Admiral Ackbar would be proud. "Trap game!!!!!!1" was a popular theme for yesterday's game pre-kickoff. By the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, everything was looking much more rosy. The short of it is this: the Falcons are 8-2 on the year, one win away from cementing their third consecutive winning season. The long of it is this: the goal is hardware and rings, and that road to ultimate success is going to be one heck of a battle, game in and game out.
The offense came out listless, wandering, as they are apt to do when traveling outside their natural habitat. The defense, down its best pass rusher, generated zero sacks. Turner couldn't get going and the first drive stalled. And then the Falcons scored on the next four possessions, the last coming just a few seconds before halftime. They caught their rhythm fairly early and never truly let it wane until the Rams came surging back early in the third quarter. Thankfully, the D held on a third and one play and from there on out, it was all Falcons.
- I'm not sure many of us expected Matt Ryan to be this good this consistently after last year's performance, but he's currently on pace for a career mark setting year. What's most impressive is the level of control he has over the offense. Mularkey, as often praised as he is chided, is letting Ryan have almost total freedom once he reads the defense. In 09 and 08, that was rare but worked decently when in play. Now, Ryan is audibling or checking on just about every snap. At year three in the NFL, he is leading an offense that is a yard and time eating juggernaut and many times, he's the one calling the plays. If year three brings us this level of performance, Manning-like and Brady-esque may begin to pale in comparison to his acumen a few seasons down the road.
- Roddy White is, for lack of a better description, inhuman. I don't know exactly how he got to this level of play after a few years mired in mediocrity (and drop-isity), but he's already over 1000 yards (his fourth consecutive 1000 yd+ season mind you) and we've still got a third of the season left to play. With Ryan throwing as well as he is, making the decisions and play-changes he's making, White is almost guaranteed a record setting season.
- Turner slowing down slightly as he neared the goal-line on his 39 yard TD rush, as if thinking "Hmm, maybe I should down it at the one to show mercy" and then running into the endzone anyway was a great moment.
- The offensive line. I won't be able to fault Sam Baker this week, as he and his jawing, ornery, just-plain-mean cohorts kept the Rams' defense, known for its sacking propensity, sackless. Ryan's new-and-improved vision/mobility/improv-skills may be a big help, but the OL is providing him the time he needs to do all of that. When your young but smart and talented QB has enough time to crochet a nice red and black doily before throwing the ball, your OL is doing its job.
- Eric Weems proved himself reliable both in special teams and on what I call the "WTF" section of plays in Mularkey's playbook. When he actually was able to return, it seemed as if he was close to breaking one. And then he did, returning from the endzone for 55 yards, setting up a Falcons score. Lest we forget, just a drive earlier, he caught a timely first down pass to keep an eventual scoring possession alive.
- William Moore and his timely pick at the goal line. Really, what can be said? Game changer.
- Michael Jenkins' hands have been covered in glue the past couple of games. Love seeing him making the catches he should be making.
- The DL, for getting pressure on Bradford near the end of the game. He was under pressure to win and the rush added to that mental chaos.
- The defense is much too bend, don't break. It's not good for the fans' hearts and we all know one of the key sponsors for the Falcons is the Piedmont Heart Health Center. Is that a conspiracy I smell? Heartattack Birds!
- That Roddy White non catch at the sideline on third and long? It was a catch.
- Vanilla defensive playcalling creeps its ugly head again once we have a comfy lead.
- John Abraham apparently shrank and lost his beard but grew some hair on his head in ten days. Fox fails so hard, so often, it's almost funny.