On a night where Calvin Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yards, it is the Atlanta Falcons who leave the game smiling with the #1 seed in the palm of their hands. Matt Ryan looked extremely sharp, throwing for 279 yards and four touchdowns. He also narrowly missed a fifth score late in the fourth quarter while hitting on 78% of his passes. Long story short, Matty Ice played brilliantly. Matthew Stafford threw for a sexy 443 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass for the second straight week.
After watching this game live, and replaying their game against the Giants from last week, it is obvious that this Atlanta defense is peaking at the perfect time. This is a great response to them getting burnt by Carolina a couple of weeks ago. The Monday Night crew did a great job of hyping up Will Weatherspoon as well as defensive back Dunta Robinson- who had a brilliant game when he racked up nine tackles. While the Atlanta Falcons have forced three turnovers on defense (without turning the ball over themselves) for the second straight week, there is a bit of a call for concern for this offense. This is the running game. The Falcons are 28th in the league with regards to rushing yards per game and they struggled to get anything going on the ground in this one as well. The good news for them is the fact that they will be playing at home all throughout the playoffs, and in a dome again if they make it to the Super Bowl. This means that they will not have to deal with any weather games of any sort. As long as they can attack teams with the ball in the air, they should be fine. It is obvious that this is the direction that the team is heading in.
Really quickly, it seems appropriate to acknowledge Calvin Johnson’s amazing accomplishment(s). He not only set a record for receiving yards in a season, but he also set a record for consecutive games with 100+ yards receiving (8) and another one for consecutive games with 10+ receptions (4). This man is such a hard worker and an incredibly good player. He is well deserving of all of his accolades. Other than the big night for this big man, it was rather saddening for Detroit fans on the whole. Their offense (once again) was able to move the ball very well through the game. They tallied 522 yards but managed only 16 points. This is because they were settling for too many field goals. The Lions need someone other than MegaTron to emerge as a legitimate threat in the red zone. Most teams are just doubling him and taking him out of the play. Nobody in Honolulu blue is beating the defenders with any great consistency, plus they are making too many mistakes (i.e. turnovers and penalties). Both are significant reasons as to why this team is constantly failing inside of the opponent’s 20 yard line. For the Lions to have any success in the future, they will need to clean up these mistakes.
For Atlanta, it is unlikely that they will rest all of their players next week (seeing as how they already have a first round BYE). This means that they will have a good shot at finishing 14-2 for the second time in three years, which is something that has rarely been done in the NFL. Perhaps this is the year that the Falcons can get over their playoff woes. They have all of the key pieces; they just need to run the ball a little bit better.