To be honest with you, I spent the entire game laughing.
It was not laughing at the Jaguars, because lord knows the Falcons have been on that end of some pretty miserable games before. I was laughing because this game was such a joy to watch. It was a display of everything that is good and right about Falcons football, from the natural athletic ability of Julio Jones to the defense capitalizing on every single mistake Blaine Gabbert made.
You expect good teams to take care of business against struggling opponents, but what the Falcons did was something else entirely. They quite simply destroyed the Jaguars in all three phases, making one stupid mistake on special teams and letting off the gas defensively on the Jags' last drive. Literally everything else Atlanta did turned to gold, like King Midas in a football helmet.
Sometimes it's best to leave the lofty language at home and just say this: It was an awesome game. I could not have enjoyed it more than I did.
This was what we all wanted to see. The Falcons stunk the house out against the Texans, but they've quietly put together a fantastic second half and suddenly look unstoppable heading into a difficult matchup with the Saints and, later, one against a Buccaneers team that the Jaguars recently dominated. They also have a week-and-a-half to get ready for New Orleans, which means Brent Grimes should be back in action. We all know how much Drew Brees loves that guy.
Better yet, the Falcons have locked up their fourth straight winning season after moving to 9-5 last night. It was a magical night of football, and no matter what happens from here on out, let's not forget about it.
Individual performances abound after the jump.
- Matt Ryan was so good he got to take an early vacation.
Playing behind a line that afforded him more protection than usual, Ryan made crisp throws all day long. He exploited an overwhelmed Jaguars secondary by firing lasers to Julio Jones and Roddy White. He finished the day with 224 yards and three touchdowns in what amounted to about three quarters worth of work.
Very quietly, Ryan has turned his season around after bad offensive line play and his own struggles held him back early in the year. Aside from the Texans game, he's been amazing for weeks on end. Let's hope it continues against the Saints.
- Cristobal Rojohombre was effective in relief. Good to see he's still got it.
- Yeah, Michael Turner had a middling game, averaging about 3.1 yards per carry. And yeah, he was basically untouched on that five yard touchdown run.
I don't care. The sight of Turner throwing Eric Weems into two Jaguars was, hands down, my favorite single moment of the season. I can't hate on him. Not after that.
- Jacquizz Rodgers broke a man's ankles last night. This was seriously filthy.
- Roddy White exploded tonight. He and Ryan broke the franchise scoring record between a QB and WR—see if you can guess who had it before them—and he's now the eighth receiver in the history of the NFL to have five straight 1,110+ yard seasons.
But yes, this game. White abused poor Ashton Youboty, regularly breaking free and leaving the 27-year-old corner in his dust. He finished with two touchdowns and 135 yards on 10 catches. That's...pretty good.
- Julio Jones was almost as good, and his touchdown was a thing of beauty. When you're as big and strong as Jones is, you're not supposed to be able to flat-out outrun defensive backs, but that's what he did. He finished the game with five catches for 85 yards and looks to be coming into his own now that he's healthy.
Make no mistake: If he can stay healthy, he's going to be one of the best receivers in the NFL someday. All the tools are there.
- Honorable mentions to Jason Snelling, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, who each came up with a nice catch or two last night.
- Mike Mularkey didn't get too fancy, but he called a largely effective game bolstered by the offensive line that went long stretches of the game without putting Matt Ryan and Chris Redman in serious danger. Any time you score 41 points, you've done something right.
- Nobody in the NFL is punting better than Matt Bosher. He's the bee's knees.
- John Abraham had a career game. Given that he's a borderline Hall of Famer at defensive end, that's saying something.
Abraham punished the Jaguars' inept tackles—particularly the aptly named Guy Whimper—and wound up with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. On some replays, you could actually see the abject terror in Blaine Gabbert's eyes as Abe forced him to the ground and began tearing out his major organs.
Again, you could argue that this was a pretty easy matchup for The Predator. It was. But most defensive ends of Abe's caliber just don't have games like this against any competition. He's the easy MVP.
- Corey Peters was filthy. He had a sack called back by a penalty, but his biggest play came later in the game. After Abe sacked Gabbert and forced the flustered quarterback to fumble, Peters picked it up and rumbled for a touchdown. It was a heads-up, athletic play from the hulking defensive tackle, who has been an extremely effective lineman in 2011.
- Kroy Biermann hasn't looked like himself for much of the season, but he torpedoed Gabbert late in the game and won our hearts once more.
- Ray Edwards wouldn't let John Abraham exert himself too much and decided to help out on one of those sacks. Awful nice of him.
- Chris Owens played a sharp game of football outside of the last drive, when the entire secondary basically said the hell with it. Much maligned throughout his young career, Owens deserves props when he does it right.
- Thomas DeCoud's pick put the 41st nail in the Jaguars' coffin. He remains a pretty decent ballhawk back there.
- Props to the entire team from Mike Smith down to Joe Zelenka. You won't see many games like that in your lifetime, and it's worth thanking the Falcons for a superlative effort.
- Shann Schillinger missed that block, which ruined the shutout. Curse him...and stuff.
- That was seriously just about it for Falcons' lowlights. The offensive line let Ryan down a couple times, too? Yes. Let's go with that.
- Blaine Gabbert has been ruined by this season, and though I almost never do lowlights for the other team, I had to in this case. He may still be an effective starting quarterback someday, but his confidence is shaken, he has no pocket presence and the Jaguars have given him nothing to work with aside from Maurice-Jones Drew. You hate to see a young guy get brutalized like that, but he was a major reason the Falcons won, so hey.
Game MVP: John Abraham. You don't get 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a lot of Gabbert tears by accident.
Game Theme Song: It's not music, but it seemed appropriate.
One Thing To Take Away: This team is going to be good for a very long time.
Final Word: Awesome.