ATLANTA – Where has this been?
The Falcons reminded us on Sunday of what can happen when they put it all together. They can dominate teams – and that’s what they did in a 40-14 win over the Cardinals.
Explosive run game? Check. The Falcons eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth time all season. Tevin Coleman not only rushed for 145 yards on 11 carries – his third-career 100-yard game – but he also ripped off a 65-yard run, the longest of his career.
Turnovers and sacks? Check. The Falcons defense picked off Josh Rosen twice – including a pick-six by Deion Jones – and sacked the Cardinals rookie quarterback seven times.
Protect Matt Ryan? Check. The Cardinals got to Ryan twice, but both sacks occurred on the Falcons’ first two drives. Ryan wasn’t touched again for the rest of the game.
Speaking of Ryan, he didn’t put up video game-like numbers, but he rushed for a touchdown and connected with Julio Jones on a sick 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. When it was all said and done, No. 2 still completed 22 of 36 passes for 231 yards.
On a side note, it was win No. 100 for Ryan. He is now 100-72-0 during his 11-year career here in Atlanta. He's now tied with Joe Montana for the 11th-most wins with one team. That's pretty good.
So, what does it all mean as we head into the final two games of the season? Well, all week long the buzz word around Flowery Branch was “focus.” The Falcons were certainly locked in on Sunday, so Dan Quinn’s message was received – loud and clear. That's a positive.
It also means that five-game losing streak – their longest one since a six-game skid in 2015 – is finally over and done with. Another positive.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for the Falcons in Week 15 might be that they were officially eliminated from the NFC playoff race. I know, I know … it was just a formality at this point. I get it, but it’s official now. Ouch.
Despite it all, the guys in Red and Black sorely needed a win today and got one. Two games remain on the Falcons’ slate – road games against Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Maybe they’ll play the role of spoiler and eliminate one of their NFC South rivals.
Maybe some of these younger players – guys like Calvin Ridley, Ito Smith, Deadrin Senat, Foye Oluokun, and Isaiah Oliver – will continue to make plays. That would be nice.
Regardless of what happens, let’s hope we start seeing more of what went down today at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Those are the Falcons we expected to see in 2018.
Today, at least, provided a pleasant reminder.