Unexpected (adj.): The Falcons winning by double digits on the road against 2017’s best offensive team and a defensive genius. Falconheart (n.): the aggressive feeling of jubilation and fear that sets in when the Atlanta Falcons play, causing your heart to feel like you just got reverse Temple of Doomed. The unexpected gave me Falconheart. To see this team play a complete four quarters and overcome some of the hiccups that have hung around like the dickens on offense and special teams -- that was something, like a super-special something-something. Dan Quinn had his guys ready to play, and they put forth their best performance of the season so far...in the playoffs...on the road...against a young, great team. The birds made that extra play or two on offense they’ve been missing, and the defense stepped up and held the league’s best offense to 13 points.The Falcons are playing with a colossal chip on their shoulder right now, and it shined brighter than a Hollywood spotlight Saturday night. A road game against Philly (ailing offense, stout defense, hostile environment) will be another hurdle, but after Atlanta showed what they did in LA, they’ve got a shot against anybody they go up against. The 2017 season continues to wind in unexpected directions...and continues to give us all tons of Falconheart. More, please.
History has shown that teams that can run the ball and play good defense are the ones that normally make a run in the playoffs. The Falcons demonstrated that emphatically against the top scoring offense in the league. The Rams may have been inexperienced, but they are a very well coached team with a legitimate MVP candidate in Todd Gurley (who the Falcons mostly kept quiet). If this defense can continue to play at this level, this team has a legitimate chance to go back to the Super Bowl. An impressive win for a team that has shed the label of Super Bowl hangover.
I’m incredibly proud of this team. Despite a little bit of the usual bonehead from the team, they beat a strong offensive team exactly the way you’re supposed to: keep them off the field, and that’s exactly what the Falcons did. They dominated time of possession and they pounded Pharoh Cooper into submission to the tune of multiple turnovers and a general ineffectiveness in the return game. I still worry about the offense, but it was good enough in this game to get it done. The Rams defense is as good as any we’ll see in the playoffs, which is a positive thought. We have loads of playoff experience. If the defense can give us another performance like the one they just gave, who knows, we might be headed to Minnesota. Super Bowl hangover, my rump.
It’s scary to realize that our postseason is riding on a rookie OC. Never mind whether you blame Sarkisian for the offense’s woes this season or not. Forget about all that, as the entire concept of “fault” for the regular season doesn’t matter anymore. The simple fact is that right now it’s Sark’s job to put together the offensive game plan and to make the in-game adjustments that will get us past the Eagles. Like it or not, we’re counting on him.
Sure, the offense is still not rolling the way it should be given the talent available. Not even close. But the good news is that Sark now has 17 games of experience, and he got it done against the Rams. He went head to head against Wade Phillips and came out on top. That’s a noteworthy milestone in his development as a coach. While it wasn’t the 42-point explosion that Atlanta put up against the Rams last year, the offensive performance was good enough.
The best part is that the play calling was less predictable than so many of the regular season games. My favorite moment was the “turbo screen” to Sanu. Was anyone else laughing their heads off watching Sanu stay ahead of Troy Hill all the way down the field?
I thought this one would be close. I thought the Atlanta Falcons would not be able to wholly put away this promising Rams team with its stellar offense and terrifying Aaron Donald-led defense, and that while they would win, it would prove to be challenging in the extreme.
Instead, the Falcons sort of rolled after halftime. They finished the first half up 13-10, having done excellent work on one drive and largely keeping the Rams in check. They clamped down hard after the half and got another productive touchdown drive, eventually winning this thing 26-13. I can honestly say I did not see a two score win coming.
That’s the thing about this Falcons team, though. No matter how frustrating and unproductive they can look, they have quietly been kicking butts left and right since their 5-4 start, having now won six of their last eight games and largely dominating a very good opponent in the playoffs. There really shouldn’t be any doubt at this point about how talented and resilient this team truly is, because they just keep proving it.
I thought the Falcons would show up, play hard, and scratch out a tough win on the road against the NFL’s best offense in the Rams. Nobody could’ve predicted that Atlanta’s defense would hold the Rams to only 13 points and that Steve Sarkisian would get the best of Wade Phillips in the second half. The Falcons thoroughly dismantled a young but incredibly dangerous Rams team, and they did it on the road.
It’s hard to lavish too much praise on this team for that win. Alford and Trufant were excellent, Poole made several key open field tackles, and the pass rush made life difficult for Goff. The Falcons shut down the Rams twice on fourth downs to close out the game, preserving an impressive 26-13 score and proving that they aren’t the same team that blew huge leads earlier in the season.
Now it’s on to Philadelphia and backup QB Nick Foles, where the Falcons will have a solid opportunity to steal another road win and find themselves in the NFC Championship for the second straight season.