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The Atlanta Falcons put all doubts behind, prove they’re made for the playoffs
- Updated: January 15, 2017
The Atlanta Falcons put on a show against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday afternoon, effortlessly translating their incredible play from the regular season to the playoffs.
The NFL’s no.1 ranked offence made a statement against the prolific defence of the Seahawks, as Matt Ryan exploded to guide his Falcons to a 36-20 victory. In their first playoff appearance since 2012, the Falcons put all their doubts to rest; proving they’re ready to put their franchise back on the map as they advance to the NFC Championship game.
Ryan and the Falcons weren’t fazed by the Seahawks, instead behind their own home crowd in the Georgia Dome, they propelled themselves with a team effort on their way to 4 touchdowns. The ball was moving everywhere for the Falcons, as they tore apart a Seahawks team featuring 4 Pro Bowlers in Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) January 15, 2017
Going up against a defence that guided the Seahawks to 2 of the NFL’s last 3 Super Bowls, the Falcons knew they were going up against a tough unit ready to use their momentum from their Wild Card game. They had limited the Detroit Lions to a mere 6 points, and looked ready to recapture their reputation as the Legion of Boom against the Falcons.
Their defence must have looked even scarier after Russell Wilson and their offence was able to start the game with a statement of their own. They used the first 8:34 minutes off the clock on their first drive, going for 89 yards on 14 plays. Their offence staying on the field seemed to be a recipe for success; since it would give less time for Ryan and the Falcons to find their momentum
That didn’t seem be the case, with the Falcons answering right back. Ryan masterfully guided his team down the field, while attacking the Seahawks’ famed secondary. He went at Sherman, targeting his best receiver in Julio Jones for a pair of 1st down passes. To finish their 13-play, 75-yard drive, Ryan would find Jones once again, this time for a 7-yard TD pass that would ultimately tie the game at 7.
The Falcons defence would step up next, establishing themselves at the right time after giving up a field goal to the Seahawks. Rookie, Rees Odhiambo, would step on Wilson’s foot, forcing the Seahawks’ QB into falling backwards into his own end zone for a safety. Even though they did get some help from an inexperienced member of the Seahawks’ offensive line, they did do their part the entire game in pressuring Wilson. The Falcons’ defence forced him into 19 dropbacks while facing pressure, the most of his postseason career.
“I think they can be great,” said Doug Baldwin to ESPN.com. “They are young, but they have a lot of talent. They have a lot of athletic, gifted talent. No one particular person stood out. It was just their effort. They played really, really hard. And you’ve got to respect that about any team.”
The Falcons would go on to score a field goal of their own to give themselves a 12-10 lead, but Ryan’s brilliance under centre would truly be displayed in their next drive. With the Seahawks kicking the ball all the way up to the Falcons’ 1-yard line, Ryan guided his team through a masterful 99-yard drive in only 2:55 minutes of action. He would finish the drive with a wide-open 14-yard TD pass to Tevin Coleman to give them a 19-10 lead to end the first half.
The Seahawks looked like they were in serious trouble going up against Ryan, who was using all his weapons to be able to carve up their defence. Even though they hadn’t completed a 2nd half comeback the whole season, the Falcons kept their focus and pushed their foot down the throats of the Seahawks.
To start the 2nd half, Ryan would guide the Falcons down the field once again for a 75-yard TD drive. Using the first 5:48 minutes of the clock, they were able to bring over their momentum from the 1st half, while continuing to use their entire offence to their fullest. Devonta Freeman would run in the TD, as he and Coleman would have their way against the Seahawks; finishing the day with a combined 102 rushing yards on 25 carries to go along with 102 receiving yards.
The Falcons had a demanding 26-10 lead, but they would have to wait till the 4th quarter to put the final nail in the Seahawks’ coffin. After both teams exchanged field goals, the Falcons’ defence would step up once again. With Wilson facing a 3rd & 16, he would throw an interception to Ricardo Allen; who would run it up to the Seahawks’ 46-yard line.
Ryan wouldn’t waste his opportunity to put the game to bed, marching his way down field with 8 plays to connect with Mohamed Sanu for a 3-yard TD pass. It would give the Falcons an eventual 36-13 lead with 3:40 left in the game. The Seahawks would respond with a touchdown of their own, but it was too late to flip the script, as the Falcons came away with their first playoff win since 2012.
It was a great performance by Ryan, who finished with 338 yards on 26-37 attempts (70.3%) to go along with 3 of his team’s 4 touchdowns. His 1-4 playoff record before entering Saturday’s game didn’t bother him, with Ryan playing like the MVP-candidate he became known for over the course of the 2016 season.
Even though they had a bye week after finishing with a 11-5 record, it didn’t look like they missed a beat from start to finish against on Saturday afternoon. Over the course of the season, they had gained a reputation for using their entire offence, and that was the case once again against the Seahawks. They had 8 different players finish with a reception, while they tore apart the Seahawks’ 8th ranked pass defence.
The last time they were in the playoffs, they had made it up to the NFC Championship game, but ultimately lost to the San Francisco 49ers. They look like a different team now than in the past, with their confidence at an all-time high. After improving their record the past 3 seasons, they look ready to put it all together for a run towards a Super Bowl as a team that seems impossible to stop.
All stats for this article are from NFL.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97