Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 34-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
GAME BALLS: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for leading a spirited defensive effort and the offensive line for battling the mighty Giants defensive line rotation.
A — Quarterbacks: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan broke a pair of his own franchise records. He topped his club record for passing yards in a single season. After just 14 games he has 4,202 yards for the season. Ryan threw for 4,177 yards in 2011. Ryan also broke his club record for completions in a season, as he has connected on 369 passes this season. He set the franchise record with 357 completions in 2010. Ryan is the only quarterback in team history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Ryan finished the game completing 23 of 28 passes (82.1 percent) for 270 yards with three touchdowns and a 142.6 passer rating. His 82.1 completion percentage is the second highest of his career, trailing his 24 of 28 (85.7) performance against Green Bay on Nov. 28, 2010. Ryan’s 142.6 quarterback rating against New York was the second-highest single game rating of his career. He posted a 146.3 passer rating in the 2011 season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Luke McCown also got some mop-up action.
A — Running backs: For just the second time this season, the Falcons ran the ball more times than they passed, attempting only 28 passes. In a win over Philadelphia on Oct. 28, they rushed the ball 37 times and threw 29 passes. The Falcons forced the Giants to respect the running attack. They ran the ball 35 times for 125 yards (3.5 per carry) when discounting three kneel-downs by quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Luke McCown. Turner had 52 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown for the fifth straight game. It was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 25 yards on 11 carries and Jason Snelling had 39 yards on six carries. Julio Jones got in on the action with an 18-yard scamper. The running backs also had six catches for 48 yards, including Mike Cox’s dazzling flip on his 11-yard grab.
A — Receivers: Roddy White, slowed by a sore knee, didn’t practice all week, but started against the Giants and caught two passes for 16 yards. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leaned more on wide receiver Julio Jones, who finished with six catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez caught six passes for 49 yards and Harry Douglas had three for 83 yards.
A — Offensive line: Ryan was sacked once and hit just three times. They clawed out enough yards in the run game to make the Giants respect the rushing attack, even though they didn’t average 4.0 yards per carry. The unit faced a big challenge and came through with a strong performance.
A — Defensive line: Defensive tackles Corey Peters and Peria Jerry harassed Eli Manning and were a big part of rattling the quarterback. Babineaux flushed Manning into Kroy Biermann for the Falcons only sack. Coach Ray Hamilton’s crew was also stout against the run as they held Dave Wilson to 55 yards on 12 carries.
A — Linebackers: Weatherspon led the charge with nine tackles. Stephen Nicholas was also flashing in the run game and finished with five tackles. Akeem Dent had three tackles. The Giants rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries.
A — Defensive backs: Cornerback Asante Samuel said all week in practice that Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks would not be a factor in this game. Nicks destroyed the Falcons in the playoffs last season. On the Giants second play from scrimmage, Samuel intercepted a pass intended for Nicks on a curl route. Also, safety Thomas DeCoud came up with a pick on a pass intended for Nicks, who was held to 40 yards on three catches. Dominique Franks and Charles Mitchell stepped up when Chris Hope went down with a head injury. Franks, normally a cornerback, played some safety. Mitchell played in the dime package when the Giants went to a four-receiver formation.
A — Special teams: Giants kickoff returner Dave Wilson had 227 yards on kickoff returns last week against New Orleans. The Falcons held him to 66 yards on three returns. He brought Matt Bosher’s opening kickoff out of the end zone from 6 yards deep and was stopped by Cliff Matthews at the 13-yard line. Coach Mike Smith was asked about Asante Samuel’s pick, but went into a freestyle rap on how the kickoff coverage was superb. He wanted to make sure their effort didn’t get lost in the shuffle. Biermann and Snelling also had special teams tackles.
A — Coaching: The Falcons knew they had to run the ball and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter ran draw, after draw, after draw to slow down the Giants vaunted pass rush. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan opened with his big boys up front – Peters, Jerry and Babineaux along with John Abraham. The Falcons disguise-packages that are designed not to give the quarterback and valid pre-snap read led to two interceptions.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (12-2) face the Detroit Lions (4-10) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field.
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