Few things in life are sweeter for Atlanta Falcons’ fans than watching a sweep of the New Orleans Saints. Week 17 cemented the different feel Dan Quinn’s Falcons have compared to past teams.
The Atlanta Falcons offense played one of the more memorable first halves of an NFL game we’ll ever see. Atlanta scored a touchdown on all five possessions and put the game away by halftime. The Saints managed to make the box score look prettier later on, but it was clear the Falcons’ offense was in full control. There’s was no reason to think that if Dan Quinn wanted five more touchdowns in the second half, all he had to do was give the word.
…it’s onward and upward after the another big win in Week 17
New Orleans Saints’ fans head to the offseason clinging to Drew Brees’ 5,000-yard season. It’s all they have with 7-9 becoming the best-case scenario for their abysmal franchise. As for the Atlanta Falcons, it’s onward and upward after the another big win in Week 17.
The offensive juggernaut strikes again
Matt Ryan couldn’t have looked any “cooler” in that first half, connecting on 17-of-19 passes for 235 yards and a four touchdowns. It was no surprise that all four of Ryan’s touchdown passes were to different receivers. The top-MVP candidate has made an incredible mark in spreading the ball around all season long. Speaking of MVP, can we just agree to give Ryan the trophy now?
I’ve seen some concerns that the Falcons didn’t play very well in the second half. They certainly didn’t, but it happens when a team is laying off and playing the clock. Matt Ryan was sacked in the opening drive of the third quarter and that was pretty much it for the offense. The Falcons did cap off the ensuing drive with a field goal, but it was clear Kyle Shanahan’s foot was well off the gas pedal. Throughout most of the third quarter and into the fourth, Atlanta primarily ran the ball and threw short passes. It just wouldn’t have made any sense to show any more of a game plan or risk injury with any long passes over the middle of the field.
More ‘bend don’t break’ defense
It’s no secret that the only limitation to a Falcons’ Super Bowl run will be the defense. They gave up 32 points last week but again, were in full control of the game for as long as necessary. We knew the Saints were going to score points, as good offenses typically do. The only concern of mine was the Saints’ second drive that seemed to last an eternity. Atlanta gave up some rough third down plays and of course, the drop-pass to Coby Fleener in double-coverage is something forget. I was; however, proud to see the Falcons’ defense stuff Mark Ingram on the goal line and ultimately force a field goal.
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We can admit that drive resulted in three points because Fleener didn’t secure what should’ve been a touchdown catch. I’ll raise the point the Falcons’ defense didn’t make it easy for the Saints to find the end zone. It was a long, multi-play drive that Atlanta didn’t quit on, regardless of the big plays. As a result, the offense took the ball again in a 7-3 game instead of 7-7. Five plays later, it was 14-3. That is exactly what the Falcons need from their defense in the playoffs. They don’t need to be completely shut down; just give the ball back the offense enough to get ahead and stay ahead.
The Dan Quinn attitude and toughness
A final takeaway from Week 17 was that Dan Quinn does not coach scared. The offense and defense were essentially playing ‘safe’ for much of the second half, but Atlanta’s starters remained on the field. I questioned whether playing for the NFC’s 2nd seed was worth the risk of a Derek Carr-like injury, but Quinn’s intentions were made clear. The Atlanta Falcons wanted that 2nd seed just as much as they wanted to sweep New Orleans into the offseason.
Dan Quinn’s hardened approach seems like the edge the 2012 Atlanta Falcons only wished they’d had. It’s refreshing to see an Atlanta team finally as tough as they are finesse. These Falcons feel more like the ‘hunters’ than the ‘hunted’ this time around.
It’s amazing to think the Falcons are still flying below so many radars.