Everyone in the world has seemingly questioned their record and asked whether they are “for real” or not. Any unbiased and logical person has their answer from Sunday in Philadelphia. The Atlanta Falcons dominated the Eagles, a great source of anguish the last few years, on the road in Philly. The Birds excelled from the opening whistle and only let up a touch when the game was essentially out of reach. Matt Ryan and the offense got back to their old ways and lit up the scoreboard, not even needing Matt Bosher’s punting until the fourth quarter. The defense shut down a “hungry” Eagles offense ready to explode with all their talent. Special teams took care of their business in a hostile environment with less-than-ideal conditions. Simply put, yes this team is for real and anyone who says they aren’t after Sunday shows their true biased opinion. This is not to say that the Falcons won’t have their bad days, but they are every bit deserving of their undefeated record. A look at the huge win……….
After the blowing the doors off their opponents offensively the first three weeks, the Falcons looked rather pedestrian the following three. With a particularly weak performance against the Oakland Raiders at home. Many hoped the bye week would provide some help and answers. It certainly did. Matt Ryan was back to his surgical self at QB, slicing and dicing the Eagles defense, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. All the while, Ryan spread the ball around to 7 different receivers in the process. Major kudos to Dirk Koetter for calling an excellent game, complete with many screens that kept the Eagles pass rush in check. Julio Jones had a huge day. Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jason Snelling piled on 146 yards rushing and the offensive line looked as good as it has all season. Here’s to hoping the Falcons offense keeps on rolling along.
Michael Turner may not be the happiest player in the world now that he’s had his touches and carries cut back, but the Falcons rushing attack finally had a big day. Turner still got almost 50% of the carries, but the Birds gave both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling plenty of touches in the game and it paid off. A trend in the NFL has developed to using a two back, or even three back, system that doesn’t depend solely on one feature back to carry the entire load. A question was posed back in the off-season on what kind of split would be best for the Falcons in 2012 and the games against the Eagles may have provided the best blueprint to date.
No position has been beat up more than the Falcons offensive line. Some thought an imminent collapse was coming with the Falcons and their problems on the OL. Well, they put some doubters to rest in Philadelphia on Sunday. They were much better in run blocking, protected Matt Ryan as good as they have all season, and overall had an excellent game. Many had been clamoring for the Falcons to inject something new into the OL in order to give it a much needed boost. Peter Konz shouldn’t get all the credit the improved play, but he looked pretty darn good in his first start in the NFL. He got overpowered one time that led to Ryan’s only sack, but otherwise he added a nice boost to the offensive line, perhaps in visual imagery alone. Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker both held up well against the Eagles talented pass rushers and Justin Blalock was his normal solid self. Todd McClure gets much of the credit for leading this OL through dark times and, hopefully, to brighter days. It was only one game, but it sure was a sight for sore Falcons fans eyes. An improved rushing attack coupled with many screens also helped out the OL.
Noodle arm. Weak arm. Can’t throw the deep ball. Has no deep game. These have been many trolls favorite garbage excuses when trying to denigrate Matt Ryan. It’s true he didn’t have a cannon like Jeff George or Matthew Stafford, but he could always throw the ball plenty far enough. Can those ridiculous attack lines finally be put to rest already? He’s thrown plenty of deep balls throughout his career, but after putting in a ton of work over the off-season, Ryan has a new comfort in the deep game and it shows. Look no further than his last minute bomb to Roddy White against the Carolina Panthers, from his own endzone nonetheless. But the cherry on top was the beautifully thrown ball to Julio Jones on a 63 yard touchdown strike zooming by supposedly one of the very best cornerbacks in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha.
Some scoffed at the price the Falcons paid Kroy Biermann to come back to Atlanta, saying it was way too much to pay a “backup.” Some thought that Biermann may very well be the biggest beneficiary of Mike Nolan’s new defense, and sure enough, he’s right up there. His stats won’t blow you away (30 total tackles, 2 sacks), but he’s been all over the field the entire season. Biermann has played with his hand in the dirt rushing the QB, but he’s also been playing as a standup LB where he has plenty of freedom to roam around the outside or move to the inside. His hustle and tenacity was on full display against the Eagles. With Philadelphia in desperation mode towards the end of the game, Biermann turned one of the best plays of the game. He rushed Vick from the outside and beat not one, but two-to-three defenders and chased him down for a sack. With all due respect to Ray Edwards, Biermann should be on the field all the time. His toughness and versatility is one of the Falcons best strengths.
