Life, as it turns out, rarely lives up to your expectations. It's even rarer that it exceeds our expectations, however modest they may be, and so those moments should be treasured.
Ladies and gentlemen, you just witnessed one of those moments, albeit an extended one. For the unholy whupping the Atlanta Falcons laid on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, with a line of Falcons bristling with weaponry, will rarely be equaled in our lifetimes. This team took my best guess at the outcome—a close win against a tough defensive team—and blew them out of the water like a depth charge hitting a school of fish. It was awesome.
This, coupled with a quality Baltimore Ravens team losing to the New England Patriots last week, has put that loss is in its proper perspective. The Saints are still about as scary a bogeyman as you could ask for, but we're suddenly 3-1, replete with offensive options and a gelling defense. At this point, it would be an upset if we didn't make a strong playoff push, never mind get rid of that giant monkey off of our collective backs.
There will be moments where anger and perhaps even sadness are called for this season, but I charge you with a simple task: Don't forget this. These moments, where a 35 point victory and a limitless horizon lie on either side of us, are precious few, and it would not do to waste them.
Follow me, my friends, as I head over the jump.
- You can't possibly go through this without mentioning Roddy White, so why not put him right up top? The wide receiver I fretted over was nowhere to be seen on Sunday. White blew through coverage frequently on his way to 210 yards on 8 catches, a staggering 30 yards per catch, and a pair of touchdowns. He also had a great heads up play when 'Dre Bly picked Matt Ryan, taking down the showboating defensive end and forcing a timely fumble. This was Roddy making up for three games worth of a slow start, and he certainly showed that he's a force to be reckoned with. Before his career is over, we'll have plenty of chances to marvel about seeing the greatest Falcons receiver of our collective lifetimes. At least, I hope so. Oh, and that 210 yards is an all-time record for this franchise, by the by.
- Matt Ryan set his own record, tossing 329 yards and generally looking like his usual efficient self out there. The throws aren't perfect, as tloz noted, but time will continue to heal those minor abrasions. In general, he commanded the game, found the open receiver and even ran one in on an ill-advised play where he looked like he was traipsing to market for a loaf of bread. I'm continually amazed at how poised he is.
- It helps your poise, of course, when your offensive line protects you like knights protect the Holy Grail. Not that Harvey Dahl would wear armor or be chivalrous, of course. It's just an analogy! Nonetheless, the team continued to provide one of the best pass protection schemes in the entire league, as Ryan has still only been sacked twice in four games. Any quarterback could look good with that time; Ryan looks great.
- Speaking of lines, they did a nice job opening holes for Michael Turner. He responded by transforming, Transformers-style, from a struggling running back to a tank with a bulldozer attached to it. He looked strong and bowled his way to his best game in 2009, including three touchdowns. It was great to see him getting quality results again, especially against the Niners' vaunted front seven. Hopefully he'll carry that momentum into next week's game.
- Great to see Jerious Norwood return and run well. Concussions are worrying injuries, but he looked returned to form after his layoff. Welcome back!
- Man, Kroy Biermann came roaring back, didn't he? Duffman came up with a timely sack, more than one instance of quality pressure and a fumble recovery. Hopefully we'll see him put up those kind of numbers on a consistent basis, because we could really use the kind of pass rush we saw Sunday. Big ups to John Abraham and Thomas Johnson for a pair of sacks, as well.
- The play that started it all off, really, and set the tone for the defense was the Mike Peterson tip that Brian Williams snatched. Williams also managed to catch a showboating (there it is again) Josh Morgan from behind to prevent a touchdown. Lot of credit goes to the defense for making all the plays they needed to...almost. I guess it would've been a shutout if they actually did that.
- In a game like this, you have to dig really deep to find something worth getting upset about, and I'm not really into that right now. I will say that I thought keeping Matt Ryan in as long as they did—and letting him run in a touchdown!—was playing with fire against a team that was down and probably none too pleased. It worked out okay, but if we're in that situation again, I'd hope they'd let him head to the sideline before things get out of hand.
Game MVP: Lest I get destroyed by angry fans, I'm going to have to go with Roddy White. He clearly deserved it for his performance and effort on Sunday. Congratulations, Roddy!
Game Theme Song: Since it's worked so well so far...
One Thing To Take Away: We're back, baby!
Final Word: Destruction.