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Giants vs. Falcons: Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers

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It was an unexpected defensive battle, with the Falcons ultimately coming out on top.

NFL: New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This was exactly how it was written, right? Two putrid defenses loaded with offensive weapons locked in a defensive stalemate for a large portion of Monday Night Football? The Falcons always find new ways to surprise and befuddle us, and this one was no different. An ugly win is still a win, however, and with their 23-20 victory over the New York Giants the Atlanta Falcons move to a more palatable 3-4 with the bye on the horizon.

Happy Victory Tuesday, Falcons fans. Here’s Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers from Week 7.

Hat Tips

Pass rush

If there was ever a game for the pass rush to appear, it was against a poor Giants offensive line and the wild-eyed statuette of Eli Manning. The Falcons started early, and continued harassing New York’s signal-caller for the bulk of the game.

Grady Jarrett kicked off the fun by beating Will Hernandez with a nifty swim move for the sack of Eli Manning on the Giants’ opening possession. It occurred in a key moment early, as the Giants were focusing on Odell Beckham Jr. and swiftly moving downfield. Grady’s sack on first down stopped the offensive momentum and eventually resulted in a punt instead of points.

He would register another sack, along with one apiece for Takkarist McKinley and Jack Craword. With four sacks in the first half, the defensive line consistently kept Eli Manning off balance and gave the Falcons a chance to rack up points early. Atlanta’s offense of course did not cooperate when afforded such a rare opportunity, but we’ve gotten used to not having nice things. Hat tip, pass rush.

The defense somehow containing Saquon Barkley

Stonehenge. The Pyramids. Atlanta’s defense limiting Saquon Barkley. It seemed a herculean feat, but the Falcons’ were able to mitigate the threat posed by the Giants’ first round phenom. Barkley was stifled on 14 carries for 43 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown. He added 9 catches for 51 yards, but after watching this defense week after week, they deserve to be lauded for virtually eliminating Barkley from the game plan.

The Falcons’ defensive performance against Saquon Barkley was capped by a goal line stand late in the third quarter that led to a turnover on downs.

Giorgio Tavecchio 56-yard field goal, and Dan Quinn’s moxie to call it

Similar situation as last week against Tampa Bay, but without the ever-reliable Matt Bryant doing the kicking. If Giorgio Tavecchio — signed just this week — shanks it, the Giants take over with promising field position to tie. He did not miss.

Quinn sure does have some confidence in his kickers, and for the second straight week he chose the chance of points over the defenses’ ability to keep the opposition off the board. Excellently done, gentlemen.

Head-Scratchers

The offensive offensive line

Out of every team in the NFL, the Falcons have spent the largest percentage of their cap space on the offensive line. Its performance in this one should encourage some buyer’s remorse. Atlanta surrendered three sacks in the first quarter to a Giants team that entered play Monday with only seven — the fewest in the league. Matt Ryan was under pressure for a large chunk of this game, the pocket folding around him like a cheap suit.

If Ryan hopes to continue his exquisite run of play, the pass protection has to be better.

Robert Alford, the entire game

I’d challenge you to show me a worse game by Alford in the last few years. He was unequivocally terrible against New York, getting torched by Sterling Shepherd on a consistent basis. His most grievous error was giving up the long reception to Shepherd that gave the Giants life late, and surrendering a touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. shortly after. Just an absolutely abysmal showing from Alford.

Ground game

The rushing attack has been a persistent issue all season. Save for Tevin Coleman’s 30-yard fourth quarter touchdown, the Falcons could not get much of anything going on the ground. Ito Smith and Tevin Coleman finished the game with 18 combined carries for 66 yards, a glaring reminder that Matt Ryan and the passing game is keeping this team afloat.