The Atlanta Falcons are heading to the playoffs.
It's been a tumultuous kind of season, featuring blowout wins over bad teams, agonizing losses to quality teams and a little bit of everything in between. We've seen the worst these Atlanta Falcons have to offer, and we've seen the best they have to offer. Ultimately, they have a shot to do something great in the post-season, and that's a beautiful thing.
On the positive side of the ledger as we head into the post-season, the Falcons have some very dynamic elements in their offense. Julio Jones is becoming an elite wide receiver before our very eyes, and Ryan has been slinging it better and better as the year goes on. The team is capable of stopping the run, they're capable of forcing turnovers and they have one of the better cover corners in the league in Brent Grimes. Teams that can't score points in bunches will struggle to beat them.
On the other side of the coin--yes, I just went from ledger to coin--these Falcons have played poorly against quality teams throughout the year. They struggle to do creative things when they're stymied, and when it comes to the pass rush, they are frequently stymied. The offensive line plays inconsistently. The coordinators occasionally shatter into a million pieces.
The Buccaneers game had a little bit of everything, but mostly it was the good stuff. The Falcons burst out to a huge lead, forced the Buccaneers to make mistakes and held on after popping in backups and letting off the throttle. Was the quality of competition the same as they'll face in the playoffs? No. But it was encouraging to see the Falcons destroying an opponent, especially when they desperately needed a playoff tune-up.
What's up next for the Falcons? Any number of possible outcomes, really, but all we can hope is that the best of the last sixteen games carries over and the worst does not. Fingers crossed.
After the jump, we'll take one last look back at the Buccaneers game. Then we'll roll into the playoffs.
- Matt Ryan only threw nine passes, but he was his usual ridiculously efficient self. He completed six of those passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. There's nobody on this team more prepared for the playoffs than Ryan, who couldn't be more on fire over the last several weeks.
- Michael Turner had his best game in many moons. On just 17 carries, he put up 172 yards and two touchdowns. The run defense for the Buccaneers is one of the worst in the NFL, but Turner also wrecked it. The Falcons could really use him in the playoffs, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
- Jason Snelling was great in the second half, spelling Turner effectively on nine carries for 50 yards. Again, don't expect this to be the norm against teams in the playoffs, but when you couple his running with his blocking, he's a valuable reserve.
- I've heard Julio Jones described as a poor man's Calvin Johnson, but I think his ceiling is higher than that. He had four grabs for 76 yards and two touchdowns, showing a growing rapport with Matt Ryan. That doesn't do justice to his performance, which included a touchdown grab where he bowled over and blew by three defenders, or when he caught a pass in traffic, rolled to the ground and got back up for the touchdown.
He's a max effort guy, a superb receiver and an excellent blocker. It is truly scary to think about how good he'll be down the line, and he's an integral part of the team's offense as we roll into the playoffs.
- Roddy White put up four catches for 69 yards. It's his fourth straight season with more than 1,000 yards and 100 receptions, and he's one of the best receivers in the league. The Falcons are lucky to have both available in the passing game.
- Matt Bosher kicks like a crazy person. Or a crazy horse. But not the Crazy Horse.
- John Abraham comes up with a sack, strips the ball from Josh Freeman and recovers that strip. He's been a force the last few weeks, and he remains the best pass rusher the team has.
- Kroy Biermann got some nice pressure today, including a half sack.
- William Moore consistently got into the backfield today. He's got a nose for the quarterback the coaching staff ought to be using more often.
- Thomas DeCoud was all over the field and tipped a pass that Darrin Walls ended up intercepting. For all the flak he gets, DeCoud's a heads-up player.
- Curtis Lofton's pick was awesome. He took advantage of a Buccaneers blunder over the middle to snatch a Freeman throw out of midair and take it 26 yards for the touchdown. That's The Police for you.
- Kudos to both Dominique Franks and Darrin Walls, who walked away with interceptions. Walls has all but guaranteed himself a roster spot in 2012, and Franks could be in line for a bigger role.
- The Falcons knew they had to win this. Give them credit from the top-down for coming out of the gates swinging and winning handily to lock up a much better playoff seed.
- The Falcons continue to be pretty lackadaisical with a lead, at least in the regular season. That's not a habit that's going to serve them well in the playoffs.
- Dunta Robinson was provoked and smacked around, I think, but he's gotta walk away from that situation. The high-flying hit was a matter of not knowing where he was going, and taking his helmet off and refusing to come off the field isn't a good idea.
- Only 45 points? Gosh.
Game MVP: Michael Turner. He kind of gashed the Buccaneers. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are also potential choices.
Game Theme Song: It's been done, but hey. It fits.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons are playoff bound. As of right now, nothing else matters.
Final Word: DidImentionplayoffs?