When something goes wrong, you can feel the tension in the virtual air.
Atlanta Falcons fans have been around long enough to know that their team is going to blow it at the drop of a hat. Sam Bradford tosses a touchdown pass and it's pandemonium in the comments here at The Falcoholic. If the Falcons bumble their way through a terrible drive, Twitter blows up with fans who are waiting for the storm to blow in, leaving only a loss in its wake. There's only one problem with all the kvetching, the wide-eyed fear and the panic.
The Falcons aren't losing.
Once again, our chosen team found the going tough early on, and they came out after the half and kind of wobbled their way through a couple of drives. By now, we know that these Falcons rarely are going to come out landing body blows. They're like Popeye that way, frail and stuttering without that can of spinach, except in this case I have no idea what the spinach is. There's just a sluggishness that everyone associated with the team seems at a loss to explain.
But it hardly seems to matter when you pull off a 17 point win, when your defense plays a highly impressive game despite mustering zero pass rush and your offense is firing on all cylinders for the majority of the game. The Falcons are a blisteringly hot team right now, and they can survive bad stretches and put teams away. It's rarely pretty and it's rarely by a wide margin, but who cares? It's time to show a little faith in our boys in black and red.
After all, they're 8-2, and they just dismantled a Rams team that has a lot of promise. If you'd like to hear more about that game, then I suggest you slip over the jump with me.
- At one point Sunday, while watching Matt Ryan throw a touchdown strike to a wizened Brian Finneran, I was struck by a thought that was at once both poignant and eloquent. That thought?
Holy shit, Matt Ryan is good.
He is. Look no further than his performance against the Rams, where he avoided turnovers, threw touchdowns and spread the ball around effectively while also running for positive yardage in familiar Ryan style, which I equate to a goose waddling at top speed away from a pickup truck. Everything he does seems to work, near interception in the end zone aside, and he's establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Period.
- Speaking of running for positive yardage, Michael Turner did that today. Our Touchdown Vampire wasn't super effective for much of the contest, but then he was all like "I vant to get to the end zone!" and the end zone was all like seduced and stuff, so he totally hit that to the tune of 39 yards. Hot damn.
The offense still relies on Turner, and as long as he's reasonably effective, it sets up the pass nicely. I really do miss the days where he averaged over four yards a carry without one giant gain to skew the average.
Roddy White had a pedestrian day with 9 catches for 83 yards. To put that in perspective, an 9 catch, 83 yard day from Harry Douglas would cause my head to explode. Man, is he awesome. Aren't you glad we gave him that big ol' extension now?
- Lot of credit to go around in the passing game today. Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins were consistently good—Gonzo's one allocated drop being the exception—while Justin Peelle and Brian Finneran came up clutch in the end zone. Hell, even Eric Weems got in on the action, seconds after I implored Mike Mularkey to do something creative on third down. I'd say that counts.
- Speaking of Weems, he finally broke a long return. It wasn't a touchdown, but when you bring it back more than 50 yards, that's impressive to me.
- I know we've mercilessly hammered the offensive line here, so it's time to give credit where credit is due. The pass rush barely got within arm's reach of Ryan, and the line looked better today than it's looked in a long time. Encouraging, to say the least.
Matt Bryant is a stone-cold killer with a Falcons uniform on. I heard he kicked an F-14 out of the air one time.
- On a defense where the entire defense was competent but big plays were hard to come by, a few stick out. Peria Jerry stuffing Steven Jackson. Kroy Biermann rounding the edge and coming within a hand of demolishing Sam Bradford. But none were bigger than William Moore's red zone pick as the Rams charged downfield, the fourth pick of the season for C4.
Discipline has been a problem for him, but I think we're watching a star develop at safety. Moore is a physical hitter, he's getting better in coverage and he sure as hell can pick a pass. Put a year or two under his belt and he could be truly scary.
- A handful of bad drives out of Mike Mularkey in this one, as usual, but he played to the team's strengths and let Ryan run things out of the no-huddle. One horrendous series for Brian Van Gorder—they can't stick a fork in the prevent fast enough—but otherwise quality calling. I sense a team gelling.
- I only have one big system-wide lowlight, but it is a doozy. As you might guess, it's the lack of a pass rush.
The Falcons saw a game effort up front, especially by Biermann, but didn't manage a single sack against a mediocre offensive line. Worse, they had long stretches where they didn't even get close to Sam Bradford. If this is what missing John Abraham does to the line, the Falcons may be in trouble against a tough Packers team and Aaron Rodgers next week.
Game MVP: Gotta give it to Ryan. This game lacked a true standout performer, but Ice was awfully good and awfully close.
Game Theme Song: Just shout 8-2 until it blurs together enough to sound like a song.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons are winners, damnit.
Final Word: Win.