After a week off, the Atlanta Falcons stepped onto the Georgia Down turf for, at the time, may have been the last game to ever be played in the building. With history to both create and destroy, Dan Quinn’s red and white army (making that a thing) took to the field looking to notch up the first win in the post-season since 2013. Though the way it played out, you wouldn’t have known these teams are supposedly similar in stature.
The Falcons didn’t so much as defeat Seattle, but absolutely destroyed them. With the injustices of week 6 still fresh their minds, Atlanta dominated the Seahawks three quarters of the game. And even the quarter they didn’t dominate was as a result of Seattle clock management. Aside from a near-10 minute drive to start us off, in which Wilson connected with Jimmy Graham for a touchdown, Atlanta never looked in trouble. Another perfect game plan from Kyle Shanahan, as well as opportunism from an increasingly adequate defence, handed passage to the Championship game for only the fourth time in the teams 51 year history.
Atlanta now gear up to host Green Bay in what WILL be the final game at the Georgia Dome. I’ll be sure to look into that game in depth later in the week, but we have some unfinished business to go over before then. We just smashed the Seahawks; let’s enjoy it.
Special emphasis was made of the absence of Earl Thomas in this game. Like, somehow that would make any Falcons offensive performance illegitimate? Despite the Falcons missing Trufant, Weatherspoon, and Tamme, the ONE injury of influence was Earl Thomas. I mean, yes, Earl Thomas’ presence may have helped the Seattle cause, but Matt Ryan turned the Seattle defence into his play-things.
Matt Ryan went toe to toe with the remaining members of the Legion of Boom and basically torched them. Julio matched up with Richard Sherman for the majority of the game, and the all-star corner was, effectively, a non-factor. Kam Chancellor, the long time destroyer of souls, was barely involved. Through ground and air the Falcons had their way with the ‘hawks to the tune of 4 touchdowns and over 400 yards total.
The Rise and Rise of MattVP
It has emerged Richard Sherman played much of the second half of the season with a sprained MCL. The Seahawks failed to disclose this information, and will likely result in a heavy fine. Despite that, how impressive is it that the side that shut out the most prolific offense in history in Super Bowl was utterly dismantled over the course of one evening?
Such is the faith in Matt Ryan and his offensive weapons that Kyle has complete faith that literally any play in his book with yield success. This is no more obvious than a slant pass to Sanu that was slightly overthrown on the Quarterback’s part. Shanahan looked it the situation, and dialed up exactly the same play. “I know you can make that throw, Matt. Get at it.” Sure enough…
Special mention has to be handed to one Devonta Freeman. The third year back runs with anger and purpose whenever he gets the ball. On Saturday he managed only 45 yards on the ground, but led the side with 80 yards through the air. This included a 53 yard catch and run that may have broken the ankles of poor Steven Terrell. Freeman was superb on the night, and a large reason as to why the Falcons managed to move the ball with such ease for the majority of the game.
Baby steps grow wider on Defence
Even the defence came up with a good showing. Much had been made of the 19 points scored by the New Orleans Saints in the final quarter in week 17. Despite these points being put up while the Falcons lead 38-13, defence was still a legit concern, by all accounts. They needn’t have worried.
Aside from the aforementioned opening drive, Wilson and co. barely made a noise on Saturday night. A combination of poor offensive line play and great defensive line play meant Thomas Rawls, who many considered a threat, was limited in both his carries, and his production. Although, when you’re trailing a game, you tend to abandon the run in favour of passing plays, Rawls only managed 34 yards off 11 attempts, finishing behind Wilson himself in rushing yards.
While far more effective through the air, Wilson was hounded all night long. Unfashionable players turned in big performances. Free-agency bust Brooks Reed notched up his best performance of the season, while 81 year old Jonathan Babineaux rolled back the years with a positively dominant showing against a pitiful Seattle o-line. Wilson was under duress for most of the night, and it culminated in 2 interceptions.
It wasn’t all rosy for the Falcons, unfortunately. Julio seemed to aggravate the toe injury that has plagued him in recent months, and, although he is expected to play on Sunday. His production may take a hit, though he ought to manage that. Sadly, this game also saw the season end for Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn, who managed to recover from a knee injury earlier this season, tore a bicep early on in the game. Unfortunately, he will miss this weekend, and anything that follows a positive result.
If you had any questions still about the makeup of this Falcons unit, consider them answered. This offense can ball with the best, and their reward for such efficiency is a shot at the big game. With Green Bay’s magician of a Quarterback, and his questionable defence, in the way of the Super Bowl, it remains to be see whether Atlanta can take that final crucial step forward. For now, enjoy this win. And then…we must rise.
Game MVP: Devonta Freeman