A battle of defenses: Rob’s ‘Boys lose to Nolan’s No Names

Kroy Biermann introduces himself, not gently, to Tony Romo. (AP photo by Chuck Burton)

Kroy Biermann introduces himself, not gently, to Tony Romo. (AP photo by Chuck Burton)

Technically they didn’t play against one another — it would have been amusing if they had, and the score through three quarters couldn’t have been much lower — but Sunday’s game was a chance for the Falcons’ defense to measure itself alongside one of the best. The Dallas Cowboys arrived with a D ranked fourth in the 32-team NFL. The Falcons began the night rated 20th in total defense, although that status should have carried an asterisk. As in:

* “We may be No. 20, but we’ve lost fewer games than any of those units ahead of us.”

It must also be noted that Rob Ryan, son of Buddy and brother of Rex, coordinates the Dallas defense, and he inherited the familial gift of gab. He told Dallas reporters: “We’ve got to win this week, and we know it, and we’re going to.” That statement got much national mileage — anything a Ryan says is guaranteed to go coast-to-coast — and maybe it served to motivate the opposing defenders. Because this game became more Alabama-LSU than Oregon-USC.

The first-half numbers were eerie in their symmetry. The Falcons gained 178 yards and scored six points; Dallas had 182 yards and scored six points. (Grown-man football, this was.) Neither team turned it over. Each kicked two field goals. Each missed one.

Rankings notwithstanding, this didn’t seem a mismatch at all. It was instead an extended round of arm-wrestling between men of massive biceps and will. The Falcons had an awful time trying to block outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, but everybody does. For their part, the Falcon defenders missed some tackles — we can assume the absence of the injured Sean Weatherspoon made a spot of difference — but they bowed up when the Cowboys drew within sight of the goal line.

The third quarter opened with Dallas seeking to pound the middle, which made sense: The Falcons ranked 26th in run defense, and tackle Peria Jerry, considered an essential run-stopper, had been lost in the first half to another knee injury. Three Cowboy rushes gained 39 yards, but Akeem Dent stopped Felix Jones after a 3-yard gain on first down at the Atlanta 47, and that forced Tony Romo into throwing mode. An incompletion was followed by a Jonathan Babineaux sack, and a game as tight as a tick began to swing toward the Falcons.

Late in the third quarter Michael Turner, who’d gained 16 yards on his first 10 carries, burst for eight yards up the gut, then sliced off right tackle for 43. Soon the game would have its first touchdown, Turner plowing over, and not long afterward the Falcons were up 16-6. They’d finally gotten a handle on the ‘Boys of Rob, and now it was down to Mike Nolan’s defense to seal the game.

As it happened, the Falcons’ D saved their worst series for a rather significant moment. They’d had Romo addled only moments before, but desperation has a way of focusing the mind. The Cowboys drove to a blurry-fast touchdown, and now the Falcons had to move or risk losing.

They moved and won. Another guy named Ryan steered the Falcons to the clinching points, with much help from the deft footwork of Jacquizz Rodgers, who kept taking short passes and making Cowboys miss and thereby converting vital third downs. Matt Bryant’s field goal at 0:17 made it a six-point game and an 8-0 season.

Said Thomas DeCoud, the Falcon free safety: “We played really, really good defense. They’ve got a lot of big-name guys (on defense) over there, but they let the ball go over their head a couple of times.”

Said cornerback Asante Samuel: “We had a lot of plays we shouldn’t have given up on that (touchdown) drives, but I think we were the better defense.”

Said Dunta Robinson, the other cornerback: “I love the situation when it’s all up to us to stop the opponent. We have the kind of defense that can bail out the offense, and they can do it for us, too. That’s why we’re a complete team.”

The Falcons wound up scoring on their final three possessions and gaining 275 second-half yards against the NFL’s No. 4 defense, making Rob Ryan a poor prophet. Not only had his team failed to win a game he said it had to have, his defense came up second-best on this field. Nolan’s No-Names held the famous Cowboys to 13 points and walked away winners for the eighth time in eight games. We can quibble over numbers, but there can be no arguing with 8-0.

By Mark Bradley

72 comments Add your comment

GT Trumpet

November 4th, 2012
11:27 pm

That was up quick Mark. I would be scared to write a positive column before the game was over in case Tony Romo decided to turn into a decent quarterback for the last drive.

David

November 4th, 2012
11:28 pm

Falcon James

November 4th, 2012
11:28 pm

Love the Headline, MB

Bill 2

November 4th, 2012
11:28 pm

great job mark..Thanks again!

Mark Bradley

November 4th, 2012
11:33 pm

Can’t be scared, GT Trumpet. But you do have to be ready to do a 30-second rewrite.

Falcon James

November 4th, 2012
11:34 pm

Great job tonight MB, enjoyed watching the game with you! 8-0 Baby- There ain’t no mistaken that record!

LOL at the Aints

November 4th, 2012
11:35 pm

Nothing to see here! Move along,, Falcons havent played anyone,,, LOL!!

