A home crowd that was ecstatic after the game. If someone is frowning it was because they - well there wasn't anyone frowning. Plenty of those spilling out of the Georgia Dome were holding their hearts, holding their fellow fans and holding new expectations - those of a win not a close call.

But whether or not the Falcons can win it all, it did something that might have been just as a big a challenge, waking up a city that has been in an eternal second-place sleep.