I enjoyed watching the game yesterday for the most part. The only part where I was really miffed was the usual "How can we screw this up this time?" segment in the third/fourth quarter, where Percy Harvin went ham on us. But even then, I never really felt like we were in danger of losing. It was almost like we scored/stopped them when we absolutely had to, and played Shoopus My Whoopus any other time. Except that the D's Shoopus My Whoopus was still pretty good.
First half was a smashing success. Talk about imposing your will on a team, we pretty much had our way with them in the first half. Then, like a tricky younger sibling, they did some sneaky things and tried to creep back into the game. We decided at that point that we needed to put the younger sibling in their place, and we did so.
As always, join me after the jump for specifics.
The Whole Defense: I tell ya what, I was really pleased with the defensive performance, including several fantastic individual performances which I'll cover in a moment. We pitched a shutout for the first half, and still managed to hold them to a pedestrian 14 points. There were some defensive lapses in there, but I'd take a defensive performance like that every week. We tend to make a couple dopey plays here and there, but we're playing pretty well nonetheless.
All Three Linebackers: I said individual performances just now, but I want to lump all three of the LBs together, spearheaded by Spoon. Spoon was eatin' good yesterday. I almost feel like he's getting better every week and he's already playing like his hair is on fire. Spoon had a touchdown-saving tackle on 4th down during our goal line stand, and he was just simply all over the place. He had a sack and 3 tackles for loss.
Even the largely quiet Stephen Nicholas made a couple good plays. And then, of course, you have The Police who was his usual beastly self, even doing so much as run like hell towards the end zone on that 4th and 13 that we gave up. I really feel like that was designed ie. Lofton playing deep middle. It doesn't really make much sense, but based on what I could see, it was his duty to cover the end zone. He was there to make the play, it's just that Harvin made a more athletic play. We hate it, sure, but it happens. For every good play someone does, it's probably an equally bad play for the other team.
Dunta Robinson: Dude had a few vicious hits today, including one that he managed to hurt himself with. He also had one hit that jarred the ball loose on a much larger receiver (which was a legal hit, by the way). Hooray Dunta. I was scared when you went down right after Optimus that we were screwed. But you returned. Hooray.
El Sid: El Sid had 2 of the team's 4 sacks yesterday. We have guys like Abe, Edwards, and Biermann, and this guy gets two sacks? I'm loving the depth of our defensive line right now. We might not have the biggest or best group out there, but if any of them are a threat to get a sack, it makes us a heck of a lot more dangerous.
Michael Palmer: I received the Falcons 2011 Christmas Ornament I purchased (and gave it to my dad for his birthday) and it had Palmer's signature on the back. What does he do this week? He scores a touchdown. I was excited for him. He doesn't get many touches, but he received a missile from Matty and secured it safely just over the goal line. Props to him.
Chris Owens: I know we hate this guy for his coverage skills. He's a career backup, most likely, but you know what? I have to echo what the announcers said in that his rundown of Harvin could make a huge difference between us making the playoffs and us not making the playoffs. Percy Harvin was long gone on that kickoff return. He was LONG GONE. And wouldn't you know, the oft maligned #21 comes flying down the field after him and not only catches him, but tackles him before he can reach the end zone, which then lead to our super goal line stand. Just a superb individual effort from a kid that gets flamed as much as anyone on this site. He also had a sack. Good for you, Chris Owens.
And think, I've mentioned one offensive person to this point.
Matt Ryan: Matt Ryan had the most accurate game of any Falcons QB ever with at least 30 attempts with a 79.4% completion percentage. (The old high was Jeff George in 1994 with 78.4%). We can't talk about improving without talking about Matty, who is looking more and more in control as time goes on. He looks like he's in total control of the offense, and his passes have been really good as of late. If not for a few drops, we'd be talking about one of the most accurate games in history. So really, it was a great performance by Matty.
Roddy White/Tony Gonzalez/Harry Douglas: Seems like Gonzo keeps on trucking. He had 9 catches on 9 targets, so you know he's as reliable as ever. Roddy had a pretty good game, with a sweet touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. He looks like he's returning to his old self, which is great because we're going to need him for the stretch run. HD had a really sweet touchdown catch, breaking a tackle and dancing into the endzone. The O looks good.
$$$$/Bosher: Special teams was pretty good, save for the one Harvin return. Bosher looks like the real deal. He averaged 50 yards a punt on 5 punts. I exclaimed "Holy #$!@" out loud when I looked at that stat just now. Is this the same guy that was kicking 30 yard punts earlier in the season? Freakin' incredible. He also was kicking the ball deep into the end zone on kickoffs.
I'm sure I've forgotten some. There was a lot of good stuff in the game. Oh, especially Quizz. This is the second game we've asked him to make a play to seal the game, and he's done so both times. That 10 yard catch-and-run was a thing of beauty! And the OL played well as well.
The Second Half Offensive Gameplan: We stopped running the ball in the second half. Or at least, we stopped running it worth a darn. I don't know what the deal was with that. It kinda worried me a little.
Whoever's Idea It Was to Have Lofton Cover Percy Harvin on 4th-and-13: If it was BVG, then it was BVG. Dave and I discussed this briefly outside of the site, and while I think the idea was dumb, at least Lofton was in position to make the play, which makes it a fraction less stupid in my eyes. That being said, it was still stupid.
Julio: I can't really say Julio was "bad", but my only memory of him was the OPI (which was iffy) and him subsequently dropping the pass thrown his way. If he's going to be a superstar, he needs to show up every week.
Optimus's Knee: Not sure what's up with Grimey, but hopefully he's not out for long. It didn't look to be too bad, but these days, you never know.
No ugly this week. Nothing really stood out as really bad. The D played so well in the first half, I think our expectations were a little too high in the second half. In any case, we won, and yes, that's the only thing that matters.
MVP: Have to give it to Matty, although Spoon is a close second. Spoon was incredible.
Sound of the Game: Since Matty wins MVP, Spoon gets this.
In a Word: Awesome.