First Quarter:Strong defense was expected in the Falcons-Giants battle, and Atlanta brought a defense that was every bit as good as New York's in the first half. Led by a sack and multiple pressures from John Abraham, the Falcons forced two three-and-outs and three total first-quarter possessions without a score. Unfortunately, the Giants did the same to the Falcons, but on Atlanta's third possession, Matt Ryan turned to the no-huddle and began moving the ball the way they're accustomed to, highlighted by a 20-yard pass completion to Julio Jones. Atlanta kept their balance on offense, running and throwing the ball and began moving against New York's defense, keeping Ryan free of sacks. The Falcons took their 13-play drive into the second quarter, the first ending in a scoreless tie.
Second Quarter:The first play of the quarter involved one of the first critical decisions of the game by Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Facing a fourth-and-1 situation from the New York 24-yard line, Smith opted to seek the first down instead of taking the potential of three points from a field goal. On a quarterback sneak, Ryan appeared to get the yards needed, but the spot of the ball by the referees said otherwise. After the failed conversion, the Falcons had a moment of momentum when they forced a safety on Eli Manning, but couldn't maintain it through the end of the half. A Manning to Hakeem Nicks four-yard touchdown pass gave the Giants a 7-2 lead. Neither team would manage any more points as the first half came to a close.
Third Quarter:Despite starting the half with the ball, the Falcons continued to come up empty. The Giants added a field goal on their first possession and Atlanta responded with another positive drive into New York's territory. The drive ended with another fourth-and-1 situation and another QB sneak was stopped. On the third play of New York's next possession, they made a statement play with a Nicks 72-yard touchdown catch, enabled by numerous Falcons missed tackles. The touchdown made it a 17-2 game and New York took much of the game's momentum and advantages into the final quarter.
Fourth Quarter:The Giants took their third-quarter-ending drive into the fourth quarter and came away with more points. A 27-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Mario Manningham gave New York a 24-2 lead and all but ended the game with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Falcons couldn't put together a response, but caught a break with a missed field goal, before taking over on offense for the final time three minutes remaining. The Falcons couldn't get anything going and a sack of Ryan on fourth-and-1o officially ended the game and Atlanta's season.
Play of the Game:Unfortunately for the Falcons, few big plays came on Sunday. Atlanta's longest play on offense came on a 21-yard pass to Roddy White in the third quarter. Perhaps the biggest play came more in what the Falcons were unable to do. The first missed fourth-down conversion wasn't as costly as the second, but both combined to haunt the Falcons' ability to put points on the board against the Giants. The second fourth-down conversion that failed was possibly the play of the game for Atlanta and they came out on the wrong end of it.
Player of the Game:Chris Owens. Owens was largely responsible for covering New York's Victor Cruz and while he had help, Owens led the limiting of Cruz. The wide receiver had only two catches for 28 yards. Owens covered other players as well and he ended the day with six tackles and two passes defensed. Abraham gets an honorable mention for his one sack, one QB hit and two tackles for loss on the day.
Turning Point:After missing a fourth-and-1 conversion in the second quarter, the Falcons had another chance to convert in a similar situation in the third quarter. On New York's 21-yard line, the Falcons failed to convert again, opting for the same QB sneak play call. With the conversion failing for the second time, the Giants took the ball and scored on three plays, the biggest of the three the 72-yard touchdown pass to Nicks. Once that second conversion failed, it appeared to send the Falcons spiraling toward their third playoff loss under Smith.
Stat of the Game: Zero-for-3. The Falcons managed to limit the damage done by New York's dynamic playmaker on offense, Victor Cruz. They limited the Giants pass rushers to just two sacks for a loss of 16 yards. However, Atlanta couldn't find its rhythm on offense and the 64 yards rushing were a factor. The biggest damage in the game came from Atlanta's 0-for-3 performance on fourth downs. The first two misses were on fourth-and-1 situations in field goal territory. Both times Atlanta failed to convert, the Giants took the ball and scored touchdowns.
Tweet of the Game:As the game progressed it became more clear that Atlanta was having one of those days where nothing could go right. Most fans continued to watch the game, holding out hope that the Falcons could mount a comeback, something they'd seen before. Around the time Manningham found the endzone for the Giants' third touchdown on the day, Falcons fan Laura, @hiLAURiouss, summed up what many were feeling: "I just cant watch this anymore #atlny11"
Quote of the Day:Many questions were asked of the Falcons after the playoff loss, but none more than Atlanta's performance on fourth downs, specifically the two failed fourth-and-1 conversions. One of the players involved first-hand, left tackle Will Svitek, said the Falcons have generally had success in those situations, but New York got the best of them: "That's a good question. I don't know. We usually convert those. It's one of those things that didn't work out for us. That's probably, obviously, the difference-maker. Those were two huge plays, we just didn't convert. That's probably a combination of things. It was disappointing, but the Giants did a good job to stop the first down on that."