There are so few teams who manage to achieve immortality, but I do believe the 2008 Atlanta Falcons will be one of them.
I can't imagine a more profound transformation than the one this team has gone through. The Falcons weren't just a caterpillar that turned into a butterfly; they were a steaming pile of dog excrement that turned into a spaceship. Last year's team hit a checklist of miseries no football team had ever endured, and I don't know if my expectations have ever been lower than they were coming into this season. This is beyond my wildest dreams, a vision so compelling and unbelievable that I frankly can't believe it's real at times.
Yet it is real, and after one more week we'll get to see whether the Falcons can continue the single greatest turnaround in franchise history. It will be--as it has been all season--a pleasure to see what happens next.
Join me after the jump as I break down the Vikings game!
- Yeah, it wasn't the most economic effort by our good friend Michael Turner. 19 yards for 70 carries isn't going to cause anyone to throw him a ticker tape parade down the streets of Atlanta. On a day where Adrian Peterson fumbled three times (one of those credited to Tarvaris Jackson should've been pinned on him), Turner's reliability was further underscored. It's been a treat to watch him play this season.
- John Abraham needs an even more awesome nickname than The Predator. Somehow Abe was even bigger than usual on Sunday, putting pressure on Jackson more frequently than anyone, dropping him for a sack and forcing a fumble.
- On the other side of the line from Abraham, we have Chauncey Davis. It was defensive end clinic day for the Falcons, who watched Davis put up a sack of his own and recover a pair of fumbles. Honorable mention in this category to Justin Blalock, who pounced on Matt Ryan's goal line fumble like it was a bucket of money.
- Mike Jenkins is proving to be worth every penny of that contract. The guy doesn't shy away from contact, making a couple of leaping catches over the middle where he got clocked a second later. He's never going to be prolific, but as a #2 or #3 guy in this system he's pretty darn good.
- Thanks in general to the defense, who once again managed to look bumbling while holding a team to under 20 points. I don't know how they do it, but I'm eternally grateful.
- Despite the lack of turnovers, Matt Ryan's play Sunday afternoon was less than spectacular. You have to give him some credit for the toughness of the defense, but Matty whipped a few balls well past his intended receivers and generally didn't look super comfortable in the pocket. The carry that led to a touchdown featured him foolishly trying to leap over the pile while carrying the ball like a rabid ferret, putting himself in excellent position to both fumble the football (which he did) and injure himself (which he did not). He should have a chance to get his mojo working anew next week against the Rams, but he hasn't been his usual invincible self these last couple of weeks.
Maybe we're just spoiled, eh?
- Roddy White dropped an easy pass and was pretty much a non-factor through much of the game. Again, I guess you have to chalk it up to a guy having a bad week, but it's uncharacteristic to see him disappear out there.
- The cornerbacks were pretty bad in coverage, as was the rest of the team. Visanthe Shiancoe is not nearly as good as he looked out there. Tarvaris Jackson is definitely not as good as he looked out there. The pass coverage will have a real test if we face the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs, as they're still one of the most potent aerial offenses in the league.
- What was up with the coaching? As soon as the Falcons got a reasonably comfortable lead, we couldn't be bothered to draw up a play that went further than three yards downfield. The team really has to learn to not sit on leads, especially against a team as dangerous as the Vikings.
Game MVP: In a game where few distinguished themselves and the team held on for an impressive win, it seems appropriate to give this one to Chauncey Davis. As active as anybody on the field, his two fumble scoops and bravura sack of Jackson made life a little easier in a very close game.
Game Theme Song: I don't really have one. It seems appropriate to just blast some car horns, get a few cheers going and call it a day. Work on that, you Atlanta-based Falcoholics!
One Thing To Take Away: A playoff berth! Woo! Woo!
Next Week: The hapless St. Louis Rams, who may just want to smash our faces in. It'll be worth using caution around them and VanRam over at Turf Show Times.
Final Word: Whatagreatseason.