This season has turned into a rollercoaster. Last week I was bitter and angry about the way the game against the Panthers, and this week I have a spring in my step and a song in my heart after we edged the Packers. There's simply no figuring out how this team will play from week to week.
One thing is clear, however. The Falcons are a better team than perhaps any of us would've given them credit for, and if they continue to build on their young core they could be in contention for the division lead sooner than I would have ever imagined. It's definitely a great feeling.
Join me after the jump for an admittedly late review of the game.
- Matt Ryan. Despite a terrible interception (see Lowlights), Ryan was poised, capable and confident in the pocket. Mostly gone were his sloppy, happy foot passes, replaced by an all-around solid effort and a couple of truly fantastic throws to Roddy White. Nobody expects Ryan to become Cyborg Wizard Peyton Manning, but the fact that he continues to improve should prove encouraging for the entire fanbase.
- Michael Turner. I've said it before and I'll say it until you want to punch me in the face; when Turner's doing well, this team is in games. He runs down the clock, he wears out defenders and he chews up yardage like Pac-Man eats ghosts. If the Falcons have an off-season priority, it should be to improve the line to the point where Turner can run freely against good run defenses. With over 100 yards and a game-sealing TD, he's almost a lock to be this team's offensive MVP.
- Then again, maybe Roddy White needs to be considered for that honor. With the Packers knowing that White was the only real passing option for the Falcons Sunday, he still managed to scorch the Packers and was over 100 yards by the end of the half. The team needs to see if L-Rob or Harry Douglas can prove to be a #2 option in this offense, because White can't possibly keep this up forever.
- Jason Elam continued to be automatic. You can't overstate the impact of a steady leg for this offense, as a missed field goal would have meant an overtime game that the Falcons very well could have lost. Well done, Jason.
- Michael Boley finally made his big play, and it was a doozy. His pick of Aaron Rodgers changed the course of the game, and he even ran it back to get the Falcons in quality field position. If only he could do something like that every week...
- John Abraham and Grady Jackson both deserve props; Abraham had a total of six tackles and a sack and Jackson had two and one. Abraham has been a horned demon of defensive fury so far this season, and if the line has done nothing else, they've managed to get him free enough to kill the quarterback. Let's hope he puts up some Tecmo Super Bowl numbers this year.
- Justin Peelle deserves a mention for trying to assert himself in the passing game. As a free agent pickup, he could eventually become a decent pass-catching tight end. He's definitely a worthy gamble.
- The Packers managed a total of over 100 yards on the ground, which isn't great considering how poor they've looked rushing most of the season. The Falcons are proving to be one of the worst teams in the league against the run so far this season. That will have to change before they get creamed by teams with great rushing attacks (we'll examine who has them when I do a schedule review later this week).
- Here's a scenario for you.
You are a given an important task at work, though your job responsibilities are somewhat limited. After being given training for this critical task, your boss tasks you to go out and complete it. When he hands you the paperwork you need to deliver to the office across the street, you make it five steps down the hallway, fall down, and poop in your pants.
Congratulations, you are the office equivalent of Adam Jennings! So glad he still has a job.
- I hope to never see Matt Ryan throw that bad an interception to a guy so incredibly open again. Learning experience for young Ryan.
Game MVP: Tough call this week, but I'm going to give it for Boley because that was absolutely a game-saving play. Turner, Ryan and White would all be legitimate choices as well.
Game Theme Song: Critical Beatdown by Ultramagnetic MC's.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons can beat good teams! Providing they're at least somewhat injury-depleted, anyways.
Next Week: The Bears of Chicago, another team that has turned around their fortunes in a short time. WIth their stout defense, capable running game and not incredibly horrible passing game, they're going to give the Falcons a very tough time.
Final Word: The Falcons have a winning record through five games and have beaten their first "real" opponent of the year. This was an incredible, tense win, and I think we saw a lot of growth from this young team on Sunday. Let's hope it continues.