By Shawn Lealos
The Atlanta Falcons have struggled in the playoffs in the past, but Matt Ryan said coming into this divisional playoff game that the team knew how to win, and all they cared about was the here and now. Ryan proved that he was only interested in continuing his impressive MVP-caliber season with a huge 36-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks to move on to the NFC Championship game. Here is a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ team grades for their huge divisional playoff win.
Matt Ryan has been one of the best players in the NFL this season and continued to make his case for the NFL MVP award. Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns against a formidable Seattle Seahawks defense to lead his Falcons to a surprising lopsided win over the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan didn’t throw an interception and completed passes to eight different players. Julio Jones, the best receiver on the team, led the way with six receptions but ranked third in yards with 67, although he did score one of the touchdowns.
The running game was slow going, but that is normally expected against the Seahawks defense. Tevin Coleman ran the ball 11 times for 57 yards and Devonta Freeman added 14 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Coleman added another touchdown through the air and Freeman led the team with 80 receiving yards on his four catches. Overall, the Falcons proved they have more weapons than just about anyone in the playoffs this year, and this offense can beat anybody.
The Seattle Seahawks have the more legendary defense of the two teams, and the Falcons have struggled this season on defense. However, in this game, it was the Atlanta Falcons who outplayed the Seahawks on defense. Russell Wilson, normally a very accurate quarterback, threw two interceptions in the game, one to Ricardo Allen and the other to Deion Jones. Wilson only threw for 225 yards with two touchdowns. The Falcons defense also finished the game with a safety.
The biggest downfall for the Seahawks this season was that they have not found a replacement for Marshawn Lynch, who retired last season. Quarterback Russell Wilson led the team with 49 rushing yards in the game; Thomas Rawls had 11 carries, but only gained 34 yards in the game. With the Seahawks having to rely on passing the ball and Atlanta cracking down on defense, Seattle couldn’t do anything to compete for much of the game.
Special Teams: B
Matt Bryant was accurate in the game, hitting two of two field goals and all four extra points. Matt Bosher only needed to punt the ball three times this game, putting one inside the 20 and sending the other into the end zone for a touchback. The Falcons had little success in the return game. They were unable to gain many yards on their two attempts and gave up 194 total kick return yards to Devin Hester, including a 78-yard return in the fourth quarter when the Seahawks were rallying.
The Atlanta Falcons came out strong and hit the Seahawks hard. While Seattle went up 10-7 in the second quarter, Atlanta poured it on and never looked back. The Falcons were confident and the coaches relied on Matt Ryan to quarterback a hard-fought win. The defense really stepped up as well, and finished off a traditionally strong Seahawks team to make it to the next round of the playoffs.
The Atlanta Falcons will now wait to see who they play when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Atlanta has an offense that can score points on any team in the NFL. With the defense stepping up this week, this Falcons team is confident they can make it to the Super Bowl and take home the championship.