Sunday’s game at the Georgia Dome was more like a party for the fans of Atlanta, as the Falcons steam-rolled their way to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. The Packers deferred the opening kick off, and immediately regretted handing the ball to the Falcons offense. Atlanta drove down the field surgically, converting on three third-downs and capping it off with a two-yard touchdown pass to Mohammed Sanu. The drive seized the momentum and the Falcons never looked back. A missed field goal and a fumble on the Packers opening possessions, allowed for Atlanta to jump out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and the party to begin in the Georgia Dome.
In what will go down as the last game in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons cruised their way to a 44-21 victory. Clinching their first Super Bowl berth since 1998, a position few could have ever imagined after their week one loss to the Bucs. But like most everybody knows, it is about who is hot at the right time and the Atlanta Falcons are scorching.
The offense has been on an absolute tear since the bye week. Contrary to popular belief, it has actually been Matt Ryan who has been by far the hottest QB over that stretch. In Ryan’s las 6 games, He has 19 total touchdowns to go with 0 interceptions. The Falcons are 6-0 over that stretch and are averaging a truly remarkable 39 points per contest. They are the modern day “Greatest Show on Turf”, with weapons that can attack from all angles, directed by one of the best young minds in the game.
But Sunday’s NFC Championship game was not about the offense, who many expected to shred a banged-up Packers defense. Sunday’s game was all about the Atlanta defense, that has suddenly transformed into one of the best in the NFL as of late. The inexperienced defense was challenged to do the impossible. Stop Aaron Rodgers, something nobody had been able for the last eight weeks. But let’s be real, Rodgers looked uncomfortable early and often against the Atlanta defense.
Much like last week, Atlanta was able to generate pressure and force Rodgers to throw under constant duress. But this time around, the Falcons did not allow Rodgers to make any plays with his legs. After dominating the league for the last eight weeks, Rodgers and the Packers went into the locker room shut out. Second year product Jalen Collins came up with the play of the game early in the second quarter by stripping Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski as he was entering the redzone.
Dan Quinn has done an unbelievable job developing this team over the last two seasons. He made a terrific hire in Kyle Shanahan to run the offense, and has done an even better job drafting and developing young talent. The defense is filled with first and second-year players who Quinn has entrusted, and the players have balled out in return. Much will be made of the Falcons inexperience entering the Super Bowl, but no coach has been involved in more Super Bowls over the last four seasons than Quinn. This is his third Super Bowl appearance in his last four years as a coordinator or a head coach. He has done a tremendous job of keeping the team grounded, even with the stage growing at an exponential amount.
The Falcons are the first team in any Atlanta sport to make it to a championship round since the turn of the century. The Super Bowl is possibly the biggest event in Atlanta sports history. But for Atlanta fans who have waited over 21 years for a championship, take a moment and enjoy this because this team has already exceeded all expectations.