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A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons' 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins. The Falcons move to 5-0.
It will help if you just play the Hawaii 5-0 theme on infinite loop during this post, but it's not required.
This felt like a classic trap game throughout the week. The Falcons were heading into Washington on a day widely expected to be rainy and muddy, playing a team that has underachieved on defense and was extremely good at running the football. It felt like a trap game, and it almost was one.
Make no mistake: The Falcons won this football game fair and square. It's just that they stumbled and bumbled their way to it, with two turnovers and several stalled drives on the way there. But you can't talk about this game without coming to the conclusion that this team is one of the most dangerous in the NFL.
Look at the way this game went. The Falcons were tied at the half after playing some pretty miserable football. Despite some hiccups along the way, they were able to take a lead in the second half, get it back after losing it and cruise to victory thanks to interceptions on consecutive drives off of Kirk Cousins. I'm not sure I buy the concept of "clutch," but these Falcons up their game when it matters most.
Pair that with Matt Ryan's general excellence, the pass-blocking chops of the offensive line, an underrated and persistent pass defense and pass rush and Matt $$$$ Bryant and you begin to understand why the Falcons find themselves 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. There's only one or two teams in the NFL who as or more complete than the Falcons, and only one of them is also undefeated while I write this. Maybe instead of "rise up," the team's slogan should be "sky's the limit."
I don't want to ignore the mistakes, but I also know that no one from Mike Smith down to Matt Bosher thinks this team can coast from here on out. They'll continue to work on their real faults—more on that below—and continue to improve. That should be a frightening thought for the rest of the NFL, to say the least.
Cross off the team's third road challenge of the year. Bring on the rest. These Falcons are ready.
- There were downsides I'll get to in The Ugly, but Matt Ryan once again managed to pull together a solid game. He wound up with over 300 yards, two touchdowns and well over 60% of his passes completed despite his mistakes and a few costly drops. Given time by the line, he was able to find the open man consistently and move the Falcons down the field. His MVP case didn't take much of a dent today.
- It wasn't Michael Turner's finest game, but he had some nice carries and managed to come up with a nice 13 yard rushing touchdown that put the Falcons ahead late in the game.
- Tony Gonzalez is ageless. With 13 catches, 123 yards and a touchdown, Gonzo dominated the Redskins all day and was easily Ryan's most reliable target. He's on his way to his best season as a Falcon, and that's just nuts.
- Julio Jones hasn't quite exploded in the way we thought he would, but he's still one of the best receivers in the NFL. Yesterday he had 10 catches for 94 yards and an insane toe-tapping touchdown that showcased his ability to the fullest. Once he achieves true consistency, the passing game will be come truly unstoppable.
- It was a quiet day for Roddy White, which is to say he only had four catches for 68 yards. Week-to-week, White is the most reliable receiving option on the Falcons and one of the best in the NFL. That's the bottom line.
- Give kudos to the offensive line. A week after a disastrous game against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons kept Ryan's jersey clean and allowed only an early sack and the pressure that led to Ryan's panicky interception. When they're on, they're a pretty spectacular unit.
- Kroy Biermann's been in the backfield all year, but has rarely closed the deal. Today he drilled Kirk Cousins for a sack late in the game,
- Sean Weatherspoon is a beast. He piled up double digit tackles and absolutely leveled Robert Griffin III on a clean sack that unfortunately knocked Griffin out of the game. He remains one of the best linebackers in the NFL, even if he's been earning that in the quietest way imaginable up until this point.
- Jonathan Babineaux got a half a sack today, so he's got that going for him. He also flushed Griffin out of the pocket when 'Spoon drilled the rookie quarterback.
- Dunta Robinson had one of the finest games of his career, and one that arguably makes him the MVP for this game. He picked Kirk Cousins and functionally ended the game in the fourth quarter, came up with a sack and made a couple of key tackles. You can't ask for much more than that.
- What can you say about Matt Bryant? I'd just like to remind you that this man drilled a 53 yard field goal with lackluster field conditions in a crucial moment. He simply doesn't feel pressure.
- Matt Ryan was not as sharp as he's been in the past, and I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend it. It wasn't just the interception and the fumble--and the interception was as weak an effort as I've seen from him all year--but the way he just straight up overthrew his receivers a few times. Ryan's mere mortal games resemble a very good game for most NFL quarterbacks, but he should not have had to throw so many passes and scuffled a bit. He's still awesome, but I wish his timing with Julio Jones was a little better.
- Julio Jones had a nice day, but he could have had a dominant one. If he can get on the same page as Ryan all the time and avoid those drops that have plagued him this season, he would destroy everyone.
- The offensive line didn't block particularly well on the ground. In inclement weather, it's going to be critically important to be abler to actually get the running backs a few yards consistently. Of course, much is forgiven thanks to the crazy good blocking on the Michael Turner touchdown.
- You should never turn to Joe Hawley as a passing game weapon. Things will go predictably poorly.
- The weather. The Falcons are a dome team unused to playing outside in the elements, and you really saw that in action today. They missed on throws, dropped passes and struggled to finish drives all day long with a wet field. They'll have to improve that, because the weather's not going to get any nicer from here on out.
- The Falcons have a very, very bad habit of dithering against "inferior" competition. You saw it in the first half of the Chiefs game, throughout the Panthers game and throughout this one. Between trying to throw passes to Joe Hawley, lazily-executed runs up the middle on first down and punting on fourth and short in Redskins territory at least once, it looked like the Falcons were experimenting with their playbook or playing to keep a lead...when they didn't have a lead. This game would have looked different had the Falcons limited their mistakes, but you need more aggression to beat the best teams. I imagine we'll start seeing that soon enough.
Game MVP: You could make a powerful argument for Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez or Dunta Robinson. Given the likelihood that he won't be here again, though, I have to give it to Robinson. His was a great game.
Game Them Song: In case you weren't already playing it.
One Thing To Take Away: If you let the Falcons hang around, you will regret it.
Final Word: Fiveoh.