Saints gone, Vick gone and Falcons ready to defend turf

Brent Grimes (20) and William Moore, here tackling the Packers' James Jones, are two big reasons for the Falcons' improved defense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Brent Grimes (20) and William Moore are two reasons for the Falcons' improved defense.

The New Orleans Saints are gone. Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles are gone.

Can you do without the drama? Thought so.

The Falcons’ first opponent of this postseason will be Green Bay. That hardly qualifies as an easy draw. At the outset of this season, many  considered the Packers the best team in the NFC. But with the potential of Vick returning to the Georgia Dome in two weeks (nobody really relished that scenario) and the possibility of a third game against division rival New Orleans (were you really hoping for a showdown game against the defending Super Bowl champions?), this was as good a scenario as the Falcons could have hoped for.

They will be at home. They have had a week off. They will be facing a Green Bay team coming off a physical and emotional win and playing in a short week.

If you wonder whether the Falcons are good enough to beat Green Bay, maybe you’ve forgotten that they beat this team in November 20-17 at the Georgia Dome, when the defense wasn’t nearly as good as it is now.

Goodbye, Saints. Goodbye, Vick.

Now it’s just about football for the Falcons and trying to remember what postseason success feels like. When they play the Packers Saturday night at the Dome, it will be six years to the day of their last postseason victory — a 47-17 dismembering of the St. Louis Rams (Jan. 15, 2005). The following week, they lost the NFC title game at Philadelphia.

Then came the slide, then the misery, then the cataclysm.

It’s there for them. They are rested and they have the advantage of playing on their home turf, where they’re 20-4 since their rebirth in 2008 and quarterback Matt Ryan is 20-2.

It’s worth noting that when the Falcons defeated Green Bay in November, wide receiver Roddy White proclaimed: “I have no plans of going to Lambeau Field in January. I plan on staying right here and sleeping in my own bed in the playoffs.”

So let’s see where their own beds and climate controlled temperatures take them.

The path to a Super Bowl is there. That’s not just because the Falcons have a smart and efficient quarterback in Ryan, a game-changer in White and a versatile offense that prefers to pound the ball with Michael Turner. It’s because of a defense that nobody talks about.

This isn’t a game of real estate; it’s a game of points. The Falcons’ defense ranked only 16th in yards allowed during the regular season and 22nd against the pass. But they finished fifth in scoring defense at 18 points per game. In the final seven games of the regular season, the Falcons allowed 17, 17, 24, 10, 18, 17 and 10 points.

Has anybody noticed that?

Jack Tatum, the former Oakland Raiders safety, once proudly declared, “I like to think my best hits border on felonious assault.” (Worth mentioning: If Tatum played in Roger Goodell’s NFL, he would be jailed merely for thinking of inflicting harm.)

The Falcons’ defense doesn’t remind you of Tatum. They seem less a felonious assault squad than they do a bunch of sneaky pick-pockets.

We just watched the New Orleans Saints give up 41 points to the Seattle Seahawks. They’re out. So is Kansas City, which allowed 30 points to a pedestrian Baltimore offense. So are the Eagles, who finished 21st in scoring defense and couldn’t stop Rodgers and the Packers when they needed to

The Falcons’ defense hasn’t necessarily been some impenetrable force. But more often than not, it has made plays to win games or hold leads.

Defensive end John Abraham, from start to finish, has been the team’s best defensive player (the numbers: 13 sacks, one forced fumble, his first career interception). But the biggest difference of late is that the secondary no longer resembles scattering ants. Cornerback Brent Grimes and safety William Moore — who spent most of his rookie season on a training table – each have five interceptions. They’re two of the big reasons the lampooning has stopped.

“We know Abe has been a productive guy,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. “Those two [Grimes and Moore] really have been the next two guys in terms of lively production. Grimes really has a comfort this year playing corner in the NFL. His growth has been unbelievable. It’s been fun to watch. William makes mistakes but his interceptions and his impact in tackling are evident.”

They’re better now than the last time they played the Packers. The Saints are gone. Vick is gone. So let’s see where this road takes them.


Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

948 comments Add your comment

Beachdawg

January 9th, 2011
8:08 pm

First???? Go Birds…wouldv’e rather had Seahawks

RockyMTNFalcon

January 9th, 2011
8:11 pm

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 9th, 2011
8:12 pm

HAHAHHAHAH MAYBE a few more days without the MV7 lovers and the Aint Beotches.

mb

January 9th, 2011
8:14 pm

All the way to the Super Bowl!!

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:14 pm

Too bad for the Falcons that the Eagles lost… going through the Seahawks would have given them a much easier road to the NFC title game.

Ben Roth-rapist-berger

January 9th, 2011
8:15 pm

Thank God for shutting up Aints fans and Dog killer fans at least for this season!

scott

January 9th, 2011
8:19 pm

go falcons!!georgia dome get ear bleeding splitting loud..falcons win and show why you should be respected as the no.1 seed!!

Arno

January 9th, 2011
8:19 pm

Vicken wings out. No sauce.

eddiedawg

January 9th, 2011
8:19 pm

Where’s Choke? I want him on this blog to tell us about that great throw Vick made to end the Iggles season…..talk about choking!

Falcons will destroy the Pack. You heard it here first. 35-17.

GO BIRDS. OUR YEAR.

IlliniDawg

January 9th, 2011
8:20 pm

Awesome!!!

I could not stand the possibility of losing to Vick and hearing all the cheers for him and seeing all the Vick jerseys in the stands.

And I’m absoutely sick of the media fawning over the Saints and the supposed “feel good” story of N.O. BTW, WTF is a “who dat”?

Thank God I don’t have to deal with either one of those scenarios!

Mike "CHOKE" Vick

January 9th, 2011
8:20 pm

I guess MV7 STILL can’t win a playoff game in Philly. Way to choke with the game ending the INT there!!! Where are all the Vick supporters now???

Kane337

January 9th, 2011
8:20 pm

Tyson Clabo will own Clay Matthews again. Go Falcons!!!!

real falcon fan

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

i proclaim a sack the pack week in ga.GO FALCONS! BRING ON THE PACK, OUR FALCONS DEFENSE WILL RULE ONCE AGAIN! GOOD LUCK TO MY BELOVED FALCONS,I’VE BEEN WAITING 39 YEARS FOR A TEAM LIKE THE 2010-11 FALCONS! LETS KICK SOME PACKER BUTT!

RockyMTNFalcon

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

I for one am glad the Saints and Philadelphia are gone!! We can take the Packers! We did it earlier this season, we can do it again! Why Atlanta will win?
1) This will be the 2nd road game in 6 days.
2) Falcons ball control will keep Rodgers off the field.
3) Abraham/Jerry/Beirman will tee off on Rodgers.
4) The Falcons pass defense has improved.
5) Falcons have a better special teams-team.
6) Home Field- One loss at home this season/and the crowd can get Very Very Loud!!

Kane337

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

Should be a quite week here. No Saints fans, No Vick fans. Nice.

DawginOH

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

Not the dramatic scenario we all hoped for, but we’ll take it. Go Falcons!

Packer fan

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

Let It Snow

January 9th, 2011
8:21 pm

It is what it is. Green Bay will provide a great challenge but the Dirty Birds have their MOJO on!
Let’s keep’em sky high with the home field advantage.
ALL THE WAY TO THE BIG DANCE IN THE BIG D. !!!

Ben Roth-rapist-berger

January 9th, 2011
8:22 pm

First home playoff loss for Reid!

Sign him for a long term, please!

IlliniDawg

January 9th, 2011
8:22 pm

Also, Cheddarheads are a hellavu lot nicer than the “who dat” brigade or Philly fans! They’ll actually share their beer with you!

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 9th, 2011
8:23 pm

I heard MV7 was going to be the MVP. LMAO. I think he just needs to try to win a playoff game first. I think maybe he can win the MVP in the Pro Bowl. Now, that would be perfect. A nothing Award in a nothing Game for a nothing Player. MV7 showed that winning style today that we all came to know and HATE in Atlanta.

