Boom. And just like that the Atlanta Falcons were relevant again.
Monday night the Atlanta Falcons tied their high for points in a game this season at 34 as they held on for a 34-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
And while the game was close in score the outcome really wasn’t in question until Blair Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt dropped roughly a yard short of the crossbar as time expired.
Two weeks earlier the Falcons appeared to be in a freefall dropping three of four games including a poor effort on a Monday night Super Bowl rematch. The along came the Cowboys and the Seahawks two playoff teams from last year and Atlanta flexed some long over due muscle winning both remaining two games behind the Saints while now thrust into the final playoff slot thanks to head to head wins over competing rivals Dallas, Detroit and now Seattle.
The Falcons have stepped up their game in recent weeks and are playing more “consistent” ball. The reason for the quotation marks is two-fold. For the first time in recent history the Falcons scored in each quarter the last two games. The only problem with that is they’re still not getting the ball into the end zone as often as they should. The outcome for the most part was never in doubt in the second quarter when rookie lineman Takk McKinley knocked the ball from Russell Wilson and Adrian Clayborn, coming off his record setting game against Seattle scooped up the bal and rumbled 10 yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 21-7 lead.
The Atlanta defense despite giving up 31 points has been the one truly bright spot for the Falcons this season. Last season the offense propped up the defense by scoring record points and this season it’s the exact opposite. The defense has not only kept Atlanta in games with 31 the most points allowed in a single game, they’ve also set team records and scored. In fact, Clayborn has scored more touchdowns this season than Julio Jones (2-1). The latter has been the problem with the offense this season.
The combined 61 points the Falcons have scored in the past two wins is ten more per game than the offense has averaged all season. And that’s still below last season’s pace. The Falcons have perhaps the most talent on offense than any other team in the league and despite this continue to under perform. And I can’t figure out why. Since Ryan was drafted the offense has been one of the league’s better ones and continued to improve in changes in OC from Mike Mularkey to Dirk Koetter before hitting a roadblock for a single season under Kyle Shanihan. And now again this season under Steve Sarkasian. And I don’t understand why with the talent with the marquee names having played together for a number of years despite their young age.
Watching the offense this season is like watching a teenager drive a Ferrari who can’t drive a stick. Play calling has been horrendous especially with the receivers the Falcons have. The receiver seems to run into each other running routes that are poorly conceived. And how many times does I have to say this, but they continue to miss out or outright refuse to stretch the field.
You would think with all my complaining that the Falcons lost Monday night but they didn’t. They missed out on a lot of opportunities because this game should have never been close. Yes, they did score 34 points but Matt Ryan saw his streak of consecutive games of passing for 200 yards come to an end at 64. The last time he didn’t throw for at least 200 yards was the ninth game of the 2012 season. And with all the injuries on Seattle’s defense the passing game should have been over the top. Instead they were “efficient”. And with a running game that was stifled to only 89 yards and an average of less than three yards a carry.
You would have thought that the Falcons lost by all my complaining but they improve to 6-4 with a three-game home stand coming up. The reason Atlanta didn’t blow out the Seahawks was one Russell Wilson. Wilson single-handedly kept Seattle in the game.
The Seattle signal caller plays football much like a sandlot football player. He seems to try to take the game into his own hands. And thanks to this style Monday night he kept Seattle in the game despite being behind by double digits multiple times. By comparison Russell passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns and led all rushers with 86 yards on the ground. Single-handedly Wilson gained 344 yards while the Falcons as a while gained 284. The big difference was turnovers. Wilson had two big turnovers – an interception and the fumble that Clayborn returned for a touchdown.
Atlanta’ defense got lax the latter part of the fourth as they were unable to sustain the double-digit lead with 3:49 to play. In fact it took Seattle only 49 seconds to pull within three points and Atlanta failed to take any time off the clock before punting it back the Seahawks with 1:55 to play. Fortunately thanks to some strangle play calling by Seahawk coach Peter Carroll – a fake field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter and a bad play challenge that depleted his team’s timeouts, they ended up just a few feet short for Walsh’s 52-yard field goal attempt with two seconds remaining. Another yard or so and it would have been overtime.
Despite all my complaining the Falcons improve to 6-4 and jumped to the sixth seed in the playoff race. The two teams faced each other for the third time in one calendar year with the Falcons winning the “rubber match”.
The Falcons return home Sunday to begin a three-game home stand beginning with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Kickoff is at 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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