Every week after the Falcons play I will name the Falcons who ‘Earned Their Wings’ on that given Sunday. It’s sort of an award that recognizes the five best performers from that particular game. And without further ado:
QB Matt Ryan- Ryan was simply awesome against the Chiefs. He quickly and efficiently organized the team, made good reads on the defense at the line of scrimmage, checked out of bad plays, and executed to near-perfection. Going 23-31 for 299 yards, 3 touchdown passes, and an additional run for a score is pretty close to perfect. His 136.4 passer rating really quantifies his performance.
WR Julio Jones- Jones was absolutely great. He displayed great ability to catch the ball in traffic, get down the field, run good routes, and most importantly looked to really be on the same page with Matt Ryan. He hauled in two touchdown catches- one where he beat the DB on a goal-line fade, the other where he took a screen in for a score- along with his six catches and 106 yards on the day. Every time I saw Jones make a catch I thought to myself ‘This must be what Lions fans feel like with Calvin Johnson.
SLB Stephen Nicholas- There has been a lot of talk about Sean Weatherspoon in the preseason, and he was good today with a sack, and a couple pass deflections one of which ended up being an interception by William Moore. But I think Nicholas was even better. Nicholas led the team in tackles, with 10, as well as tackles for loss with 2. He also deflected two passes by my count, in addition to an interception he got by staying home and doing his job, and recovered a fumble. When you have a very talented linebacker in addition to Sean Weatherspoon, it’s a pleasant surprise to see him play really well.
DE John Abraham- Abraham was the other defensive star that shone in my mind. He didn’t make his presence felt very often, and I attribute that to the Chiefs double teaming or allowing a lineman and a back to him him to keep him off of Matt Cassel. But this is where the great motor in a veteran player is really appreciated. He kept with it and eventually registered a strip-sack of Cassel. That fumble, which was recovered by Stephen Nicholas, turned into a Falcons score, and really put the game out of reach for the Chiefs. Massive production may not come from the Falcons pass-rush, but this timely play-making ability is definitely needed.
Falcons Offensive Line- There wasn’t really any player that was particularly outstanding from the Falcons offensive line. The good news is that they played really well as a unit. I kept my eye on Sam Baker in particular, and he played really well against Kansas City’s 3-4 defensive ends and outside linebackers. With the exception of a Justin Houston sack, Ryan was kept really clean, and I don’t think he was even hit more than a couple times. Sure the Chiefs were missing Tamba Hali, their best pass-rusher, but there are still good players in the front seven of that Chiefs defense, and the Falcons o-line did a good job of pass blocking as well as run blocking. Hats off to them today.