For the first time in ... well, ever ... the Falcons looked dominant in a playoff game. Any fears that this Falcons team would fold under the pressure were put aside after the first quarter. Once the team settled down, they pounded a Seattle Seahawks team that’s been known for it’s physicality. It was an impressive win and more importantly, it put this Atlanta team back in the NFC Championship game for only the fourth time in franchise history. Here are some additional takeaways from the game.
As much as I loved Coach Mike Smith, the Falcons teams between 2008 and 2014 always seemed to find a way to collapse under pressure. We often needed miracle fourth quarter comebacks just to seal the victory.
Those teams are a distant memory.
The Dan Quinn led Falcons are fearless. If anything, they get better as the game progresses - a far cry from the teams of the past. This held true in the game against the Seahawks. The Falcons started slowly, allowing Seattle to pound the ball on an extended opening touchdown drive led by Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls. How did the Falcons respond? By mounting their own impressive touchdown drive and tying the game up.
From there, the Falcons only got better. This isn’t a guarantee that they will continue to do this, but this mentality has been here all season. This is a team that could easily have finished 13-3 or even 12-4 were it not for some fluky mistakes. Dan Quinn has instilled an impressive mindset in just his second year and the difference between this team and Falcons teams of the past is staggering.
Young and fast
Fast and physical. We’ve heard it before, but this season has shown exactly what that looks like. Guys like Ricardo Allen, Brian Poole and Keanu Neal are flying to the ball and putting physical hits no the opposing team. Along with guys like Robert Alford and Jalen Collins, this Falcons secondary not only flies to the ball, they aim to make receivers pay. In many ways, the Falcons played a more physical game than the Seahawks, something that has rarely been done in the Pete Carroll era.
This young defense is only scratching the surface and is still incredibly flawed. That said, the pieces are there to build a defense that could be special in the near future. They’re already playing at a better level than they did earlier this year, and they could be the difference in how far this team will ultimately go in these playoffs.
What more can be said about the game Matt Ryan had? Going against the best remaining defense in the playoffs, Ryan carved them apart. He was nearly flawless, throwing for over 300 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs while finding 8 different receivers during the game. He regularly navigated muddy pockets to buy time for big plays and he was a key reason the Falcons dominated this game, putting up 36 points on a normally stingy defense.
Any fears that he would “fold” under the pressure were put to rest quickly. Matt Ryan is playing some of his best football ever. Let’s hope he can keep it going.
What are your takeaways from the game?