“For us, I thought offensively we did about as well as we could do in the first half,”
Freeman Sets It Off:
Freeman ended the game with 177 yards on 17 touches (a 10.4 average) and 1,541 yards on the year – 1,079 of which came on the ground.
“He hit the hole really hard. I think he made somebody miss, and he had the speed to just take it away,” Mack said about Freeman’s long score.
Ryan Strengthens MVP Case: Matt Ryan wrapped up the best regular season of his NFL career with one of his most efficient performances in a Falcons uniform. The nine-year veteran completed 27 of 36 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers, and as he authored those stellar numbers, the Georgia Dome crowd of more than 70,000 fans regularly lauded him with “M-V-P” chants.
Ryan finished the campaign with 4,947 passing yards and 38 touchdowns – both single-season franchise records – and joined Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as the only players in league history to amass 35-plus TDs and 10 or fewer INTs in a season.
“I thought Matt played particularly well today,” head coach Dan Quinn said. “Created some (plays), moved in the pocket and just threw some balls that were right on point. … The thing I’d like to share with you is the work that he put in this offseason. And he made that decision from last January where we got together and had many conversations. When we apply the term, ‘Can you get one percent better?’ to already a really good player, sometimes the ceilings to go through to get to the next level can be really challenging. He totally did that.
“He’s the one that put the work in, that spent the extra time, that set our offseason in motion. I think that speaks for itself in terms of how hard he’s gone for it. And he has not backed off since. He’s been able to stay on that pace, stay on that routine of constantly striving to get better. So I feel his intent; I feel (it) in the way he prepares, the way he’s going at it. He’s in a very good groove right now.”
Beasley Comes Back Strong:
“I knew when he went inside, and he came back out I saw him and said, ‘Hey man, we appreciate your toughness. Ready to go battle again?’ And I asked him if he needed me to hit his shoulder, and he said, ‘No, no, no.’ So, we joked about it, but honestly, that shows how hard he wants to play for his guys,” Quinn said. “That’s one of the coolest parts about our team. This brotherhood that they have is real.”
Defense Passes Biggest Test of Year: While the Falcons have secured the reputation as the best offense in football, an argument can be made that the Saints had the second-best in 2016. And while New Orleans made a valiant push towards the end of regulation, Atlanta’s defense did an admirable job slowing down Drew Brees and Co. through three quarters – allowing 218 net yards and 13 points through 45 minutes of action.
The Saints managed to tighten the contest in the fourth, however, adding 19 points in that frame. Now, as Atlanta moves on to the playoffs, its defense will look to build on its early success in Week 17.
“For the most part, I think we played well,” veteran DT