By Matthew Asher
With last week’s embarrassing 30-20 loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers, many people wondered if Atlanta’s 11-2 record was so good only because they had played just one team with a winning record (Week 2 against Denver) through the first fourteen weeks.
With the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants visiting Atlanta in Week 15 (the same team that thumped the Falcons 24-2 in last season’s Playoffs), Atlanta issued a very loud and dominating statement in the form of a 34-0 beat down: Don’t you dare think Atlanta can’t hang with the big boys of the league.
To say Coach Smith was pleased with the result of this game would be an understatement. “I thought that we rebounded very well from our performance from last week,” Smitty said. “I’m really proud of the way these guys bounced back. This game was won in the preparation during the week. They did a great job preparing and we went out and executed in all three phases.”
With that being said, while last week there was nothing to do but criticize Atlanta’s play, this is a rare time where it takes lots of effort to find any faults. Don’t worry though, several issues were apparent when all was said and done.
The (Really) Good
Atlanta’s defense gets an A+. Three main reasons for the perfect mark:
- Atlanta has not shutout an opponent since November 2009.
- The Falcons have not shutout an opponent at the Georgia Dome since October 2002.
- New York has not been shutout of a regular season NFL game since December 1996, (also making this Eli’s first shutout loss).
To put this in perspective how long its been since the Giants were shutout of a game, Bill Clinton had just been reelected the President of the United States, Matt Ryan was in grade school and the city of Atlanta had just finished hosting the Centennial Olympic Games.
Coming into the game, New York had the third most potent scoring offense, averaging slightly less than 29 points each game. The Giants total offense (372.9) and passing offense (256.5) were both ninth best in the league. The Giants finished with 256 net yards of total offense and just 159 net yards of passing.
Smitty may or may not be aware of the stats listed above. Either way, he was very happy with his defense’s efforts. “I thought our disguise package in the pass game was good. We put pressure on the quarterback,” Smitty said. “It was an outstanding effort across the board. That’s an explosive football team that last week put up 52 points. I’m really proud of the way the guys played.”
Also, Asante Samuel (who didn’t play in last week’s Carolina game) picked off Eli Manning’s first pass attempt of the game. This is Asante’s fourth career interception against the youngest of the Manning boys.
Matt Ryan gets an A. While Matty Ice’s production may have slipped over the past few games, overall he’s still doing great. In just this 14th game of the season, Ryan has already broken two of his own franchise records: 4,202 passing yards and pass completions in a season with 369. The previous records were 4,177 in 2011 and 357 completions in 2010.
Matt Bryant gets an A. Matt Bryant was 6-6 in the game, making four extra points and two field goals, he tallied 10 points. He also surpassed the 1,000 point mark for his career and now currently has 1,001.
The “Bad” (but really the “Just not Perfect”)
Ryan had five passes that weren’t thrown for completions and didn’t surpass the 300-yard passing mark for just the sixth time this season (Week 1 he threw for 299). Ryan’s QB rating was just 142.6, only the second-highest QB rating Ryan has ever posted.
Is it really too much to ask for more accuracy, or will the Falcons have to settle for his 82 percent completions, 270 passing yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions? For those who think he should have done better, you may want to check this out.
The “Ugly” (if you consider Victoria’s Secret Angels ugly)
For the third time this season, the Falcons did not have a player surpass the 100-yard receiving mark. While Roddy White has been the leader in receiving yards (game leader, not just team leader) on four separate occasions this season, he only caught two passes for 16 yards even though he missed the entire week of practices.
Atlanta’s rushing game gets a B. Collectively, the Falcons running attack piled up 129 yards. Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for 64 of those yards on 17 carries. Michael Turner, however still had issues.
Yes, Turner did score his ninth touchdown of the season and his sixth in the past seven games, but he only registered 52 yards on 16 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
While Atlanta still has yet to clinch the top NFC Playoff spot, one more win and the Falcons are guaranteed the very sought after first round bye. Atlanta takes its 12-2 record to Michigan next Saturday (not Sunday) to face the 4-10 Detroit Lions. Kickoff is 8:30pm.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.