I cannot stress enough how happy writing this makes me. Like, for real. I’ve been following this team since 2009, I’ve enjoyed a whole bunch of good times and a smattering of bad. I’ve cried at a last minute field goal in the playoffs, and fought back more tears exiting Wembley Stadium after losing 21-0 up. This team has been the cause of so much joy and disappointment in my life for nearly a decade, but this takes the biscuit.
Atlanta have, for only the second time ever, made the Super Bowl. The big dance. Battering the Seattle Seahawks set up a date with destiny against the Green Bay Packers, and with a wizard/warlock/three-players-dressed-up-as-one in Aaron Rodgers aiming to become the last Quarterback to ever win in the Georgia Dome. It was a game that many, myself included, believed was one step too far for this Falcons outfit. After all, Aaron Rodgers was playing with a hand so hot it could melt a house (does that make sense?). And yet, for four quarters, on all three sides of the ball, Atlanta dominated. It was done by the end of the first quarter, let alone half time.
Yet, we’re Falcons fans. We didn’t say anything until that final second salted away. Too many times have we seen big leads blown. Granted, none of them came from 31-0 up, but that didn’t stop us from assuring various family members that “we still might blow this”. What we failed to take into account is that this Falcons, THESE Falcons, are not those Mike Smith Falcons (God bless them). They go after a lead, and they sure as hell don’t let it go. 44-21, final score.
Just try and stop us
It’s no surprise that we start with the offense. What an offense. Comparable to the “Greatest Show on Turf™”, Kyle Shanahan’s offense took it to Green Bay, and finished the day with their 13th 30+ game of the season. Matt Ryan racked up 392 yards total. Julio took 180 of those, including a 73 yard catch and run that scored his second touchdown of the evening. In a season where this offense has been working like a well oiled machine, that machine took the form of a buzzsaw this week, as Mike McCarthy so eloquently put it.
What more can you say about this offense, though? It feels like that question is asked by this writer literally every time I sit down to write something. Ryan completed passes to eight different receivers, standard. Julio bullied, who I assume is, a Wisconsin-based school boy who won the chance to play for the Green Bay Packers. Even Patrick DiMarco, a full back, notched up 31 yards and earned a first down. It was utterly insane.
Did I come up with MattVP thing? I’m pretty certain I came up with that…
Speaking of Matt Ryan, a word on his touchdown scamper. All this talk of Rodgers scrambling like a high-class chef must have riled him up. Not only did he run for positive yards after the pocket collapsed, but he punched the ball in the endzone, and spiked the ball in the most inhumanely furious manner imaginable. I love it.
On the ground, Freeman and Coleman continued to enhance their already impressive reputations, combining for 148 all purpose yards. While the ground game was largely kept quiet, it’s through the air these backs truly flourished, as has been proven with a Freeman catching TD this week, and Coleman last.
This offense is almost unstoppable. For so many years players in red and black had talked up their belief that they can score 30 points a game, only to fall embarrassingly short of the mark. This season they put words into practice. And it’s been a complete joy to behold. One hopes they have just one more of these types of showings left before the curtain is drawn…
Let’s talk defence. For the longest time, Atlanta’s defence has been the butt of every joke imaginable. Laughable for long stretches of the season; yet, since the bye week, things have actually looked somewhat coherent. Yeah, I can’t believe it either.
As bad as this defence is (and it’s really, really bad), it is something that many defences at a similar level aren’t: it’s opportunistic. In their first two drives, Green Bay marched to scoring range, and were denied any points, let alone 7. Granted, on the first drive, they got a stop which brought out Mason Crosby, who managed to fluff a chip shot a week after nailing a 498 yard game winner.
But, on the second, at 10-0, Jalen Collins recovered a forced fumble from Ripkowski on the 1 yard line, which saw “momentum” DEFINITELY take him into the endzone causing a touchback. No he couldn’t have possibly stopped himself at the 1, what are you talking about. Couple that with a Ricardo Allen interception with a minute and a half left in the first half, which set up the drive to extend the lead to 24-0, and you could say this defence is feeling pretty confident right now.
Jalen Collins: Good Player
Special mention has to go to the aforementioned Jalen Collins. Missing both practice and game time at the start of the season due to substance violations, many questioned the maturity of the second year corner. But, especially since Desmond Trufant’s injury, Collins has stepped up in a big way, forming a dynamic partnership with Alford on the other side of the field. It’s difficult not to be excited for this secondary next season, when Trufant is fully fit. Atlanta will need every bit of this young mans talent come next Sunday.
You dun messed up, A-A-Ron
Aaron Rodgers, so famed for his ability to extend a play, was barely given time to thing. Brian Poole rustled the all star Quarterback on more than one occasion. A combination of Hageman, who literally slapped Rodgers’ boot to earn himself a sack, Jarrett, and Babineaux meant Rodgers was kept in check for most of the night. Interior pressure has been lacking for the majority of this season, however it was nice to see it show up for the second week running.
And how about that run defense?!? I know Ty Montgomerie and Christine Michael aren’t quite Adrian Peterson, but Green Bay got nothing on the ground.
Rodgers did have his favourite target to look at most of the night, however. Jordy Nelson shook off two broken ribs, and punctured lung, and a lacerated spleen to play on Sunday. Granted, he wore MILITARY GRADE KEVLAR BODY ARMOUR (this can’t be in the rules, surely?), but all credit to him for playing.
These past two weeks have been very good from a defensive standpoint. 41 points total given up in two weeks is fine. When you have an offense that can score whenever they want to, you can afford to give up about 20 points a game.
What this means moving forward is that Atlanta are now in the Super Bowl. Never in my wildest dreams did I see this happening this season. I mean, I’m glad I proved myself right, but now I don’t really know what to do with myself. I see the NFL store has a bunch of cool “NFC Champions” branded merchandise…can I afford all of it? I’M SO EXCITED! Can someone who’s been in this situation tell me how to behave for the next week and a half?
I apologise in advance for my Super Bowl Preview, by the way. It will likely be less a preview, more a gushing love letter to 55 of the finest men ever to grace this planet. To Dan Quinn, to Kyle Shanahan, Arthur Blank, et al. Allow me this: I’ve earned it. Besides, there are plenty of emotionless write-ups out there. It’ll be from the bottom of my emotionally unstable heart.
Game MVP: Arthur Blank, for owning this team