The primary takeaway from the Falcons post-game quotes, following Sunday's Week 5 matchup with the New York Giants, centered on the word "finish," to complete and perfect in detail. What ultimately started in the first half, mostly-sound execution, big plays and a halftime lead, didn't quite carry over into a completed Falcons performance, falling short of the team's third win in 2014.
After falling behind 7-0, Falcons QB Matt Ryan and the offense responded in fashion with a nine-play drive, covering 80 yards in 4:43, resulting with a 10-yard TD run by Steven Jackson, made possible by a textbook block by Falcons TE Levine Toilolo. Just like that, with the game tied and the MetLife Stadium crowd silenced, the Falcons had momentum, looking for a much-awaited road win.
Despite the early Giants touchdown and a second-quarter field goal by K Josh Brown, the Falcons defense had momentum of its own, allowing 45 total rushing yards, along with 103 passing yards in the first half.
Keeping the ball out of Giants QB Eli Manning's hands allowed Ryan and company to continue moving the ball, totaling 219 yards of offense in two quarters (166 passing yards, 53 rushing yards), thanks a large part to WR Julio Jones, who grabbed virtually everything that was thrown his way, totaling 8 receptions for 88 yards in the first half.
Between the 20-yard lines, the Falcons were moving the ball, but were just 1-for-3 (33 percent) in the red zone, having to rely on two 20-yard FGs by K Matt Bryant, giving the team a 13-10 lead at halftime. Ryan entered the locker room with solid numbers, including completing 17-of-23 throws for 166 yards (93.8 rating).
Coming out for the second half, things appeared to be moving in the right direction as Atlanta added to its lead, thanks again to the playmaking machine, Falcons RB Atone Smith, who took a short pass from Ryan, evaded a would-be tackler and covered 70-plus yards in a blink of an eye for the score, increasing the margin to 20-13; the highlight play would be the last time the Falcons reached the end zone. The Giants ultimately won the game because of their second-half performance that included 13 first downs, converting 60 percent of their third-down situations and scoring twice in three trips inside the red zone (75 percent).
The Falcons are on the road again for a conference match up against the New York Giants. Take a look at these pictures of gameday.
Welcome to the ebb-and-flow business that is the National Football League, each week offering positive schemes and plays to build upon, while correcting and learning from those that didn't go as planned, each focused on finishing the next contest in victorious fashion. During his weekly Monday press conference, Falcons head coach Mike Smith identified such lessons, including improving third-down conversions and defensive run fits. The team's coaches and players will collaborate this week to fix such areas by Sunday's home game against Chicago, maintaining proper perspective.
"We're disappointed in the outcome of the game yesterday," Smith said. "Let me make one thing perfectly clear, and if it's the only thing you take from this press conference, we've played 5 football games (and) we've been inconsistent; we're 2-3. Do we like where we are at? No; but, there's a lot of football left to be played and our number one goal is to win the NFC South, because that's the cleanest way into the second season."