This post is an adjunct to the game column, which can be found by clicking here.
1. Stem to stern, that’s the most impressive Atlanta Falcons regular-season performance I’ve seen — and I’ve been following them since 1984. My standard for prove-it games has long been the 41-10 road thrashing of the Patriots on Nov. 8, 1998, and the 1998 Birds wound up in the Super Bowl. This year’s victory in Philadelphia ahead of Hurricane Sandy was the most comprehensive I’d covered since, but that one paled alongside this, which featured domination literally from the first. The Giants’ David Wilson chose to return the opening kickoff from six yards deep in the end zone, and reserve defensive end Cliff Matthews tackled him on the 13. Two plays later, the Falcons had the ball. Four plays after that, they had the lead.
2. That’s why the Falcons wanted Asante Samuel. Not only did the cornerback jump the route on Eli Manning’s first pass and then gather in the deflected ball, he also talked Mike Smith into challenging a third-quarter catch by tight end Marcellus Bennett that turned out, after further review, not to have been a catch at all. Afterward the irrepressible Samuel was asked if this game wasn’t an indication that the Falcons are the NFL’s best team, and he said: “I’m not really worried about that. Keep the haters hating. We like playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
3. The first-quarter touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez was beautiful on both ends. Ryan stood in and stepped up against heavy pressure from the fearsome Osi Umenyiora — “That’s the best front four in the National Football League,” Smith would say afterward — and threw a laser only Gonzalez could have caught. “He actually had good coverage,” Gonzalez said, speaking of safety Will Hill, but Gonzalez runs the post as well as any tight end ever, and he jumps like no tight end ever. He rose and snatched the ball, and the Falcons led 14-0.
Further reading: A Super sign? The Falcons have flummoxed three elite QB’s.
By Mark Bradley