Falcons vs. Buccaneers – Who Earned Their Wings


November 25, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Every week, I give credit to the five Falcons who had the biggest impact on the game, and really turned the tide in the Falcons favor, or played the very best. Here are my Week 12 Falcons who earned their wings:

Quarterback Matt Ryan: Ryan threw another interception, much to the chagrin of Falcons fans, but aside from that throw, he was lights out. Ryan was 26 of 23 for 353 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 110. But the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet were even more important. He consistently put the ball in spots where only his receiver could catch the pass, moved the chains exactly when he needed to, and in general did a fantastic job of playing the quarterback position. Without his fantastic play, things would have been much more difficult for the Falcons.

Cornerback Robert McClain: It seemed like McClain constantly was making solid plays exactly when he needed to. Two plays really stick in my mind. The first was on the Buccaneers side of the field, and third down. The receiver broke to the sideline and brought in the pass. McClain did a great job of making contact on the receiver immediately, and holding him short of a first down. It was huge, because the Bucs then were forced to punt. On the second play, slot receiver Tiquan Underwood faked a corner, and broke back to the inside on a post. McClain wasn’t fooled, and continued to play the hip of Underwood. He perfectly undercut the throw, and was able to get a hand in, and break up the pass. He prevented that big play, and earned his wings in the process.

Runningback Jacquizz Rodgers: We know that Rodgers isn’t a super physical runner, but he is outstanding at making one cut, and hitting the hole, or making men miss. The Falcons put the ball in his hands, and he made some magic happen on the perimeter in the run game. Without his running, the Falcons would have had next to zero rushing attack. When you add in the great job he did catching the football as well as returning kickoffs (one of which he returned for a significant gain), there’s not questioning his value to this Atlanta Falcons team.

Wide Receiver Julio Jones: Roddy White and Matt Ryan have been on the same page for years, so much so that they can make things happen both to simply move the chains, and to hit on big passing plays. It may have taken up to this point, but I believe Ryan and Jones are on that same page right now. Ryan consistently turned to Jones when he needed a first down, and he also hit on the biggest play of the game (and season) for an 80-yard touchdown. Jones 6 catches and career high 147 receiving yards exemplify his playmaking ability.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson: Yeah, Nicholas and Weatherspoon had big days playing the run, and that was the most important thing for the Falcons to do on the day. But I think Robinson had the biggest impact as far as plays he made, rather than plays he prevented. He was effective neutralizing the pass, but he also had 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a critical sack of Josh Freeman early in the game. Yes, the scheme made it possible and necessary that Robinson be the player to make that play, but he still executed it very well. He also made a crushing tackle for loss on Doug Martin in the third quarter. Really big day for a player who hasn’t had enough of those afternoons in an Atlanta uniform.