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Falcons vs. Packers recap: The last triumph in the Georgia Dome

Atlanta gets the second NFC Conference Championship win in franchise history, and now we’re on to the Super Bowl.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The specters of Falcons seasons past played on my mind this week. I believed that this blazing hot Packers team was up to the task of dispatching our beloved Falcons, and I believed it so much that I predicted Atlanta would lose this game. Historically, this has been a game the Falcons have lost, all but a single time in the franchise’s long history.

We can be trapped by history, of course, and it can make us lose sight of what’s in front of us. What is happening is that this Atlanta Falcons team is better than it has been in the past, perhaps all but once, and the offense is the best we’ve ever seen. When confronted with a potentially tough opponent, the Falcons did what they’ve done so many times this season and triumphed, and this time in especially emphatic fashion.

Atlanta had a lot of history to buck, as you all know. They’ve stumbled and bumbled and failed and just plain lost in heartbreaking fashion over and over again, but this year, they finally have the head coach and the quarterback and the offense and hell, even the defense to make this thing happen. I don’t know what’s going to occur in this Super Bowl, but I’m not picking against the Falcons again, regardless of the opponent. They’ve thrown off the yoke of past at last, with an insanely great season and seeming greatness ahead. I love these Falcons so much.

Nobody in their right mind is going to pick against them in the Super Bowl now, not with the way they keep dismantling good teams with their insane offense and good-enough defense. All that’s left is one victory, and this is not a team that’s going to come out flat in their efforts to get it.

It’s possible to be wrong and happy, as I’ve learned before, and will write about again later. Today, I’m as wrong as I’ve ever been and as happy as I’ve ever been as a Falcons fan, and I’m finally ready to throw off that history myself. Bring on the Super Bowl. The Falcons will win it.

On to the full recap.

The Good

  • Matt Ryan was masterful. He has had an insanely great year, and he had an insanely great game against the Packers, keying his team to a 24-0 lead with a touchdown scramble, first down scramble, and tons of great passes. He finished with nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and easily the finest postseason game of any quarterback in team history. He’s going to win the MVP, he will have a good shot to win Super Bowl MVP, and he’s a ring away from finally having the resume necessary to make people accept that he’s elite.
  • So much of this was enabled by Julio Jones, who came into this game clearly dealing with injury issues and wound up dominating it anyways. Against Green Bay’s overmatched secondary, Julio went off for 180 yards on nine catches and managed a pair of touchdown grabs. I have no idea how they’ll defend him in the Super Bowl, but suffice to say it will be a challenge.
  • It was a quiet day on the ground, but it didn’t really matter. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were both factors through the air, both had a couple of nice runs, and both kept the clock moving like they were supposed to.
  • Patrick DiMarco paved the way for the ground game, and of course, had a tremendous 31 yard grab himself early on to set up a score. He’s a free agent next year, and the Falcons should probably plan to do something about that.
  • Mohamed Sanu has been worth it. On the Falcons’ first drive he reeled in a key first down and a flip touchdown pass, and that was just getting things started. He finished with five grabs for 52 yards and a touchdown, one wildcat seven yard scramble, and another recovered onside kick.
  • It was a weird day for the offensive line, which had a handful of penalties and miscommunications, but by and large they kept Matt Ryan clean and blocked effectively, so the hiccups are all forgiven. This beautiful, healthy line has gotten Atlanta all the way here, and luckily it looks like it’ll be healthy in two weeks.
  • Tyson Jackson had a sack in the NFC Conference Championship Game. He did! The only two players to get sacks were defensive tackles, which is a nice little footnote.
  • Ra’Shede Hageman has had a difficult career in Atlanta, thanks to on-the-field issues and domestic issues off the field that should not be downplayed. He’s had some tremendous moments though, and his second quarter toe sack of Aaron Rodgers certainly qualifies as one of them. He had a fine game.
  • Ricardo Allen has a knack for coming up with big interceptions, and his second quarter interception on a desperation Aaron Rodgers heave certainly qualifies. That was the first of many nails in the Packers’ coffin.
  • Jalen Collins didn’t have a perfect day, but he had a huge forced fumble and recovery right when it looked like the Packers were going to score and keep pace with the Falcons, and he had an interception that was narrowly overturned later in the game. He’s been nothing short of the most improved defensive player over the last several weeks, and the Falcons now have at least four quality cornerbacks, which is pretty nice. Frankly, this secondary played very well against Aaron Rodgers all game, more or less across the board.
  • You gotta give this up to the coaching staff, too. Dan Quinn had his team cool and prepared, as he always does, while Kyle Shanahan drew up an offensive gameplan that simply eviscerated Green Bay, and Richard Smith coaxed one of the better performances of the year out of his young defense. I have more confidence than ever in this team because they didn’t wilt in the slightest when faced with a tough opponent, yet again.

The Ugly

  • I’m not going to do this. Not this week. The only ugly thing was my terrible prediction. The rest is beautiful.

The Wrapup

Game MVP

You can’t give it to anyone but Matt Ryan, even though so many Falcons were so great and so vital. Despite three big drops early on, Ryan just rolled along

One Takeaway

This is a truly great football team, and what makes it even scarier is realizing that this defense might legitimately be better a year from now, while the offense should be almost as good.

Next Week


Final Word