September 23, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) celebrates after a touchdown reception during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Folks, you're looking at an excellent football team.
For once I'm not going to couch that statement. The Falcons made a few mistakes—a costly penalty here, Matt Ryan's first interception of the season there—and they're not a perfect football team. Given that no team in the NFL today approaches perfect, I don't think I care.
From the first snap of the game, the Falcons dominated. They led the entire game, never really allowed the Chargers to climb back into it and made a number of eye-popping plays. They sacked Rivers, picked Rivers, shut down Rivers' receivers, held Ryan Mathews in check and ran roughshod over the Chargers on the ground and through the air. The final score isn't even close to telling the story, because it felt more like the Falcons were winning 50-0 after the half.
This is simple a more aggressive, intelligent version of the Falcons from years past. Those of us who firmly believed the talent was there but the coordinators were lousy—and the loudest among you deserve to be acknowledged for that—were absolutely correct. I don't even care that this has all happened against the AFC West, either. There's some quality football teams there, and the Falcons have made it look (relatively) easy.
With the Panthers and Buccaneers sitting at 1-2 and the Saints a lowly 0-3, the division is the Falcons' for the taking if they can just keep the throttle held down. After today, I wouldn't be real confident in betting against that outcome.
After the jump, the specifics from this wondrous spectacle for the eyes and ears.
- Matt Ryan was his usual redoubtable self, completing nearly 75% of his passes, throwing for nearly 300 yards and managing three touchdowns against a Chargers defense that looked completely overwhelmed. He took a couple of hits and threw a duck, but those are minor quibbles drowning in a sea of excellence.
- Michael Turner was heading for another forgettable day before he caught fire late in the second half, finishing with a tidy 80 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries. The Falcons like it when he gets going, and the offense certainly benefits.
- Jacquizz Rodgers slowed down in the second half, but 32 yards rushing 35 through the air just helps a football team out.
- Julio Jones was back to normal in that game, coming back from a hand injury suffered early in the first quarter to finish with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Ho-hum.
- What can you say about Tony Gonzalez? I say this:
- Roddy White is incredibly consistent. Five catches, 55 yards and a lot of touch yards gained. He and Ryan have time shares in eachother's thoughts.
- The offensive line scuffled a little bit in pass protection today, but they were still quality and they finally opened some holes up for Michael Turner. If they can maintain this pace, it's going to help Ryan and the offense have a truly monster season.
- Only one sack again in this one, but the pressure was consistent. John Abraham managed to drop Rivers for a nine yard loss in one of the many drive-killing plays the Falcons put together today. The pass rush was in the backfield all day long.
- Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas combined for 11 tackles and a forced fumble, and they were the driving force behind Ryan Mathews' light day.
- Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel just shut down the receivers. That made it really easy for...
- ...Thomas DeCoud, who had the finest game of his pro career. Two interceptions, a forced fumble and a lot of big tackles. The Falcons might have the best safety tandem in the NFL right now, and one more week of this is going to make me remove the "might."
- Matt Bosher was his usual reliable self, averaging over 44 yards a punt and pinning the Chargers deep. He was like a nail in their coffin, more or less.
- What a beautiful game for the coordinators. Dirk Koetter has made himself look like a genius just by putting Matt in a position to succeed and getting out of his way, while Mike Nolan has the Falcons prepared to be disruptive every week. If I had a time machine, I'd go back to 2008 and throw Monopoly money at these two.
- Matt Ryan an ugly pick. For shame! And stuff.
- The Falcons are still leaving points on the field. If you factor in the pick, the penalties and the occasional brain fart by the offensive line, the Falcons probably could have won this one 41-3. That's not really hyperbole.
Getting the mental mistakes nailed down will make this team all but unbeatable on a good week, so it is a matter of some urgency. The sloppy, defensively-challenged Panthers might be just the test case the doctor ordered.
- I guess the Falcons didn't shut the Chargers out? Highly disappointing.
Game Theme Song: Just because it's my go-to.
One Thing To Take Away: This Falcons team owns the AFC West.
Next Week: The Falcons return home to take on the not-so-mighty Panthers, who are scuffling right now. Check out Cat Scratch Reader for more.
Final Word: Excellence.