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'It's now or never': Falcons find a rhythm in decisive Week 16 win over the Indianapolis Colts

Atlanta outpaced Indianapolis with 406 total yards of offense to 262. Though the Falcons were 0-for-3 in the red zone, they scored the most points of any performance they've had this season. 

ATLANTA -- For the first time since Week 1 of the 2023 season, the Atlanta Falcons were the conductors of a decisive win, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 29-10 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Christmas Eve.

"It was now or never," Calais Campbell said after the win. "Everybody was locked in."

But what did "locked in" finally look like after a slide that put the Falcons at 6-8 going into Sunday's game and in the position to go back to Taylor Heinicke as QB1? It looked like a performance that included the following highlights:

  • Outpacing the Colts in total yards 406 to 262.
  • An offense that had a yards per play average of 6.3 (that number was as high as 7.1 yards per play at the end of the first half).
  • A defense that notched six sacks (two from rookie Zach Harrison and 1 1/2 from Campbell) and one Jessie Bates III interception.
  • An offense scoring the most points out of any game to this point.
  • Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson averaging over six yards per carry in the win, while Robinson led the team in receiving with 50 yards on seven catches.
  • The Falcons offense only went three-and-out twice and didn't turn the ball over at all after racking up six three-and-outs in the last two weeks and three ill-timed turnovers (plus a safety, too).
  • For only the second time this season, the Falcons scored points in their final possession of the first half and their first possession of the second half ("the middle eight," if you will). It was a 10-point swing that solidified a lead the Falcons never gave up.

So, there's the win in a snapshot. But, more than stats and numbers, Sunday's win was one the Falcons desperately needed.

After losing to a then 1-12 Carolina team last week, the Falcons went from controlling their own destiny in the NFC South to hoping for some help. Head coach Arthur Smith said, at this point in the season, with only a few weeks left, "you want to be relevant." With two recent divisional losses in the last two weeks, the Falcons were losing that relevance.

That's because, in every game this year, win or loss, the Falcons were missing something. Maybe it was playing complimentary football. Perhaps it was losing the turnover battle. Definitely -- at times -- it was lacking an offensive rhythm. Sunday night was the game the Falcons have been waiting for. It was a game where complaints about the performance were few and far between. It was a dominant performance on both sides of the ball that (to this point) the Falcons hadn't achieved.

"Everybody was in tune in all three phases," Smith said. "It was a good team win."

The only complaints to be made?

1. Why did it take until Week 16 for a complete game like this to be played by the Falcons? And, 2. Even in the Falcons' 29-points-scoring win, they still failed to punch the ball into the end zone more often than not.

Atlanta was 0-for-3 in the red zone and 0-for-2 with goal to go Sunday. Their two touchdowns on the day came on a 24-yard catch by Kyle Pitts in the first offensive drive of the day and a 31-yard explosive run by Tyler Allgeier to start the second half. Other than that, it was 17 points off Younghoe Koo's accuracy as a kicker on PATs and field goals.

In the end, though? You live with that stat considering the level to which your defense was playing. You also live with it because, well, you won, in quite a dominant fashion no less, to a team with a winning record (something you haven't done to this point in the season, either). You keep yourself alive with a performance like that, and that's how the Falcons see it.

"You obviously want to punch it in a little more when you're down there, but a win's a win," Heinicke said, "and we're happy with it."

Smith agreed, adding: "You obviously want to get touchdowns late, but you also want to play to the situations. So, the last two red-zone drives, you could say we got a little too conservative, but you're making (the Colts) use timeouts. You do want to be aggressive, but that's the stuff as a coach where, yes, you want touchdowns there but you're playing the long game. ... We were still able to get points, but that's something we're going to continue to work on."

In all, Smith continued, when the Falcons needed a play, "guys made them." For that reason, they'll take the win and feel good about it, too. Perhaps they'll feed as good as they've felt about a win this year.

The Falcons don't control their own destiny in the playoff race anymore. They'll need help to get there, but that doesn't minimize this Week 16 win. They needed it to keep their hopes alive, and they did that.

At least for another week, which is all they could hope for.

"There was certainly a lot of joy in that locker room," Smith concluded.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts during Week 16.

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