Atlanta Falcons are consistently getting it done in crunch time


A championship team plays its best football in the fourth quarter. Blowout victories are fun, but they don’t help a football team prepare for the playoffs, because you’re unlikely to get many of those in January. Through two weeks, what’s become crystal clear is that the Atlanta Falcons are getting it done in crunch time.

Are the Falcons a championship team? No. But this grit and fight we’re already seeing on the field goes directly back to Dan Quinn and the energy he’s installed in this football team. Against the ropes, the Falcons of last year would fold. But not anymore; not this team.

“I couldn’t be more proud in terms of the effort and the finish,” Quinn said.

“Every time you go through those, you get a little tougher, you get a little more confident, so it’s great for our mindset knowing that’s such an important part of our program and what we do and had that happen today.”

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Down 20-10 late in the third quarter, the Giants looked to put the game away with the football on the Atlanta 8-yard line. But the Falcons kept fighting, and Kroy Biermann became the unlikely hero with the strip sack of Eli Manning. A play later and Matt Ryan has picked out tight end Jacob Tamme for a 41-yard gain and suddenly there is life.

“Every now and then you’re going to get off to a slow start. Some games you’re going to get out to a fast start, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the finish.” – Julio Jones after the Giants win

It had been a sluggish performance for the most part, but everything changed when the fourth quarter began. Ryan and the offense moved the football; the defense tightened. With the ball in Matty Ice’s hands, there was only one way the game finishing. He slung a third-down pass to Leonard Hankerson before the two minute warning, and picked out Julio Jones for a 37-yard gain a play later.

Devonta Freeman punched in a 1-yard touchdown to give the Falcons a 24-20 lead, and for the second straight week it was over to the defense. In the past, Manning would have stepped all over this defense and clinched a dramatic victory. But this team is different. The Falcons held firm and turned the ball over on downs.

“Like Quinn said postgame, you can’t win the game in the first, second or third quarter,” Julio Jones said post-game. “You win the game in the fourth quarter. It’s all about how you finish.”

And the Falcons have finished for two straight weeks. Without the performances we’ve seen in crunch time, they would sit at 0-2. But this energetic, resolute team has fought until the end and because of that sit pretty at 2-0, the Falcons’ best start since 2012.

This is only the beginning and the season is long. But if the Atlanta Falcons are to reach the playoffs, it’s these kind of victories at the death that will ensure this team is battle-tested and ready once January rolls around.

Next: NFL Power Rankings: Week 3 standings

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