GT Trumpet

November 4th, 2012
11:36 pm

I agree! It was a great game and nice to see our D rise up!

Freddy the falcon

November 4th, 2012
11:37 pm

Maybe the national media will show the Falcons some respect? They’ve beaten everyone on their schedule… Keep it up!

FALCONSRUS

November 4th, 2012
11:38 pm

Awesome I see what you did kind of fishy I mean dolphins r fish right?

Calistoga Dawg

November 4th, 2012
11:39 pm

Excellent write, Mark. Reminded me of Furman a bit. I am sure you’ll take that as a compliment. Go Birds!

BobDawg

November 4th, 2012
11:39 pm

… Great column, MB… just saw Rob Ryan throw is play card and gear on the turf in the final NBC photo shots…. Great Game, Falcons!!!!

FALCONSRUS

November 4th, 2012
11:40 pm

It sounds better than kiond of mammally

Mora less Petrino

November 4th, 2012
11:41 pm

The Falcons had 453 yards of O tonight! The Birds could seriously have 700+ yards next week against NO. Nice win tonight and the time consuming final drive was impressive. A TD would have been better, but Dallas was still left in a tough spot.

BobDawg

November 4th, 2012
11:42 pm

Geez, 8-0 is crazy good… I bet 9-10 wins would have won the division for us this year with the South sucking wind… We’ve only played on South team so far, I think and it’s already over pretty much….

hey now.....

November 4th, 2012
11:43 pm

seems the “haters” have gone to bed early. stay gone, fools!
Go Falcons!!!!!

Mora less Petrino

November 4th, 2012
11:43 pm

453 yards tonight! Could easily have 700+ next week.

jo

November 4th, 2012
11:46 pm

Still no respect from thenationak media but who cares. Just keep winning.

Matt

November 4th, 2012
11:46 pm

So glad we put this one away. The NBC announcers were almost trying to will the Cowboys to a touchdown there at the end. Let’s go all the way and shut up the naysayers!

Matt

November 4th, 2012
11:47 pm

Seriously, you could hear in their voices how disappointed they were that the Cowboys had lost.

Calistoga Dawg

November 4th, 2012
11:49 pm

Naysaying ain’t going away unless we win it all. Period. True, our history has forced people to be skeptical, but there is no reason for an 8-0 team to get so little attention. Let’s just keep mowing them down. Next…

falcondawg

November 4th, 2012
11:52 pm

Hey Freddy, I don’t care if the national media doesn’t give the Falcons any respect. I would like to keep flying under the radar.

jo

November 4th, 2012
11:55 pm

Better underthe radar for sure

stevie zero

November 4th, 2012
11:55 pm

looking strong. if we stay healthy, claim homefield throughout, and run the ball when needed, we will take the superbowl. go you birds

Dr. Warren

November 4th, 2012
11:56 pm

Aside from that one run, Turner looks as old as his jersey number. You have to run well to win in the playoffs, right? And Jacquizz could never be the featured back. Why didn’t the Falcons grab a RB at the trade deadline?

BravesfaninAugusta

November 4th, 2012
11:56 pm

Great game Falcons! Glad Romo stopped throwing at Robinson lol

Falcon4Life

November 4th, 2012
11:59 pm

Every week it’s Falcons haven’t beatn anyone and wait till Philly then wait till Dal. Well OK we waited oh yea WE WON!! Keep it up boys great job!!!

kelly

November 5th, 2012
12:01 am

They’ve run the ball when they have had to, just like they’ve done all year long. This isn’t the old run-first Falcons. Good, tough win tonight.

tom

November 5th, 2012
12:01 am

How long do we expect Ryan to make things happen when he cannot get any protection????

Falcon4Life

November 5th, 2012
12:02 am

Dr warn I agree not sure why Falcons didn’t grab a fb maybe Snelling going to get a few carries I agree turned numbers wee inflated by the one big run when dal was playing safety deep and doubling white and jones

HONDURAN FALCON

November 5th, 2012
12:03 am

Great game!! And here we go! One game at a time!! That is the Mike Smith philosophy, and who cares of national respect and the media… it only serves as a distraction. We only have to face the next opponent… and win!! All the way!!!

REAL FALCONS FAN

November 5th, 2012
12:04 am

I HOPE and pray peria jerry didn’t have a serious knee injury , any word mark? THAT WITHSTAND THIS WAS A STATEMENT GAME . TURNER CAME UP BIG AS DID ALL FALCON’S PLAYERS. MAN DOES FALCONS OFFENSE MISS OVIE ,POLITE DROPPS PASSES AND MISSES BLOCKS. OTHERWISE GREAT JOB TOUGH DEFENSE ,OFFENSE CAME UP IN 4TH QUARTER BIG! GREAT GAME RISE UP ! GO FALCONS. THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS WITH PERIA AND THE NORTHEAST US. AFTER SANDY .

