This was a bloodbath.
We all anticipated the Falcons would win, I think, but not that it would wind up being such an utter annihilation. The Falcons gave us a couple of small scares thanks to lackluster defense, but they were up two scores the entire game once they got rolling, and they finished this one with a comfortable 41-13 win. It was the second straight week where they just embarrassed a weak NFC West opponent, and while that’s perhaps no great reason to brag, it’s nice to see the Falcons absolutely dominating opponents they’re supposed to dominate. It’s also a nice change of pace.
You’ve already seen me write about all the big takeaways from last night’s game, from the franchise scoring record to the team’s ninth win to the fact that they remained in the thick of the playoff hunt. All of that is important, but I also think it’s important that we step back and see this team for what it is: The best Falcons team in at least four seasons, and the best offense in franchise history. That’s worth celebrating, even if we don’t yet know how the last two games will turn out.
Because of that, I’m feeling more confident than I have in quite some time that the Falcons are going to be very good very soon, and I’m cautiously optimistic about their playoff chances. That’s a foreign feeling after the last few seasons, but I believe it’s justified, and I can’t wait to see what this team has up its sleeve for upcoming matchups against the Panthers and Saints.
On to the full recap.
- Matt Ryan played a tidy game, making some nice throws en route to 286 yards and two touchdowns. On a day where the ground game was absolutely dominant, he averaged over 12 yards per attempt, made no major mistakes, and had this one sewed up early. His efficiency and reliability may wind up hurting him, as weird as that is, when it comes the MVP race. We know how good he is, though.
- Devonta Freeman had his best game of the year against the worst defense he’s faced, which is...not surprising. His dominance is still worth remarking upon.
In this one, Freeman rumbled for 139 yards and three touchdowns against the worst run defense in the league, making up the bulk of the Falcons’ 200-plus yards on the ground. When you talk about Freeman at his best, you talk about a runner who is decisive, powerful, and possesses fantastic vision, and all of those attributes were on display Sunday. He’ll have his quiet weeks—sometimes many of them—but he’s a great running back. We got an effective reminder.
- Tevin Coleman and even Terron Ward were very good here, too. Coleman went for 58 yards on 14 carries and Ward had a 45 yard run against the 49ers, who could not stop a quality running back with concertina wire and jersey barriers.
- Aldrick Robinson had the best game of his NFL career, putting up 111 yards and torching an overmatched 49ers secondary repeatedly. When a legitimately useful deep threat like Robinson is your fourth or fifth receiver, it’s no great surprise that your offense functions at a high level, and Robinson could get another crack at relevance against the Panthers if Julio’s out another week.
- Levine Toilolo is averaging over 20 yards per catch this season. That’s a testament to how overlooked he has been thanks to the rest of this offense, how well Kyle Shanahan has schemed to get him open at times, and how much he has improved. It’s also, frankly, kind of insane.
- The offensive line blocked well. I don’t say that every week, even though it is true most weeks, but they deserve recognition for utterly dominating their matchups and enabling the Falcons to put up over 500 yards yesterday.
- Vic Beasley was dominating his matchup all day, but it took him until the second quarter to get his first sack of the day. It would end up being his only sack, but as has been the case for weeks, Beasley was a terror off the edge, and he now leads the entire NFL in sacks with 14.5. More on his dominance later this week.
- This was just a nice game for the defense, even considering the competition. With no Desmond Trufant, no Jalen Collins, and no Adrian Clayborn, the Falcons largely swatted away the 49ers’ offense, with sacks for the likes of Ra’Shede Hageman and Brian Poole, a forced fumble courtesy of Deion Jones, and 13 total points for San Francisco. You have to consider who they’re playing these last two weeks, but if nothing else, this is a big confidence builder for the bigger challenges to come.
- Keanu Neal had a couple of rough plays, but he continues to show the kind of promise that makes me think he’ll someday be considered one of the NFL’s elite safeties, with plus physicality and aggressive coverage skills. With the Falcons facing some injury issues in the secondary and throughout the defense, Neal (and his fellow rookie Deion Jones) have been rocks for the unit.
- I suppose they could have shut San Francisco out.
- The injuries. Austin Hooper could miss the rest of the year, which would leave the Falcons perilously thin at tight end, relying on Levine Toilolo and Josh Perkins over the last two weeks of the season (and hopefully the playoffs). Atlanta simply can’t afford too many more of these before it starts to impact the offense, in particular.
Giving this one to Devonta Freeman, who accounted for over half of Atlanta’s points and over a quarter of its yards. He’s good.
The Falcons still have the league’s most unstoppable offense, and the Panthers and Saints are about to get hammered by it in the next two weeks.
The Carolina Panthers, who are basically out of playoff contention and will be fighting to spoil the good thing the Falcons have going. Check out Cat Scratch Reader for more.