Atlanta Falcons falter late in loss to New York Giants


Nobody expected the Atlanta Falcons to play well on the road against the New York Giants after last week’s fiasco in Minnesota. Atlanta’s road record is something out of an October Horror movie. So, could the Falcons stay in the game and have a shot to win late? Yes, they would have a shot. But sadly, they would again come up short on the road, 30-20.

In the first quarter, the Falcons and Giants traded touchdowns, and then in the second quarter Atlanta actually took the lead on two field goals by Matt Bryant. At the half, it was 13-10 Falcons, and while the offense didn’t look great the defense was holding their own. Considering how bad the defense was in the prior games, holding New York to just ten points was huge. Not to mention the fact that the defense recovered two fumbles in this game. Honestly, this was potentially the best defensive half the Falcons have had all year.

Out of the gate in the second half, both teams stumbled on their opening possessions. However, Matt Ryan found the spark plug Antone Smith on the second possession. Whenever Antone touches the ball, amazing happens. The pint-sized terror ran 73 yards for a touchdown, and that gave the Falcons a 20-10 lead. With everything going right, could the defense hold up?

Of course not, this is the Falcons defense. They can hang for a half, but eventually in four quarters they are going to get exposed. The Giants apparently had enough of getting stymied at the line, decided to start flinging it. Eli Manning manufactured a nine play, 81 yard drive down the field to score a touchdown, and draw within three points. The drive was helped by some ill-timed Atlanta penalties.

Sadly, the fourth quarter was all Giants. If you believed the team motto the Falcons were telling you about “toughness,” then you certainly thought they were dead wrong in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning did it again with absolutely no pass rush from the Falcons, dinking and dunking down the middle of the field for another touchdown. It was 24-20 in favor of the Giants, and the Falcons defense looked gassed. They were getting dump-trucked on running plays, they were getting nowhere on the lines. All in all, they looked weak.

The game was still in reach though when the Falcons got that ball back. What did they do? Three-and-out. The Giants got the ball back and scored a field goal to make it 27-20. What did the Falcons do with the game on the line again? Why, a four and out this time, since they went for it on fourth down. That would give the Giants the ball in prime field goal range. After burning some clock down to near two minutes, the Giants had amassed a 30-20 lead.

It all went wrong in a matter of fifteen game minutes. The Falcons went from leading by ten to losing by ten in a slow march towards insanity. In the end the Falcons only had one sack on Eli Manning, and the problem continues to be getting any kind of pass rush. Eventually a good quarterback will pick a defense apart if you give him enough time. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, despite what people think of him. He’s no slouch. He made the Falcons pay for their defensive woes.

Matt Ryan had an average day. He went for almost 300 yards passing, a touchdown pass, and an interception. A great day from Ryan probably wins this game, but I can’t really expect him to have a great day in front of this patchwork offensive line. He was running for his life most of the second half, and he was sacked several times. In the end, the problems in the trenches on both sides of the ball did the Falcons in.

People will draw some very stark conclusions from this Falcons loss. I would only draw one conclusion. The Falcons defense is not good enough to win on the road consistently. If that’s the case, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to make it in the playoffs. A good team needs to basically win 75% of their home games, and 50% of their road games. I think the Falcons will struggle to win a third of their road games at best. That means they essentially have to be perfect at home, and that’s a tall order.

Hopefully when the Falcons face Chicago at home next week, they can find their mojo again. The team needs a win in the worst way.