Hey Mercury, crack open that bubbly we’re still the only perfect team in NFL history. Yes, it’s true, I am a life-long Miami Dolphins fan dating back before the perfect season in fact. The Dolphins have always been my favorite AFC team while the Atlanta Falcons, my first love before color TV has always been my favorite NFC team. Yes, I was there during the Norm Van Brocklin days and even both nightmarish Marion Campbell eras. Sunday my Falcons helped out my other favorite team as they did something no other NFL team has done this season. They defeated the previously unbeaten and hated (especially by me) Carolina Panthers 20-13 at a rocking Georgia Dome.
I would also like to take the time right now to let out a big raspberry to all the sports radio talking heads who have given the Dolphins hell the past couple of weeks including one of my favorites Jay Mohr who were hoping to once and for all shut up the ’72 Dolphins. Two words – suck it. The ’72 Dolphins are the greatest NFL team ever and continue to stand the test of time. But I guess it’s only appropriate since no one took them seriously in ’72. Despite a perfect record they were underdogs in the AFC Championship game against the Steelers and three point underdogs against the Washington Redskins’ “Over the Hill Gang” in the Super Bowl. Sure, they may of had the “No Name Defense” but I’m pretty sure I can still name them without googling it. (Yep, I’m that big a fan) And I will argue with you until we are both blue in the face as to why Bob Griese is the greatest quarterback in NF history.
Now back to our story.
The Atlanta Falcons for maybe the first time this season played a complete game on both sides of the ball as they improved to 8-7 and clinched second place in the AFC South, keeping their playoff hopes somewhat still alive, although by the end of Sunday they were over. But they did their part Sunday to keep hope alive and get even with a team that had scored over 70 points against them the last two meetings combined.
Cam Newton finally met his kryptonite in Vic Beasley who had the best game of his rookie campaign always seeming to be nipping at the QB’s heels. A late fourth quarter strip sack by the Atlanta rookie iced it for Atlanta and sent a shocked Panther team scurrying to the locker room with their tails between their legs.
Matt Ryan looked like his old self for the first time all reason really. The Falcons’ leader was 23-of-30 for 306 yards one touchdown (more on that later) and a key run on their opening series to set up a first and goal and the team’s first points of the game. Ryan has his first turnover game since early in the season. His 119.8 quarterback rating is one of his best all season.
It looked like it was going to be a long game at first. Carolina took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards on 1 play with it being capped off with an eight yard run by Newton, who made one of his patented gestures upon scoring. Who would have know that was the only time the Panthers would get into the end zone Sunday?
While the Panthers rolled for over 200 yards on the ground Newton, everyone’s (except me) MVP choice was held to 142 yards passing. A far cry from the past couple of games and to be honest it was great to see ole “Superman” grounded.
A little irony for you here – Julio Jones had more receiving yards (178) than Newton had passing yards. Jones’ nine catches included a truly acrobatic catch where he literally reached over the head of the cornerback to make the catch score totaling 70 yards on the play. Jones has 1,722 receiving yards on the season.
One of the sweetest parts of the game for me was the fact Roddy White was used more. White had five catches for 67 yards that was 27 more yards than Carolina’s top receiver Greg Olsen who caught four passes for 40 yards. White’s catches were clutch mostly coming on third down moving the changes. It looks like White is being transitioned into a possession receiver and he excelled Sunday. Of course playing the Panthers can do that to a guy, especially a cagey veteran like Roddy.
Even the running game made big plays with Devonta Freeman running for 73 yards and picking up yards in big chunks when needed also helping move the chains.
Even the Falcon defense got in the mix sacking Newton twice and as it was a rare multiple sack for the Falcons this year. Newton’s ego took quite the beating as he scurried off the field when the gun sounded.
Even the coaching showed a little intestinal fortitude attempting a 54-yard field goal with 1:30 to play to extend the lead to seven.
With the win the Falcons ensured they will not have a losing season and they could actually finish with a winning record this coming Sunday as the Falcons host the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired on Fox.
Hey Mercury, pass the bubbly over here.
– Dave Weinthal
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