HONDURAN FALCON

November 5th, 2012
12:04 am

Gotta love the New OC and DC!! Big difference in the coaching of our Falcons!! Especially on the D. Shame our running game is not getting things right. Curiously enough, our passing game opened up the running game That could be a first, isn’t it?? Way to go Nolan and Koetter!!

extremus

November 5th, 2012
12:05 am

Nice to be 8-0; it was a hard-fought game end to end. The Cowboys, as was often stated throughout the telecast, had a lot to play for as far as staying in the NFC East race, and they played like it. Hard fought but overall clean football game.

A few points of concern I noticed were some missed tackles (some of them simple fundamental lack of wrapping up the ball carrier) that extended some Cowboys drives; looks like Nolan’s going to have to go over that with them again. Dunta Robinson does tend to get beat a lot or make bone-headed fouls that hurt the team in stopping drives. Aside from that, the D did great considering they were without Sean Weatherspoon.

On offense, the O-line seemingly took a nap on a few plays, one of which could have gotten Matt Ryan seriously injured on that blind hit from Ware. That CANNOT HAPPEN or a special season could turn into disaster in a hurry. Also, Matt Bryant had a less-than-stellar game; if he makes those two field goal attempts the end of this game would have been a lot less suspenseful.

Still, a win’s a win, and this coaching staff is smart enough to identify and address the issues. Great first half, guys!

GO FALCONS!!!!

Big Crimson 75

November 5th, 2012
12:05 am

Our Defense out played the top 5 Defense from Dallas & we did it without our best player!!
Great games tonight by Babs, Nicholas & both Safety’s.
Nolan’s no-names…..I like it!!

Falcony

November 5th, 2012
12:07 am

Way to go Angry Birds! Way to make adjustments in the 2nd half on defense “Nolan”. You can tell that Sports Announcer Cris Collinsworth was rooting for the Cowboys. It was never about what the Falcons were doing but about what the Cowboys needed to do to win the game. 8 & 0 baby! Cris need to pay up the bets that he lost.

St Simons

November 5th, 2012
12:16 am

My best throw was in 1980 in the gator bowl when i hit that d’bag
Chris Collinsworth with a drink cup at the Ga/Fla game.

I looooooove it when the team Collinsworth is shamelessly
pulling for gets beat. Hate on, Chris. d’bag

Dr. Warren

November 5th, 2012
12:17 am

The attention Dallas receives from the media and announcers is absurd. What have they won in the past 18 years?

LOL at the Aints

November 5th, 2012
12:17 am

I thought that was great at the end. Collinsworth trying to figure out how much time Dallas would have after the field goal.. he was only off by about 2 minutes,, LOL

Falcons Chic

November 5th, 2012
12:18 am

Been a long time since ‘66 for this moment. I was totally scared in the second quarter, but now I’m sure — when they lose one to the Giants — they will consider it a blip. Not representative of their body of work.

LOL at the Aints

November 5th, 2012
12:22 am

Nolen’s no names,, I love it,,

Big Crimson 75

November 5th, 2012
12:23 am

Looking ahead,
The NFC is the superior conference.
5 really good teams:
Falcons, Bears, 49ers, Giants & Pack.
Bring em on!! We can beat any of them.

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2012
12:27 am

Headed home. Thanks for hanging with me tonight on both the live blog and here.

Singletary

November 5th, 2012
2:04 am

Thanks for the insights. I am still to choked up over here in China. There were no “whew” moments.

Sargent Carter

November 5th, 2012
2:06 am

It is the sign of a well-coached team with good players that can get a “garbage win” and I mean that with respect coz those are the most important wins, but we need an all a round win…no missed field goals, no soft defense leading to a 2 minute touchdown when the game is close, just a clean win to show what we really have. Someone said on tv Mike Smith should be coach of the year, but it is obvious the offenstive coach and defensive coach have made a world of difference this year. With last years coordinators, we would have been 4-4 at this point. Mr. Nolan, perhaps it is possible to have an atomatic set of defensive options and cloaking to go in when the opposite team is in no-huddle symboled by a simple set of numbers 1-10 that could be signaled….or just no laying back and letting them complete easy passes or doing a single bandit blitz…you are the expert, I am just asking…coz now other teams are going to do this to you…, or maybe some under/over zone…anyway, 8-0, what more can you ask for?

SawThat1nce

November 5th, 2012
3:56 am

It looked like the Falcons beat 18 men on the field tonight.
They beat the fix.

clay

November 5th, 2012
4:17 am

I really don’t care about the national media attention. Obviously they don’t really care either. The thing that is going to piss me off about it is when they finally do lose (and come on Falcons fans you know at some point they will) then that’s when we will get all of the national media attention because it’s going to be in the negative light. If this were the JETS, PATS, PACKERS, GIANTS, NINERS, BRONCOS, STEELERS, RAVENS, OR TEXANS…well pretty much anyone else in the league, they would be getting the good national coverage.

Jack

November 5th, 2012
5:45 am

I think the media guys are all Democrats. They just don’t like Georgia.

Tman

November 5th, 2012
6:13 am

Jack you are right I am a Democrat, I dont like Georgia. I am a GT and Falcon fan

Go Falcons

November 5th, 2012
6:37 am

Chris Collinsworth is Horrible!!!!!!!!!