What a game, what a finish, but more importantly, what a victory for Matt Ryan and the city of Atlanta.
I think the entire Dirty Bird nation is on an emotional high after the Falcons 28-30 against the Seahawks, a game that went down to the last septillionth of a second. What looked to be a shutout in the making turned into a ‘Fright Fest’ for the 70,000 fans in attendance at the Georgia Dome. Down 20-0 at half-time, Pete Carroll rallied his troops, and what was a 20-point deficit turned into furious 28-7 run by Seattle. During that run, rookie Russell ‘Last Name’ Wilson showed the last remaining skeptics why he will be a star for years to come. Wilson displayed veteran poise, leading his team to three scoring drives in the fourth quarter, with the last touchdown putting the Seahawks ahead with 31 seconds left. With a little over a minute left, the ice began to flow through Matt Ryan’s veins. Matty Ice stepped on the field, looking the march the Falcons down the field for what would be his 23rd game-winning drive of his career. On the first play, The Ice-Man (Matt Ryan) completed a 22-yard pass to Harry Douglas, who ran a deep out very similar to Michael Jenkins in the 2008 game against the Bears (Matt Ryan’s first game winning drive!). On the next play, Matt looked to Tony Gonzalez for 19 yards, putting Matty ‘Cool’ Bryant in FG range for the game winner. After Carroll’s failed attempt to ‘Ice the Kicker’, Bryant proceeded to kick the ball 49-yards, right down the middle of the uprights. Sending the crowd into a frenzy while dropping the playoff monkey off Atlanta’s back.
Now that Mike Smith and Matt Ryan finally got their first playoff win in spectacular fashion, they’re ready to host the 49ers in what could be the greatest NFC Championship matchup since…Since the Falcons vs. Vikings during the 1999-2000 season. The last time the 1 and 2 seeds met in the NFC title game was 2009, when the Saints hosted the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints protected their home-turf with a victory. Hopefully the (2013) NFC South Champions will be able to rise to the occasion yet again in what will be the “Clash of the Titans”. I personally wanted to see a rematch of the 2010 divisional round between Green Bay and Atlanta, but after the way Colin Kaepernick totally dominated the Packers defense, the 49ers coming to The Dome will be better for fans and the game of football.
When Jim Harbaugh made the decision to bench Alex Smith for the supposedly inexperienced Kaepernick, everyone that followed the NFL began to question whether or not Jim was making the right decision. Alex Smith did take this team to the NFC Championship last year, and they were a muffed-punt away from the big dance in Indy. Alex Smith’s emergence was one of the feel-good stories of the NFL, and he had just about worked his way out of bust status. I denounced the decision all the way until this past Saturday… Kaep unleashed on the GB defense, accumulating over 400 yards and four TD’s (Two through the air/ground each). His 181 yards rushing is now an NFL playoff record in what was arguably the best QB performance of any this season. In my opinion, it was the most electrifying since Mike Vick’s performance in the 2002-03 season against the Vikings (That will be my last time referencing the Vikings, I promise). Kaepernick just solidified his star status with the annihilation of the Packers D. When you add to that Russell ‘Last Name’ Wilson and RGIII’s emergence this season, and you may see more organizations looking for duel-threat QB’s in the NFL Draft.
If I learned anything about the playoffs in my 15 years of watching football, is that they’re unpredictable. For the Falcons, that’s a good thing. No one could’ve predicted that ‘The Burner’ would show up in the first playoff game. No one could’ve predicted that ‘Beast Mode’ would’ve been held to under 50 yards rushing. And who could’ve predicted that Matt Ryan would be sacked only once the entire game? Not me, that’s for sure. Therefore, I will not talk about stats on this preview, they mean nothing this game. All I know is that D-Block better not turn their back on Kaepernick, because that’s exactly what Green Bay did and they paid the price. Before the playoffs began, everyone knew GB’s defense was a liability, but Clay Matthews and Co. looked lost at Candlestick stadium. The 49ers were a dangerous team with Alex Smith, but with Kaepernick leading the charge, they look ready to domineer the league. With that offense to go along with their top-5 defense, they’re definitely the most talented team in the league.
With that being said, Atlanta does have some experience against duel-threat QB’s. They’ve beaten the Redskins and split games against Cam Newton and the Panthers. While they struggled against both QB’s, they did enough to pull out a win, and they did it when they wern’t playing their best football. Falcons struggled with tackling just about the entire season, and cost them a few games . But, when they were in a must-win situation though, D-Block showed they’re more than capable of wrapping up defenders and getting job done. Tackling is not something that can be taught. You can talk about form n’ all, but it takes heart to go out there and put your body on the line to stop certain players. In some games during the regular season, the defense played with a lot of passion (Vs. week 12-Bucs, Chargers, Broncos) and some games they left their will at the house (Vs. Panthers, week13-Saints, Arizona). I don’t know what D-Block will show up this game, but to win this game, it needs to be the D-Block from the first-half vs. the Seahawks, and they need to do it for 60 minutes this time. Also, John Abraham vowed to play this Sunday, which is great news for Atlanta. When John was out for the second-half, the D-line had a hard time finishing plays. Do that against Colin, and he’ll make us pay. John is the best finisher on the defense, and we’ll need him this game.
Perhaps the Falcons’ greatest advantage is that they’ll be playing on their home-field. This will be the first NFC Championship Atlanta has ever hosted, which pretty much guarantees that there will be a ’sea of red’ in the Bird’s Nest this weekend. I’m guessing that it’ll be as loud as it has ever been, probably as deafening as the Saints’ first game in the Superdome after Katrina. One thing is for sure, there will be no ‘Southern Comfort’ allocated when the 49ers step foot on that turf…
Everyone that will be in attendance this Sunday; make sure to buy some throat-spray and scream as loud as possible…An NFC West rivalry is about to be rekindled.