I've been accused of being a bit too verbose in these kinds of posts, so let me break this down in the easiest way possible.
Winning is fun.
Yes, it was fun to be an Atlanta Falcons fan again yesterday, fun for the first time in nearly a month. It's not that there weren't exciting moments and little triumphs, but ultimately what you plunk down your soul for when you select a sports franchise is winning. There's a lot of extra baggage that comes with that, but nothing feels quite so sweet as the win. So even though it was a game the Falcons repeatedly tried to give away with an inept offensive display for three quarters, it was a win. Praise the football gods!
The defensively-minded Buffalo Bills and the unpredictable Tampa Bay Bucs are now all that lie between us and that winning season we've all been hoping for, and I think we can do it. My sunny disposition has been restored and I now believe many things, including the fact that we will defy mathematics to make the playoffs. Eliminated, you say? That's just another word for quitting.
But I've gotten long-winded again. Please, by all means, check out the meat of the recap after the jump.
- Matt Ryan was far from great on Sunday, but he came back still hurting against the league's best defense and tossed a touchdown pass when it mattered. He will have to get better in a hurry if we're going to finish the season on a high note, but at least this was a step in the right direction.
- Considering the absurdly bad runs being called for him, I thought Jason Snelling was once again solid. The Jets were putting up a brick wall and Mike Mularkey was asking him to run right into it, so considering that his 3.5ish run per carry average isn't half bad. It would be really nice to have Michael Turner back on the field for more than one play, though.
- On a day when the passing game was basically shut down, Tony Gonzalez still got his touchdown and sealed the victory for the Falcons. He can't got unmentioned, because it takes two for the touchdown tango, so to speak. Roddy White's four catches for 33 yards actually isn't completely horrible when you consider that Darrelle Revis was matched up against him. That's no easy task.
- The much-maligned offensive line quietly kept Matt Ryan on his feet for the entire game. The Jets have a decent pass rush and Ryan wasn't operating at full strength, so this is an impressive sign for them. It's kind of an indictment of the offense that there wasn't any sacks and nothing happened for most of the game, but hey. We still won, right?
- Brent Grimes was just plain awesome Sunday. Both of his picks came at critical times and showed off his athleticism. There's legitimate ability there, regardless of any size concerns, and my hunch is that Grimes will be either in the starting lineup or in a nickel role going into 2010.
- Thomas DeCoud gets honorable mention for his ball-hawking ways. There's growth to be done here—he still isn't the most able tackler—but safeties who can grab a few interceptions are welcome in the Falcons' backfield any time.
John Abraham and Thomas Johnson both got sacks, and both probably needed them after muddling through recent weeks without sniffing one. Well done, boyos. Hell, kudos to the entire defense today.
- Michael Koenen continues to punt his way into our hearts, averaging 39.9 yards on eight punts and one swoon per booming kick.
- I'm going to beat this drum until someone else beats Mike Mularkey over the head with this simple fact: Our offensive playcalling is not putting us in a position to win. Going against the league's best defense, you have to do something more creative than repeatedly running up the gut and depending on your receivers to break free of coverage. Mularkey has that reputation as a creative dude, but it's more for the occasional gadget play that works insanely well than sustained cleverness. It may just be the way the entire team is going, but he's gotta be sweating a little with the way this supposedly elite offense has been performing, injuries or no.
- Speaking of injuries, why even trot Michael Turner out there? To confuse the Jets? Considering he only had one carry—at least it was seven yards—I can't imagine that actually worked all that well. Rex Ryan isn't manning the helm of one of the league's best defenses because he gets flustered by a guy making a guest appearance. Let the dude heal or declare him ready and give him a decent workload.
- Admittedly it was a 48 yard field goal, but seeing Matt Bryant miss a field goal gave me unfortunate flashbacks.
Game MVP: It's gotta be Grimes. You don't grab two interceptions and alter the course of a 10-7 game and get anything less than an MVP. Congratulations, Grimey!
Game Theme Song: Please don't listen to all seven minutes of this.
One Thing To Take Away: It's not the playoffs, but sweet redemption is still at hand.
Final Word: Win.