By Matthew Asher
Atlanta’s win over Arizona this weeks needs to be re-analyzed. While fans were harsh on the Falcons quarterback and running game, the fact remains that they won the game and currently have a commanding four game lead in the NFC South.
It’s very rare for a team to win a game when they end up with a minus-five in the turnover differential. Winning as ugly as the Falcons did, one has to wonder how good the Falcons truly are. Coach Smith believes the win shows the resilience of the Falcons.
“This is a group of guys that regardless of what happened on the previous play, we put that one behind us and move on to the next one and you just have to keep fighting,” Smitty said. “It says a lot about the makeup of our guys.”
Even with the game going as horribly as it did for the Falcons’ offense, the results of the game are still impressive looking at the body of work of the whole season. Matt Ryan did throw a career-high five interceptions and no touchdowns in the game but Atlanta came away with the win. The last time a quarterback posted those kind of stats was several years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. What’s amazing is even with that terrible game, he’s still on pace to shatter his personal records set in 2011 of touchdowns and passing yards by the end of the season.
He’s currently on pace to throw for 4,915 yards, nearly 800 more than the 4,177 he threw in 2011 and his projected 32 touchdowns is three more than his 29 from last season. As far as the interceptions, Smitty didn’t think Ryan played as bad as critics thought.
“It’s one of the most unique games, set of circumstances, that I’ve ever gone through as a coach,” Smitty said. “The batted balls, there were some poor decisions, there were balls going off of receivers hands. It was just one of those games where the ball wasn’t going to bounce our way, and it didn’t bounce our way. We were able to overcome that. Sometimes you’ve got to overcome bad plays…Our guys were able to do that.”
Smitty might have been a little too nice when grading Ryan’s play last game, but he is correct about the team playing well together. Anyone who has seen the Falcons play in close games this season knows that until the clock hits triple zeroes Atlanta is still in the game. Ryan didn’t throw a game-winning touchdown pass but he still was able to lead the Falcons down the field for the eventual game-winning score. This game was the fourth time this season that Matty Ice has engineered a fourth quarter comeback. It’s also the 20th of his career, the most by any quarterback since 2008 and the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons since 1966.
One of the biggest questions for any team during the course of the season is its depth. You can always have great starting players, but what happens when those starters are unable to play or limited due to injuries? Atlanta had to play without Sean Weatherspoon while Asante Samuel was limited to about 20 snaps yet the defensive stats Atlanta put up were very impressive. Limiting the Cardinals to just 178 total yards, Atlanta was never out of the game.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.