AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer Daniel Cox takes a day-after look at the Falcons' 34-17 win over the Rams on Sunday. At times, the Falcons looked dominant on offense, playing a game of keep-away with St. Louis. Performances like Sunday's will come in handy down the line as the Falcons welcome 7-3 Green Bay to town Sunday before hitting the road for three straight.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Falcons have been speaking for weeks about their "best game."
While they rack up wins, they're searching for the elusive "complete" game — a contest where all three phases play to the capabilities they know are there.
Was Sunday their best game? It may have been close, but if nothing else, it provided a glimpse into what the Falcons can do when they're clicking, especially on offense.
"I think we were moving the ball pretty good," running back Michael Turner said after Sunday's game. "I got to see our third-down percentage and things like that. It seemed like we were getting a lot of first downs and moving it pretty good, ending up with a field goal or a touchdown. I don't know how many punts we had today but we were just moving the ball effectively and that leads to more time of possession."
Turner himself pieced together a solid game, but nothing like some of his most memorable games. The stats, however, say he had a great game, but until until the Falcons' final offensive play of the game, the running back just appeared to be one of the keys in the ball-controlling offense.
When he broke through the middle of the St. Louis defensive line after the two-minute warning, he was almost unsure of what to do. He found himself free and was rumbling 39 yards for a touchdown, but should he take the score or go down?
"Yeah, I thought about it," he said. "It came through my mind but I never practice sliding or anything like that so I didn't want any fluke injury to happen to me doing something crazy like that so I just went ahead and took it in."
The conclusion of taking it in was a 131-yard day with the one touchdown, and in most games in the past, that would have been the story.
Instead, the entire offense was what everyone will want to talk about. An efficient, clock-killing, defensive-energy-sapping machine.
A machine that hasn't turned the ball over in three straight games and executed 70 plays on offense on Sunday.
It's beginning to look like it's the kind of offense that is a coordinator's worst nightmare. The Falcons' offense is not so much quick-strike, which may be better for opposing offenses because of opportunities to match the scores. It's more like it grinds you down until you have very little left to work with.
It showed up Sunday in the Rams, as players began to have to leave the game late because of injuries and cramps. It was something that wasn't lost on Atlanta's offense.
"Yeah, we picked up on that," Turner said. "They can see that from upstairs. We just keep the pressure on them. We take pride in our physical shape. We think we are a pretty in shape team. We go out there and like to run and run all day. "
Behind Enemy Lines: Perhaps the best description of what Atlanta accomplished on Sunday was penned by The Associated Press' game story, used by Stltoday.com.
"Not too many big plays for the Atlanta Falcons," wrote the AP. "An avalanche of little plays did the trick."
A Turner 12-yard run here. A Michael Jenkins catch for 16 yards. An Eric Weems return for 55.
Next thing you know, the Falcons have accumulated 24 first downs and 391 total yards of offense.
From the FanCast:In the Falcons FanCast, everyone knew the game was over when safety William Moore picked off Sam Bradford at the Atlanta 1-yard line.
"Once Moore the Falcons come up with the win," wrote one fan.
Playing in front of his hometown crowd and numerous members of his family, the second-year safety stole his fourth pass of the season and returned it 12 yards and sealed Atlanta's win.
Moore, whose instinctive play seems to improve each week, said the interception play wasn't something they'd seen in film study. It was simply a good reaction to the play unfolding in front of him.
"We definitely didn't work on that during the week," he said. "You knew something was up with the tight end in the backfield. There was a screen (pass) they tried to get, but there was a good rush from the front four and man he (Sam Bradford) just threw it. They forced him to throw it."
Statistically Speaking:While the Falcons gave up some yards and they allowed the Rams to score 17 points, the majority of St. Louis' damage came in the first quarter when they jumped out to a 10-3 lead.
While much of the talk of Sunday's win will center around Atlanta's offensive performance, the defense wasn't too shabby, although it didn't have to be on the field very much. But when it was, it was effective.
The Falcons' defensive performance on third down speaks volumes about how well it limited the Rams. Of 10 opportunities, St. Louis only converted one third down and that came late in the fourth quarter.
Pivotal Play:Where to begin? While it was the second half when Atlanta really began to put things together, there was a moment earlier in the game when the Falcons needed something positive to happen.
It came from one of the smallest men on the field: return man/receiver Eric Weems.
Down by a touchdown with the second quarter opening, Weems returned a kickoff 55 yards and the Falcons scored a touchdown on that possession.
Then, they scored on the next two possessions.
Weems, the return man who is dying to take one all the way back this season, didn't get his six points, but he made a play for the second week in a row on special teams that made a big difference in his team getting a win.
That's A Wrap:It doesn't get any easier.
After a nine-day break before Sunday's game, the Falcons return to a normal work week for Sunday's home game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers dismantled the Vikings 31-3 on Sunday and, at 7-3, are shaping up to be one of the key contenders for a spot in the NFC Championship.
Featuring a similar aggressive defense and a bright young quarterback, Sunday's showdown will be yet another matchup in recent weeks for Atlanta against a team considered among the elite in the NFL.
At 8-2 with a home game before a tough three-game road stint, a tough stretch is ahead for Atlanta, but so far the Falcons have taken care of their business.