It was one of the bigger surprises when roster cut day came down. Robert McClain, a rarely known cornerback from Connecticut who had bounced around the NFL for several years, had won one of the coveted 53 man roster spots. Not too many gave much thought to it since the Falcons boasted Asante Samuel, Brent Grimes, and Dunta Robinson. But when Brent Grimes was lost for the season in the opener and Chris Owens suffered a concussion against the Broncos, McClain was forced into action as the nickel back. His first play only resulted in a Peyton Manning interception. McClain has taken advantage ever since. McClain is quick, tough, and always seems to be in the right position. He had good coverage and some nice hits, with his most important one coming when he forced Michael Vick out of bounds right before the 1st down marker. He already has 3 passes defensed on the year. McClain is moving out of “roster backup” territory and into possibly having a future as a potential starter. For a team searching so long for youthful talent at cornerback, the Falcons may have finally found one.
Not only was it fantastic to see Corey Peters back in action, it was also great to see Mike Nolan mix it up on a defensive front. Instead of having the traditional 2 defensive tackles and 2 defensive ends, Nolan put a 3 defensive tackle front on the line, mostly with Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, and Vance Walker. It paid dividends and held one of the league’s most dynamic backs, Lesean McCoy, pretty well in check. Many wondered early on whether or not Babineaux was athletic enough to hold the end in a 3-4 type look and the early returns are promising. Above all, it was nice to see Nolan mixing it up on defense after having 4 years of standard deployment week in and week out.
Like McClain, Drew Davis has earned his chance the hard way. A former Oregon standout, Davis worked on the Falcons practice squad all year last season. He was thought to be in a two way battle with Kevin Cone for the 5th and final spot. At the time, most thought spots 1 through 4 were taken, with Kerry Meier being penciled in at the #4 wide receiver position. Funny thing was that Meier ended up getting cut, Kevin Cone made the roster, but late signee Tim Toone grabbed the 5th and final spot. Davis was relegated to practice squad duty again only to get called up soon after with Toone getting injured. To make a long story short, Davis put in his time, finally got his chance when Harry Douglas was injured, and made the absolute most of it. He only caught two passes, but one of them was a thing of beauty hauling in a touchdown and tapping the sidelines. The Falcons have always been set at receiver with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas, but it turns out it may be even more talented than some thought.
Perhaps the most underrated Falcon on the roster outside of Justin Blalock, Vance Walker is steadily turning into one of the most solid players on the defense and the overall team. A 7th round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, Walker has always been excellent role player, but he may be growing out of that role and into a more prominent one. He already has 12 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble on the season. He’s listed as 6’2, 304, but he certainly looks bigger than that. In his last year of a restricted free agent contract, the former Yellow Jacket will be set to hit the free agent market in 2013. Walker seems like a perfect candidate to bring back and develop alongside Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, and maybe Travian Robertson. The Falcons may not have that enormous beast at nose tackle that some defenses do, but collectively, it’s looking like a very strong group and Walker is one of the main reasons.
For the most part, Falcons fans have accepted and come to peace with the Media-Talking-Heads-Elite seeming bias against Atlanta both in the past and this current edition. It seems to be moving goalpost or that they have an “excuse rolodex” where the Falcons shoot down one of their biased opinions, they simply insert another one. First it was a soft schedule the Falcons played. Then it was Peyton Manning throwing those interceptions all on his own. Then it was the Falcons can’t run the ball. Then it was the Falcons can’t stop the run. Then it was the Falcons should be ashamed for having to come back to beat the lowly Panthers. Then it was Robert Griffin III getting injured and then the Falcons eeking out wins and possibly being the worst early undefeated team in history. With a great road test against a quality opponent, the Falcons dominated in every aspect of the game. And what was the story line after the game? The Eagles “collapsing, Vick possibly getting benched, and Andy Reid’s job security.” Did the Falcons even play in that game?
Of course when all else fails, just go to the fail-safe “they haven’t won in the playoffs” standard attack line. Or if that’s not your cup of tea, just ignore, ignore, ignore. The day after the game (Monday) a check of NFL.com had not one snippett, headline, buzz feed, article, opinion, nothing on the Falcons, but had all you can eat of the drama with the Jets, Cowboys, and Eagles. Maybe wins don’t matter that much anymore, but rather soap-opera style stories. Perhaps the NFL can merge their network with SoapNet and it would be a fantastic coup for everyone. Fact is, most Falcons fans find it humourous and don’t really get that bothered by it anymore. As Todd McClure said referring to the “media elite”: “I hope it stays that way,” McClure said. “I’m sure it will come to a point where they’ll start talking about us. The only time we really want them talking about us is in February.” Hopefully, it’s at least providing the players some motivation this season.
1) Simple quick draw: how big was this win?
2) Is the offense back to normal……for good?
3) How did you like the RB split? Should it change more?
4) Happy with the offensive line? Thoughts on Konz?
5) Matt Ryan can’t throw the deep ball, right?
6) Should Biermann play an even more prominent role?
7) Does Robert McClain have a future as a starter?
8.) Thoughts on the 3 DT front?
9) Has Drew Davis cemented a role even when HD comes back?
10) Should the Falcons bring back Walker to a multi-year deal?Y
11) How do you like the Media-Talking-Head-Elite’s “Excuse Rolodex?” Gotta hate those Falcons, right?