3 Takeaways: Falcons vs. Packers

Matty Ice is back

In the first five seasons of Matt Ryan’s career, it seemed like every other week he was leading the Falcons back in the fourth quarter for a win. Over the last two seasons, it has not seemed so easy. The Falcons have been on the wrong side of a lot of blown leads and fourth quarter comebacks since starting 5-0 last season, but on Sunday they finally got one back.

The Packers controlled the game for its majority, taking an early 7-3 lead courtesy of a Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, one of four touchdown passes on the day for Rodgers. Atlanta did not lead again until the third quarter when Devonta Freeman scampered across the goal line to the Falcons a 26-24 lead. Rodgers and the Packers responded with a huge drive that lasted over 8 minutes resulting in a touchdown pass to Jeff Janis. The drive ate up almost the entire fourth quarter, and had Atlanta fans thinking “here we go again”. But with seemingly the season on the line, Matt Ryan was able to come up with maybe the best drive of his season. With a hobbled Julio Jones proving to be ineffective, Ryan marched the Falcons down the field on a 11-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to Mohammed Sanu. Ryan went 9-11 on the final drive, giving him his 32nd career game-winning the drive, the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2008.

The drive was done in vintage Matty Ice style, and may be a moment that the Falcons look back on as the turning point in their season. Suffering a third straight close loss could have altered the direction of the entire season, but even more than that, this moment could be one of those you point at when choosing an MVP candidate. Eight games into the season, this is no fluke. I am on board #MattyIceforMVP.

When are the Falcons going to stop with the dumb mistakes?

While watching this team play has been spectacular for the most part this season, there is also the frustrating situation that Falcons cannot seemingly go a game without kicking themselves. Every game, even at home, the Falcons are committing multiple pre-snap penalties. The lack of discipline on this team is unreal and has to attended to if the Falcons want to make a deep playoff run.

But beyond that, there is usually one play the Falcons make each week that is just so mind-boggling. It is why being a Falcons fan is so hard. That play on Sunday came on a 3rd down in which Jordy Nelson was stopped short of the line to gain. However upon further review, Brooks Reed was found to be still on the field of play while trying to get off the field. Let’s be clear, Reed was not exactly breaking Usain Bolt’s 100m record on the way to the sideline. The play kept the Packers drive going in the fourth, in which they scored a touchdown to take control. Luckily, Matt Ryan was able to bail the Falcons defense out, but that play could have easily cost the Falcons the game and is simply unacceptable.

¬†Atlanta’s pass rush is a thing

Although not always consistent, the Falcons pass rush has been one of the best at getting after the quarterback in the last 5 weeks. Coming into this week, the Falcons were 4th in sacks over the last four weeks with 11, and they got three more on Aaron Rodgers Sunday.

Vic Beasley leads the unit. He recorded his 7.5th sack on Sunday and is currently tied for third in the NFL. Who would have thought? Beasley has been a thrill to watch, but he is not doing it alone. Adrian Clayborn came up with two huge sacks on Sunday that ended Packers drives. Those sacks put Clayborn at 3.5 for the year which is already more than he had last season. The defensive line is progressively getting better across the board, and as that happens more and more players are going to have opportunities to get sacks. I am in a much better place about this team because of the improvement in this unit.

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