Four quarters of relentless, Falcons football…That is all that is needed.
Can Atlanta do it? That will be the question lingering over Mike Smith’s head up until 3:00 P.M. (Eastern). Out of the 16 games played this season, the Falcons have put together sixty minutes of football in only one game, versus the Giants. Even though the game resulted in New York being shutout, you could still argue that Atlanta didn’t play at their complete best. But, you couldn’t argue that the effort, heart, and intensity wasn’t there for the entire game, because it was. You could say it was the Falcons’ most inspired performance in all of Mike Smith’s tenure. After watching that game, I got the sense that Atlanta knew then what kind of football they would have to play to take that next step in the playoffs.
The same kind of football they played against the Seahawks in the second round.
There was one problem with that game though…Atlanta only played it for one half. After they built a 20-point lead, they took their foot off the gas by playing soft coverage, letting Zack Miller and Golden Tate finish with over 100-yards receiving. Russell Wilson then proceeded to drive his team down the field for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
That is the blueprint on how NOT to finish games.
Atlanta had a problem keeping their foot on the gas late in games during the regular season, but I didn’t think it would rear it’s head against the Seahawks. Not to take anything away from Seattle though. They are an excellent team with a lot of young stars just scratching the surface of their potential, but if the Falcons played with the same acuteness that they did in the first-half of that game then Seattle wouldn’t have made a 28-7 run. Playing around with momentum is extremely dangerous against teams like the Seahawks and the 49ers, two squads deep with pro-bowl talent and a big play QB.
In my opinion, Atlanta at their best can beat any team in the NFL, even a Niners team that looked like the greatest team on the planet against Green Bay (Is there anyone besides me think that game said more about GB’s defense than SanFran’s offense?). On a neutral field, the chances of Atlanta winning this game go down significantly.
Too bad for the Niners, the Georgia Dome is the Dirty Bird’s battle grounds.
I think all that work Atlanta put into the regular season fighting for home-field advantage will pay off. Having a loud crowd to cheer you on can always motivate a squad. After seeing the Falcons come thru at the last second to beat Seattle, I think the city of Atlanta is behind the team 100 and an extra 10%. Whichever team wins this game will will walk away with the NFC crown and a bye-week before the Super Bowl. Hopefully Mike Smith will have the team ready to give everything they got on the field today.