With eight minutes left in the October 22nd Monday-night matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan stepped under center for a crucial third-down play. Up by a touchdown, the Falcons could secure a victory and regain control of their season with another score.
In front of the boisterous home crowd, halfback Tevin Coleman delivered. Upon the snap, he rolled right and received a pitch from Ryan. Fans erupted as the offensive line, who had performed poorly throughout the night, perfectly executed blocks along the outside, allowing Coleman to find open space before reaching the end zone from 29 yards out. After the extra point, the Falcons led 20-6 with 7:47 on the game clock, and they would go on to win 23-20.
The Falcons’ receiving core has been touted as among the best in the league after the acquisition of rookie Calvin Ridley out of Alabama, who now shares receptions with veterans Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Jr., as well as tight-end Austin Hooper. On Monday night, however, it was the run game that paved the way to the Falcons’ victory. Beyond securing a victory, the fourth-quarter drive was the difference between a loss and an essential, confidence-boosting victory in what has been an unexpectedly slow start to the Falcons’ season.
Going into the season, the Falcons were touted as Super Bowl favorites. Their offense seemed poised for another high-powered season, equipped with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, an unstoppable receiving core and strong assets in the backfield; likewise, the defense, led by safety Keanu Neal, sought to improve on their previous season’s poor turnover ratio. Instead, injuries have riddled the Falcons’ season. Neal’s torn ACL in week one was a detrimental setback to the defensive unit. On offense, Devonta Freeman’s injury struggles have placed increased strain on the running back position. Even kicker Matt Bryant was out with a hamstring injury on Monday night. Team injuries and the ability of young players to fill veteran’s shoes were the question marks that surrounded the Falcons’ Monday night showdown against the Giants.
Speaking to the efficiency on both sides of the ball, “That’s exactly the style that we need,” said head coach Dan Quinn in his postgame remarks, as the team’s triumph answered many of the questions surrounding the future of their season. Indeed, the Falcons are capable of being a threat late in the season. Monday night’s win demonstrated the team’s resolve despite their sluggish start to the season. Though injuries have frustrated the team, exciting young players like running back Ito Smith and safety Demontae Kazee have filled the roles of Neal, Freeman and other sidelined team leaders. Now, with back-to-back wins under their belts, including a divisional victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 6, the Falcons head into their bye week seeking to get healthy before embarking on their playoff push.