There are a few words that come to mind when describing the Atlanta Falcons win Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dominance is certainly one of them. With the exception of a blocked Matt Bosher punt coming with 2:24 left in the third quarter and a garbage time touchdown pass at the end of the game, the game could have very well ended in a 41-0 shutout. Nevertheless the 41-14 victory for the Falcons is clearly their best of the year and for seemingly the first time this year they have lived up to the high expectations at the start of the year.
The game started off just how the Falcons envisioned games would be at the beginning of the season. The Falcons were able to use all their main offensive weapons and it resulted in a 4:49 minute touchdown drive. It started with a nice 15 yard run by Michael Turner and was capped by a sweet 29 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. The catch and run by Jones was a thing of beauty, anytime he touches the ball he has the ability to take it to the end zone, something the Falcons will need to have if they face the Saints or Packers in the playoffs. What was great about the first drive of the game was the fact that besides Jones and Turner making plays, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez made catches that resulted in first downs. Matt Ryan had a great game and did a nice job of finding the open target. Roddy White had a huge game with 10 catches for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. The entire offense looked crisp and it was a breath of fresh air to see the offense put their foot on the throats of the Jaguars and not let them even think about coming back in the game.
Much like the Falcons offense set the tempo in their first drive, the defense answered suit. The very first play for the Falcons defense ended with a John Abraham sack, one of his 3.5 on the day to go along with 2 forced fumbles. The drive ended in a 3 and out for the Jaguars which was very common for the rest of the game. The entire Jaguars offense (with the exception of Maurice Jones Drew) just looked overmatched by the Falcons defense. The pass rush was getting to Gabbert consistently and when he did throw it up, there was good coverage all around. Dominique Franks has looked pretty good with more consistent playing time thanks to the injuries of Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden. That can only be a good thing come playoff time given all the elite passing games there are in the NFC. There is not much else to say about the defense in this game. Curtis Lofton put together another good game as he has all season. William Moore in his first start in a while had a great game leading the team in tackles seemingly flying all over the field. No disrespect to James Sanders but when Moore is in the game the entire secondary is much better.
Besides the aforementioned blocked punt, the Falcons special teams also put in a nice game. Their coverage on punts and kicks were superb and a nice tackle by Antone Smith lead to a fumble recovery for the Falcons and eventually an easy Michael Turner touchdown. However let’s hope they get that blocked punt out of their system because that is something that cannot happen in a meaningful or close game. That is really the only negative comment I can make for this game that was never close.
Looking ahead I believe that next week’s Monday night game against the Saints is without a doubt the most important game of the season. It’s not only just because a win would mean the division is still winnable but that a win would do a lot for the momentum for this team. Look no further than last year with the defending super bowl champion Packers for what ending the season on a high note can do for a team. With the great 2nd half against the Panthers and the beat down just delivered against the Jaguars, a win next week against one of the best teams in the conference would be gigantic for this team’s confidence. The bottom line is if the Falcons can play at the level they did against the Jaguars for the final two weeks and into the playoffs then they can definitely be the team raising the Lombardi Trophy in February.