2010 Atlanta Falcons: A Team of Destiny Led by Matt Ryan and Co.
Call the Falcons a lucky team; I call them a team of destiny. The first 15 weeks have shown that the 2010 version of the Atlanta Falcons is simply a team of destiny. Even with their 12-2 record the media has yet to realize the Falcons are a team to reckon with. Contrary to reports and highlights on ESPN, there actually is an NFL team in the city of Atlanta and there is a team that has clinched a playoff berth. The Falcons come into the second to last game of the season with an opportunity to clinch a number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but how have the Falcons put themselves in a position to do this. Its actually quite simple, they win. They don’t dominate teams, they don’t blow out teams, and they don’t excite you, but they do something that is a lot more important, they win. They will bore you to death. Their offense will put together 15 play drives that will eat up the clock. They don’t quit until the clock hits 0:00. One word that can describe the Falcons offensive attack is methodical. They will move down the field led by Matt Ryan. They simply have the most balanced offensive attack in the NFL and that is why they have the best record in the NFC by 2 games. How have the Falcons reached this 12-2 record, by simply winning games and being consistently better than their opponents. The Falcons season of destiny has six memorable games in the first 14 games of their journey.
The first game that stands out is the week three win over the Super Bowl defending champions New Orleans Saints. The Falcons were set to start the season 1-2 when Garrett Hartley lined up for a potential game winning field goal in overtime. He missed it and the Falcons season of destiny began. Matt Ryan would then drive down the field and set Matt Bryant up for a game winning 46-yard field goal with 1:55 left. The Falcons were set to start the season 1-2, but instead started 2-1.
Then there is their next game against the 49ers. The Falcons would fall behind 14-0 in the first quarter but would make it a 14-13 game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Matty Ice would get the ball in the final minutes of the game. After throwing an interception, Roddy White hustled down the field to strip the ball, and the Falcons would have new life after recovering the fumble. Matty Ice wouldn’t make a mistake the second time he got the ball. He led the Falcons down the field and for the second week in a row, Matt Bryant would kick a game winning field goal. The Falcons continued their season of destiny with a 16-14 win and a 3-1 start to the 2010 campaign.
Then, there is the first of two games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 5-2 Falcons, after their bye week, would host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons would dominate this game in every aspect besides special teams. The Falcons allowed a return for touchdown and another long touchdown that set up a Bucs touchdown. This time it was the Falcons defense that stepped up in the final minutes of the game to seal up a Falcons victory. In the final minutes of the game the Bucs, down 21-26, would have a 4th and 1 from the 2-yard line. The Falcons defense rose to the occasion, stopped the conversion, and the Falcons improved their record to 6-2.
Four days later the Falcons would play their second game in the Georgia Dome in five days. In this game the Falcons would play the Baltimore Ravens, and the Ravens were out to prove to the rest of the country that the Falcons were not as good as their 6-2 record. The Falcons would get out to a 20-7 lead with 11:34 left in the fourth quarter. The Ravens would come fighting back and take a 21-20 lead with 1:05 left. And there it is, the Falcons aren’t a good team, they aren’t serious contenders, the Falcons have lost to the Baltimore Ravens. But Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense didn’t blink. They would get the ball at the 20-yard line needing only a field goal. But after 2 long throws to Michael Jenkins and Roddy White, Matt Ryan would hook up with Roddy White with a 33-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left and the Falcons would take a 26-21 lead and they would improve to 7-2 in their season of destiny.
The Falcons have gotten lucky; they still aren’t a good team. The 7-3 Packers will come into the Georgia Dome and defeat the 8-2 Atlanta Falcons because they are a better team. The Packers defense will be the ones to stop Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. The Falcons and Patriots would trade scores going into the fourth quarter where the Falcons would take a 17-10 lead. Aaron Rogers drove the Packers down the field and would tie the game up in the final minute on a 4th and Goal to tie the game at 17. And here we have it; the Falcons will go to overtime for the third time this season. But as normal, Matty Ice had different plans. After being the leader of game winning drives that started in overtime and one minute and five seconds left, the Falcons would now get the ball with 55 seconds left. But its not like it mattered, Matt Ryan would drive down the field again and set Matt Bryant up for a 47 yard game winning field goal. The Falcons improved to 9-2.
At 9-2 the pundits said that the Falcons couldn’t win games outside the comforts of the Georgia Dome, and the 3-game road trip they would embark on would prove that the Falcons aren’t as good as their 9-2 record. The road trip would start off with a game against the Buccaneers. This time, the heroics of this season would happen outside of the Georgia Dome. The Bucs led the Falcons 24-14 with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. An Eric Weems touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff would cut the lead to 24-21. After forcing the Bucs into a three and out Matt Ryan had the ball with plenty of time, more than eight minutes. After 10 plays and nearly 4 minutes, Matt Ryan would find Michael Jenkins for a nine-yard touchdown pass with four and a half minutes left and the Falcons led 28-24. It was time for the Falcons defense to step up against the Bucs for the second time this year. The Bucs would get the ball down to the Falcons 27 yard line, but that is where Brent Grimes made another one of his leaping interceptions, this time to seal a Falcons victory and a 10-2 start in the Falcons season of destiny.
Since then, the Falcons have beaten both the Panthers and Seahawks on the road convincingly. The Falcons have won three games on the leg of Matt Bryant three times. Matt Ryan has led the Falcons on scoring drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in six of the Falcons 12 wins; with four of those game-winning drives being in the final minute of the game or overtime. Matt Ryan is simply the most clutch QB in the final minute of the game in the NFL this year, and it isn’t even close. The defense has closed in on games and made plays in the final minutes of the game twice this year to seal up victories. The Falcons have lost twice in the state of Pennsylvania, to the Steelers and Eagles. The Falcons don’t have a bad loss. The Patriots lost to the Browns. The Eagles lost to the Redskins. The Ravens have lost to the Bengals. The Jets have lost to the Dolphins. The Falcons have been more consistent than every team in the NFL this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
You can call the Falcons season lucky. I call them a team of destiny. ESPN and the experts don’t have to give the Falcons credit, but the Falcons don’t care. They go out every Sunday and win, and they do it more consistently than every team in the NFL. This team has won eight games in a row, but there is something that is still very scary about this Falcons team. They have yet to hit their stride. They haven’t peaked like the Patriots did against the Jets and Bears. They have yet to play a complete game offensively, defensively, and special teams wise. The Falcons have reached a 12-2 record without playing their best football and that should scare the rest of the league. What will this team do in the playoffs? Can this team lose? Certainly, but so can every other team in the NFL. The Falcons are just a very hard team to beat because of what they do. The Falcons are a team that will bore you, and if you aren’t a fan, their games are tough to watch. But just wait and watch, they are a team that will bore you to a Super Bowl berth in Dallas and they are a team that has a realistic shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.