There was a Hollywood premier on Saturday night, and the Falcons defense had the paparazzi snapping pictures worthy of headline news. A Takk McKinley sack dance, Brian Poole with spot on open field tackling, Deion Jones with his continued high level of play leading the Falcons defense.
The Falcons identity has shifted somewhat. “This” is what Falcon fans hoped for when Dan Quinn was named head coach. The expectation was for the defensive mastermind (Quinn) to come in & elevate the defense to a higher level. And Dan Quinn has done exactly that.
In three seasons, Dan Quinn has now matched Falcon head coaches for all time playoff wins (Dan Reeves – three wins as well). Do you get that Falcon fan base? Let me hammer home the point like a Keanu Neal stick tackle short of the first down yard markers. In three seasons, Dan Quinn has matched “all” Falcon coaches in playoff wins.
The Falcons defense is allowing under 20 points consistently over the last few weeks, which is a recipe for success. Playoff success. It’s all about moving on in the tourney, and the Falcons have exactly the type of offense/defense combo that will travel well this time of year.
The upstart Rams posed a difficult challenge. Having come in well rested, and playing at home was understandably why most gave the Rams the advantage in this game. However, the Falcons coaching trio of Quinn/Manuel/Sarkisian came up with a perfect game plan that was practically executed to perfection.
The Falcons defense did a great job in containing Todd Gurley. This was the biggest challenge for the defense. Catches out the backfield during the regular season is what made Gurley so explosive. Manuel, and company took that away. The run defense was also on point. Outside of two big runs for Gurley, the Falcons did a great job of holding the Rams running game at bay. The pass defense was also on this night. Alford, and Trufant both enjoyed a solid night in coverage.
Special teams which was often a sore spot throughout the regular season for the Falcons. A couple of turnovers created on punt/kickoff coverage. Kazee channeled his inner Keith Armstrong, and gave the Falcons great field position with a nice strip tackle on Cooper. Matt Bosher had a nice night punting. Matt Bryant, well he’s Matt Bryant.
Offensively the Falcons again did exactly what they needed to do. Check that, they did even more than they needed to. The Falcons owned time of possession, 37:34 to 22:26 minutes to be exact. And what better way to keep the Rams high scoring offense off the field than to keep the ball away from them? The opening drive for Atlanta in the second half as a thing of beauty. An 8+ minute drive where running the ball was the focus which chewed up clock, and lengthened the lead. Then later, the Matty Ice floater in the corner of the end zone which landed softly in the arms of Julio as he cradled it for the touchdown. That ball seemed to hang up there as long as Debo did on the Brees interception a couple weeks back. Red zone success when the Falcons needed it most – exhale.
What’s next? The Falcons now head to Philadelphia. They Philly area is where Matt Ryan from, and it’s time for a homecoming. Confidence is building. This team is resilient. The battle scars are thick. This team has been tested, but continues to have it doubters. But that’s what also makes this playoff win, and every win that lies ahead all the more satisfying.
The cracked Liberty Bell is a Philadelphia landmark. NFC teams made the mistake of leaving the door open a crack for these Falcons to get in as the sixth seed. That’s all we needed. Who’s ready to “own” that Philly cheesesteak? The threat from the West has been cared for. Did someone just tout off from the East? The Falcons will be there soon Philadelphia, and will let their play do the talking.