Fans have been waiting a long time for a statement game, and boy was it worth the wait. The Falcons utterly dominated every aspect of the game against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. It was one of the best and most complete games in the 5 years that Mike Smith has been head coach and likely one of the best in franchise history. Wanted to go ahead and get a new thread up and let you all discuss the great game that was. Rest of post will be finished soon. Enjoy………..
Last week was one of the worst losses in the Smith Era, but he followed it up with one of the best wins not only in his tenure, but likely in franchise history. The Falcons utterly dominated pretty much every aspect of the game. They moved down the field with ease on offense, getting almost every playmaker involved. The offensive line had one of it’s best game in years versus one of the best defensive fronts in all of football. The defense not only intercepted two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning twice, but also held the Giants on three 4th down conversions in the Falcons territory. The special teams stepped up to the plate and held David Wilson in check and the planning and preparation on the coaches part has to be one of the best in years. If fans were waiting for a complete game, they finally got it and then some.
AJC columnist Jeff Schultz wrote an article about Matt Ryan asking every player for an extra 30 minutes this week and promising an hour of his own time for every 30 minutes the players gave. The leadership off the field translated to an excellent day on the field. After a bad trend started to emerge the last few games, Ryan bounced back in superb fashion and led the team to one of it’s best offensive outputs of the season. Ryan was efficient (23/28), checked in to correct plays throughout the game, threw the deep ball, and came away with 3 touchdown passes. He did one of his best jobs distributing the ball in a long while. He found a way to include almost every offensive playmaker in some form or fashion. Here’s to hoping that Ryan is hitting his stride at just the right time and that turns out to be true, he’s going to a tough out for almost every defense.
Many of us here in The Bird Cage have been guilty of heaping criticism on the Falcons head coach (this author as guilty as anyone), but it’s only fair to give effusive praise when warranted as well. Coach Smith seemed to take the embarrassing loss to the Panthers personal and it “heightened their focus” while planning and preparing for the Giants. The scheme on offense, defense, and special teams was magnificent. They confused and harassed Manning on defense. The offensive scheme was one of the best in a long while, making a point to getting as many playmakers involved as possible and making it virtually impossible for the Giants to focus in on one or two players. The special teams held one of the most explosive returners in the game in check as well. A huge kudos to Coach Smith and the entire coaching staff on a near-flawless gameplan, preparation, and execution. Here’s to hoping that Smith can find a way to bottle that special week of practice for the playoffs coming up soon.
The Falcons found a way to fix one of their biggest issues on defense all year long: tackling. They wrapped up well throughout the game, which was a big factor in stopping the Giants 3 times on 4th down conversions. They carried a gameplan that did wonders to confuse and harass Eli Manning throughout the game. Only a few times did the Birds have issues stopping the Giants. They were able to shut down one of the more talented receiving corps in the NFL with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Dominik Hixon. It also was a total team effort. Chris Hope did an excellent job filling in for the injured William Moore. Stephen Nicholas had one of the better games he’s had in awhile, adding to the already stellar play of Sean Weatherspoon and rapidly improving Akeem Dent. The defensive line generated pressure and held firm against the run, one of the weakest areas through the season. Asante Samuel has brought a swagger to this defense and his presence was readily felt early in the game. Hats off to one of the best defensive efforts in recent memory.
Michael Turner led the way and Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling added in some nice balance and formed a very complementary trio in the backfield. Turner saw most of the carries and ran as hard and well as he did all season. Rodgers may not have had the best final stat sheet (11 carries for 25 yards), but he injected some needed versatility and shiftiness in the backfield to Turner’s hard charging style. One of the most pleasant surprises was seeing Jason Snelling rack up 39 yards on 6 carries, running with drive and toughness. Snelling hasn’t gotten many touches this season, but he may have earned himself some more with his play on Sunday. Some will say that it was only a product of mop-up time, but there didn’t seem to be any wholesale changes on the Giants defense. Snelling basically ended the game all by himself, running for several first downs to end the game kneeling down inside the Giants own 10 yard line. It will always be a struggle getting all the backs involved with markedly less carries than the past due to the emergence of the passing game, but Dirk Koetter did a darn fine job of it on Sunday.
No other unit has been so beleaguered and criticized as the Falcons offensive line. They may not be a more maligned unit on any team in the entire NFL. With their backs to the wall and facing one of the best fronts in the league (ones who owned them in last year’s postseason nonetheless), they gave Matt Ryan plenty of time and opened plenty of big holes for the running backs. It was by far one of the best played games by the Falcons OL in a long time. Like Smith with the Giants gameplan and preparation, only if they can figure out a way to bottle that scheme and execution for the playoffs.
Sure, it was only 3 catches for 83 yards, but fans finally saw what they’ve been waiting so long for, which was to see the extremely talented slot receiver make an impact in a game in a big way. The thought was always that Douglas would start to get a ton of looks with defenses focusing on Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez first, but that hasn’t really come to fruition this year as expected. There’s only so many touches to go around and the Falcons already have two 1,000 receivers and a tight end that is well over 800 yards himself. However, Douglas had two huge receptions for long gains that helped change the face of the game. The catches added an element of versatility not seen to this extent in 2012 where defenders found themselves in an impossible position of trying to cover all the Falcons weapons. In fact, if Ryan had hit Douglas in stride on the first long reception, he may have taken it to the house. It was a beautiful sight to behold seeing essentially all of the Falcons weapons get in on the action, including HD, and much of the credit goes directly to Dirk Koetter for his superb gameplan and scheme.
The Falcons have a 2 game lead in the NFC for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and seemingly only need to win one of the two final games to lock up the home-field advantage. However, if history has told us anything in the NFL lately, the team that’s playing the best football as the playoffs approach are usually the ones that go the deepest in the postseason. They couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the final drive towards the playoffs, but they will have their focus tested as they travel to the Detroit Lions who are 4-10 on the year and host the Bucs who sit at 6-8 after being 6-4 only a month ago. They talked about keeping the pedal to the metal before their clunker of the year in Charlotte. They also will not have the luxury of getting up for the defending Super Bowl Champions and also the team that knocked them out of the playoffs. With so many goals right in front of them, an issue of focus and motivation shouldn’t be a problem.
1) Simple Steamroll – where does this game rank for you?
2) Is this the best game in the Mike Smith Era?
3) How does the coaching rank for you?
4) Is Ryan taking that final, next step?
5) Is the defense peaking for the playoffs?
6) Just a one game surge, or are the Falcons finally clicking?
7) Your thoughts on the running back mix?
8.) Can Smith and Co. bottle that preparation and practice for the playoffs?
9) Most importantly, can the Falcons keep it going?