DETROIT — You know by now that the Falcons beat the Detroit Lions and clinched the No. 1 seed and home field through the NFC playoffs. Here’s a link to my column off the game, and I’ll have a new column later today with more comments from players. Until then, here are my three “Short takes” from the game:
1. Matt Ryan ascending to elite: The Falcons’ quarterback had a string of average-to-bad games beginning in November, including the five-interception day against Arizona. But for the last two weeks he has looked like the MVP candidate he was inthe season’s first-half. He was the Falcons’ best player in significant wins over the New York Giants and Detroit, combining for 48-of-60 passing (including 22 straight completions) for 549 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Tony Gonzalez said of Ryan: “The talent has always been there. It was just a matter of when, not if, he would get there, and he’s really come into his own this year. You see what happens when the line gives him time.”
2. Never believe the injury report: Roddy White could be seen sitting in front of his locker after the win, ice bags covering both legs. So I’m not going to suggest that he was fabricating a knee injury that prompted the Falcons to list him as “questionable” for Saturday’s game. But White didn’t play as if there was much wrong with him, as he led the Falcons with eight catches for 153 yards. He burned ex-Falcons Chris Houston for a 44-yard touchdown to open the scoring and made it 14-3 with a 39-yard touchdown, catching a short pass and getting a great down field block by rejuvenated tackle Sam Baker. So from now on, I’m going to believe White feels just fine, despite what the injury report says.
3. Calvin Johnson’s talents are being wasted. He was a joy to watch at Georgia Tech and nothing has changed. Unfortunately, he plays for one of the NFL’s most messed-up franchises. In March, Johnson signed a seven-year contract extension, which potentially could bring him up to $132 million through 2019. He had 11 catches for 225 yards against the Falcons and broke Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yardage record. He’ll own many more records before he retires, but it remains to be scene if he’ll ever play for a winner. The Lions have lost seven straight and are 4-11 and they’ve had only one winning season among Johnson’s six. The records: 7-9, 0-16, 2-14, 6-10, 10-6 and 4-11.
By Jeff Schultz
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