The defending NFC champions walked into the bright lights of Hollywood with the only thing on the agenda being to get a Wild Card playoff victory and advance to the next round.
They did that, but in the process, they also cemented an identity that we never knew they were capable of after recent seasons. In the Atlanta Falcons road contest against the Los Angeles Rams, the Falcons ruled the time of possession (37:35-22:25), won the turnover battle (+2), and held the highest scoring offense in the NFL to just 13 points. It resulted in a 26-13 win for the Falcons and a trip to Philadelphia to battle the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round.
The conditions were less than ideal in this one. It appeared that both teams were playing on a surface that would have developed into a wasteland of catastrophic injuries. Luckily for both, that ended up not being the case but once again, it was a circumstance that the Falcons had to overcome in a season full of odd twists and weird turns.
Playoff experience was a notable factor coming into this contest in favor of the Falcons. This is a team that is fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, not to mention a quarterback-wide receiver connection that has been together since 2011 and have made a few playoff appearances together.
It showed itself on special teams when Rams receiver Pharoh Cooper turned the ball over twice on returns, in which the Falcons capitalized and turned the takeaways into 10 points. It appeared when the Falcons starred at a slight Rams uprising late in the first half to narrow what was once a 13-0 Falcons lead into a 13-10 score at the half.
It manifested when the Falcons put together a 16-play, 76-yard drive to open the second half, which featured physical runs by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman that seemed to tire out the Rams defense and extend the lead to 16-10. It showed itself when the Falcons took the field with a 19-13 lead with under 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter and proceeded to march 83 yards to a nail-in-the-coffin score by Julio Jones to go up 26-13.
Once again, it seems that every time the Falcons take the field, they are expected to mirror what they accomplished during their amazing 2016 season. As I have stated just about all season, this edition of the Falcons is different. They are gritty. They do not care about style points. They stand face to face with adversity.
This group of Falcons are winning totally different from how they did in the 2016 season. In actuality, it may be for the best.