USA TODAY Sports
Playoffs, here we come.
Coming off of an amazing performance at home against the Giants, there was a hope that the Falcons would continue the trend of domination against a 4-10, but very tough Detroit Lions team. If one believes in the idea of carrying momentum into the playoffs, this game was important on multiple fronts. But more importantly, a win in this game would ensure that the Falcons get to play at home for the entirety of their run through the playoffs.
To be sure, the first half was a domination. As usual, the Falcons capitalized on turnovers - forcing two separate fumbles - and converting both into touchdowns. However, the third quarter appeared to be a bit of a meltdown, and yours truly had a highly adverse reaction to seeing two straight runs of Turner up the middle. But, as the title of this article suggests, it's all about keeping it in perspective.
The truth is this: the Falcons did quickly go three and out and allowed the Lions to get back into the game in the third quarter. It was clear that there was a momentary lapse of concentration from both the coaches and the players. However, the Falcons got themselves righted and closed out the game with another two scores (TD and FG) and ended up winning the game 31-18.
Forget the record that the Lions carry - they're similar to the Panthers. They have been close in almost every game they've played and they have the best WR in the league. Also, lest we forget, the Falcons were playing on the road. And to be blunt, anytime you can go on the road and win by more than 10, you're doing something good, regardless of who the opponent is.
Also, even though our defense gave up enough yards to make the Saints defense blush, the bottom line is the score. Our defense only allowed 16 offensive points and held yet another team to no passing touchdowns. Here's the reality about our defense: they will allow lots of yards, but they are very, very good at limiting the damage or forcing turnovers. This defense is number 4 in scoring and in the top 10 for turnovers. Notably, the Saints and Packers won the SuperBowl with very similar defenses - teams that allowed yards but forced turnovers and limited scoring. And we were missing a key part of our secondary while trying to cover Megatron: William Moore. Getting him back healthy for the playoffs will be critical.
As for the offense, other than the stupid start to the second half, they played pretty well. Konz received a beat down from Suh, but the Falcons adjusted getting both McClure and Clabo to help out the rookie. The result was pretty decent pass protection for most of the game. That pass protection afforded our franchise QB time to put up another amazing performance, with yet another 140+ passer rating and some absolutely stunning deep balls. Matt Ryan has been dominant the last two weeks and any lingering doubts about his ability to throw deep were quickly dispatched. Most of his passes were literally perfect and he continued to pad his incredible resume for the season. Our receivers were also nearly unstoppable with Roddy pulling in two scores (on a bum knee no less) and Julio pulling in one of the best catches you'll see all season.
For those who are lamenting the lack of a running game - yes, the traditional running game is still stagnant. And watching Michael Turner in this game was painful, while Jaquizz seemed unjustifiably absent from this game. And while I intend on covering this in another article, our "short game" - which should include screens, smokes and quick outs - is more than fine. If you want to see runs up the middle gain more yards and consider that the benchmark for success, then you will continue to be frustrated. However, if you want a game that forces the safeties to play up - and thus, opening up the deep ball and play actions passes - then you'll realize that the Falcons are already doing that very well.
Most importantly, the Falcons are now 13-2 and can rest their starters next week if desired, though I suspect we'll see them for at least the first half. Additionally, by securing home field advantage through the playoffs, we now have the upper hand going into the second season. Though frustrating during different stretches, this was a good game by the Falcons and has got them ready for a hopeful playoff run. This team is getting in rhythm folks, and that bodes well for January.