Do I cheer now? Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm still not quite used to all this winning.
First off, a hat tip to the Carolina Panthers and Panthers fans. That was a hard-fought game the entire way, and I'd prefer not to spend the last quarter of the game frozen in terror. Still, when the chips were down and the going got hard and the cucumbers were all mixed up and the ice was on my windshield in the middle of September, the Falcons got it going and slammed the door on the Teal Cats. That was pretty awesome, and it augers well for our chances of not getting destroyed against the New England Patriots this week.
Lot of props to give out today and only a couple of lowlights, so let's hit the gas on this one. Follow me after the jump, won't you?
- I can't help but lead off with Chris Houston. The biggest target of our ire this entire off-season got burnt to a crisp more than once by Steve Smith before he just plain got tired of it and grabbed a crucial pick late. It's a great thing for his confidence, and he'll need plenty of that next week when he matches up against Randy Moss. Nice job, Chris!
- Matt Ryan was nothing short of terrific today. The interception was a bad start to the game and the drive where we inexplicably called pass plays when we just needed to run out the clock wasn't great, but other than that he was calm, collected and making every single throw he needed to. With Tony Gonzalez available in the passing game, Ryan might take an enormous step forward in 2009.
- Speaking of Gonzo, that man can catch a football. He also apparently has a psychic power that causes defenders to stand several thousand feet away. He couldn't have been more open on that touchdown catch if he was the last man on earth.
- The offensive line has to get a lot of dap. Sam Baker just embarrassed Julius Peppers today, and guys like Justin Blalock recovered nicely after a shaky first week. Ryan just looks that much better when he's able to stand up for long periods of time.
- Nice games from Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and even Marty Booker, who all showed up when they were needed. All the pieces are there for this to be the best Falcon passing attack in recent memory.
- The rushing attack looked much better than last week, but I still have some concern's about Turner's lack of utter domination among mere mortals. Teams are clearly game-planning against him, but he ground out the clock and ate up enough yardage to give us the win and atone for his fumble. Jason Snelling looked great, and if Jerious Norwood leaves in free agency in 2010, I think we've got a pretty darn good backup just waiting for the chance.
- Mike Peterson is making Comrade Dimitroff look even smarter than usual. With a blocked punt and another forced fumble, Big Play Mike is making a huge mark on this defense. That veteran leadership doesn't hurt, either. Great game for Peterson.
- Big ups to safeties, too. Erik Coleman had a ton of tackles and also forced a fumble, while Thomas DeCoud scooped up the one Peterson forced. For a unit with so many concerns, the secondary's been much better than expected. Hooray!
- Jason Elam didn't have a chance to kick a field goal, but he also didn't whiff on any extra points. Well done!
- Last but not least, Eric Weems had a fantastic day on kick returns, and Norwood had a pretty nice one too. Special teams are still a big part of this team's success.
- There's really not much to complain about, but the team really bent about as far as they could possibly go on defense. Admittedly, Steve Smith is a great receiver and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are very good running backs. Admittedly. Yet I can't help but feel like this kind of defensive effort against a team like the Saints is going to result in us getting blown out of the water. We have to be able to make big stops on a consistent basis.
- There was a little bit of Mike Mularkey's trademark weird play-calling late in the game. When the Falcons just need to run down the clock, he unsuccessfully goes for broke. When they need to go for broke, it's three runs and boom a punt. It doesn't happen often, but ever ytime it does it frustrates the hell out of me. Next time, give the ball to Turner!
- We only beat the Panthers by 8 points? GEEZ!
Game MVP: This was a tough call because of Houston's interception, Peterson's excellent play and the strength of the offensive line. Still, I had to hand it to Matt Ryan. He was very, very good and accounted for three quarters of the Falcons' scoring on Sunday, which was enough by itself to win the game. Congratulations, Matt Ryan! I'm sure this makes your entire life brighter.
Game Theme Song: For the sake of good luck, let's go with the same victory theme as last week...but with a twist!
One Thing To Take Away: Our offense can hang with any team in the NFL. No question.
Next Week: We'll be looking to extend our season-opening win streak to three against the Patriots, who are more than capably represented by Pats Pulpit. Be sure to check 'em out.
Final Word: Winningisgreat.