Gator Man

January 9th, 2011
8:24 pm

Vick, you have nothing to be ashamed of, a couple of field goal here and there, you guys would have been there.
Thanks for shuting up those hyporcrites dog lovers who love their dog more then humans, God gave you a second chance and you showed class all the way, these same hyporcrites sit there and watch Sara Pallin shoot at moose.

The Falcons will take care of the Pack.
Go Falcons”

eddiedawg

January 9th, 2011
8:25 pm

AMEN POAD. I saw again today the frustration Vick gave me when he played for us. So glad he’s gone-Ryan is tons better!

GO BIRDS-OUR YEAR. WE DAT!

RockyMTNFalcon

January 9th, 2011
8:25 pm

Good question Mike “Choke” Vick, were are all the MV7 fans? Come to think of it, were are all the Saints fans that like to talk trash?

Ben Roth-rapist-berger

January 9th, 2011
8:26 pm

What, dat?? HAHA
Vick CHOKES, HAHAHA

IlliniDawg

January 9th, 2011
8:26 pm

@POAD: Vick has improved but is still not a franchise-caliber QB. All that speed and quickness and flash can only get you so far. The deeper you get into the season, the more defenses figure out how to scheme against you. And then it becomes an issue of being able to read defenses and make adjustments – something Vick is still mediocre at.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:27 pm

“I think he just needs to try to win a playoff game first. ”

He’s already won two.

GSU Eagle 91

January 9th, 2011
8:28 pm

I like seeing everyone confident that the Falcons will send GB home a loser….
But I really have concerns about our ability to disrupt Aaron Rodgers and his ability to make plays from nothing…
The O-line is the key..Our guys have to get nasty and control the line of scrimmage and if they can do that..We win!
and welcome a lesser team to ATL the next week,,,,

Gator Man

January 9th, 2011
8:29 pm

Go Falcons, by the way the Gators are the only team in the East to win a bowl game, Go Falcons, please dont be like those losers at UGA, Tech.

SAL PAOLANTONIO

January 9th, 2011
8:29 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:29 pm

“And then it becomes an issue of being able to read defenses and make adjustments – something Vick is still mediocre at.”

He did that fine in this game. The game-ending interception came on a stop and go route. The way the play is designed, the corner is supposed to fall for Vick’s pump fake, giving the receiver the separation he needs to catch the pass over the top. Tramon Williams didn’t fall for the pump fake and was in better position to catch the ensuing deep ball. Good read by Vick, better play by Tramon Williams.

SlyDog

January 9th, 2011
8:30 pm

Doesn’t matter who showed up at the Dome, we’ve got to beat them all anyway to move on. As Aaron Rogers just said “…the Falcons are the #1 seed for a reason”. They are a better team now than they were when they played Green Bay during the regular season. Our team has a smart leader at quarterback, a dangerous special team group and a defense that can go at any offense with confidence. They are rested, ready and able to win against any team, and I know they have no fear.

As for anyone who’d rather have the Seahawks, they may be the most dangerous team out there, with absolutely nothing to lose. Look how they hung 41 on the Aints! The Packers just finished an emotional, physical game, and will be playing on a short week. Their running game did come on of late, but the Falcons have been stout against the run, and will scheme to keep them from a repeat of their performance against the Eagles. It’s on man, can’t wait for Saturday night! Go Birds!

RockyMTNFalcon

January 9th, 2011
8:31 pm

Gator Man,
Sara Palin ATE the moose, and provided food for the table.
Did vick eat the dogs that he killed?

Did you eat a burger or hotdog during the Vick loss, or maybe some chicken nuggets? Did you realize that someone had to KILL that animal so you could put it in your mouth and chew it?

Apples and Oranges….Apples and Oranges….and by the way, I am a Democrat and you have me defending Sarah frickin Palin!!!

ATL krusher

January 9th, 2011
8:31 pm

Cant wait for Saturday, RISE UP!!!

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 9th, 2011
8:32 pm

Najeh NOT THIS YEAR. He was touted as the League MVP this year not the years ago when he won a playoff game. Nobody knew how to scheme MV7 back then.

