Under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, the Atlanta Falcons battled their way to a 23-20 win to keep playoff hopes alive. Here is what we learned.
The Falcons rookie receiver Calvin Ridley strutted down the sideline with dazed look written on his face as his team went up 23-12 with under two minutes remaining. On that same sideline stood a head coach in Dan Quinn who was probably the most relieved after the gutsy roll of the dice he ultimately made.
With the left foot of a recently signed kicker in Georgio Tavecchio available, the Atlanta Falcons decided that a much-needed victory was not going to happen if he didn’t make the tough call. In many cases in the NFL, you have to snatch it. Just as the officials raised their arms in approval of a 56-yard field goal by Tavecchio, the Falcons took what was within reach. Beating a 1-6 Giants that get worse week-by-week is not necessarily a feather in the cap for the Falcons. But for a team that has encountered injury after injury after injury, victory had to be theirs to salvage whatever there is left of the season.
Starting quarterback Matt Ryan has shown why he deserves to be in the upper tier of the quarterbacks in the NFL. A 379-yard night for Ryan in the air was fourth of his last five games of throwing of 355 yards or more. So far this season, Ryan’s play has simply gone undetected and underappreciated thanks to the team’s 3-4 record.
But one thing is for sure, on this night, Ryan was arguably the main reason why the Falcons walked away victorious over the New York Giants.
Of course, credit must be given to an injury-filled defense that stood tall to hold a Giants offense with Odell Beckham Jr, Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram to just six points after three quarters. The defense isn’t something we can feel comfortable with just yet, but closely observe and you may see a defense that is learning how to defend together as a unit. Four first half sacks played a part in that as well as a critical goal-line stand on the Giants in third quarter to thwart what apparently may have been a game-deciding drive.
Plus, Quinn himself made a calculated risk to go for a 56-yard field goal late with a kicker who has been a part of the team in less than a week. Games can be won with making decisions such as that as well as they can be damning. That, my friends, is how Quinn can improve even more as a head coach.
We learned that this team is still (somehow) in the playoff picture. Something that is astonishing when you realize that most left the Falcons for dead a couple of weeks ago. With their backs against the wall in a moment that was truly do or die, the Falcons answered the call.