Falcons Fan Since 91

January 9th, 2011
8:33 pm

Im ready to go to the GA Dome Saturday… I am saying it… If we beat Green Bay, we will win the NFC Champ Game and head to SUPER BOWL XLV IN DALLAS

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:33 pm

“Sara Palin ATE the moose, and provided food for the table.
Did vick eat the dogs that he killed?”

So animal torture is OK if it results in your nutrition? Vick would have been on firm moral ground if he had barbecued the dog corpses after the fight? That is some fantastic logic right there.

Ben Roth-rapist-berger

January 9th, 2011
8:35 pm

POAD, doesn’t MVP just for the regular season?

Even then, Vick had been just mediocre since that one great game against God awful Redskins.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:35 pm

“Najeh NOT THIS YEAR. He was touted as the League MVP this year not the years ago when he won a playoff game. ”

League MVP is a regular season award. Peyton Manning has four of them but only one Super Bowl ring — which he ironically won in a year when he didn’t win MVP.

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 9th, 2011
8:36 pm

My Akita just farted. Man that fart smelled like a Brees of Vick. AHHAHHAHAHA

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GregKennesaw

January 9th, 2011
8:36 pm

Gonna be a tough game….I think the packers are playing even better than when we played them.

I would have preferred the Seahawks, but can’t say I’m sad that Brees and the Con-Vick are gone.

So do the Eagles keep vick or kolb? If reid is smart, he keeps kolb, vick is 30, and the way he plays, he can’t stay healthy, trade him while teams so many teams need a QB? Or trade Kolb, either way, should get a first round pick.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 9th, 2011
8:38 pm

“Even then, Vick had been just mediocre since that one great game against God awful Redskins.”

He went 4-2 after that game, accounting for 14 TDs and putting up a passer rating over 90. If that’s your idea of mediocrity, Tom Brady is pretty much the only QB in the league who isn’t mediocre.

St. Clarkston

January 9th, 2011
8:38 pm

Saints posters disappeared yesterday. The Eagle fans are gone today. Michael Vick can go shopping for puppies. Drew Breeze can think up new, clever ways to spell his name for those Saints jerseys.

RockyMTNFalcon

January 9th, 2011
8:38 pm

Najeh Davenpoop,

I am so sorry you must be a granola eating vegan.

In the real world, with real people, Animals like Cows, Pigs, Chickens, Lamb, Deer, Elk, Moose, fish and Rabbits are killed every day to feed normal humans.
In Korea, Dogs are eaten, but most animals are not put down without some sort of respect. What vick did showed total lack of respect for animals. So go chew on that for a while…or a handful of nuts.

not a chance

January 9th, 2011
8:39 pm

Green Bay.coming to Atlanta – you guys will be one and done. Mark it down!!!

scott

January 9th, 2011
8:39 pm

ATLANTA FALCONS!!!THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO SHUT DOWN THE TALKING HEADS AT FOX SPORTS,ESPN,SPORT CENTER AND SHOW THEM WHY YOU ARE IN THE POSITION YOU ARE IN AND SHOULD BE RESPECTED!!!WIN!WIN !!AND NEXT WEEKEND AFTER 1 GAME TILL SUPER BOWL!!!IF THIER IS EVER A TIME TO RISE UP THIS IS IT!!!COME ON FALCONS I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG,LONG TIME..GET AN EARLY LEAD GET THE DOME ROCKING NEVER EVER LOOK BACK!!

Diddly Squat

January 9th, 2011
8:40 pm

The Seahawks would have been an easier game but we can take the Pack again. Rodgers is going to be really tired of looking at the ceiling of the Georgia dome from his back after Abe, Bierman and the guys are through with him. Go Falcons!

GregKennesaw

January 9th, 2011
8:41 pm

hey not chance,

we have a chance you idiot, we beat them a month ago in the dome, we may lose, but to say we have no chance is stupid

SAL PAOLANTONIO

January 9th, 2011
8:41 pm

The powerful Eagles finished the season by losing three in a row.