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PFF Refocused: Falcons vs Giants - I Am The Truth - 01-09-2012 03:56 PM
Re-Focused: Falcons @ Giants, Wild Card Round
January 9th, 2012 | Author: Ben Stockwell
An eerie sense of déjà vu descended on MetLife Stadium as another playoff victory and another chance to prove their doubters wrong slipped through the fingers of the Atlanta Falcons. After a solid start where the Falcons spurned their chances to make early inroads on the New York Giants they simply fell away and were comfortably picked off. The Giants got off to a very lethargic start on offense but once they got into some sort of forward gear they never looked back and cruised to a re-match with the Green Bay Packers; harking back memories of their last Superbowl run.
For the Falcons this was yet another crushingly disappointing playoffs loss in the Mike Smith/ Matt Ryan era where once again the promise they showed in the regular season failed to materialize in the post season. Their offense looked slow and ponderous, making poor use of the offensive upgrades they acquired while the defense (though solid for much of the game) wasn’t good enough to keep the Falcons in a slug fest. Do the Falcons need to go back to the drawing board now? This is fundamentally a solid football team that in its current state you would back to make the playoffs more often than not. But at the same time this continued failure has to raise questions about whether something fundamentally within the team is causing these playoff letdowns. Their most recent failure was brought into even sharper focus by a loss to a Giants team that once again is timing its run and elevating itself above the form it showed for most of the regular season.
Atlanta – Three Performances of Note
The invisible five
The pressure in this game was on the Atlanta Falcons and their offensive quintet to step and put the doubters into the shade by finally carrying the Atlanta Falcons to a playoff win. It didn’t happen and once again questions will be asked about the big game temperament of Atlanta’s key pieces on offense. Michael Turner (-0.4) struggled for room on offense and looked as slow as some observers have suggested that four seasons of ground and pound have made him. Matt Ryan (+0.4) appeared unsettled by an early hit and in spite of his offensive line holding up fairly well against the Giants’ ferocious pass rush he never looked like letting rip with the kind of game changing play that his counterpart Eli Manning did. His triplets never really showed up either with Julio Jones (+0.4) providing the most help with only a solid statistical performance in his playoff bow. These five were supposed to lead the Falcons on this year and erase the memories of last year’s disappointment, but the question is are these five capable of taking the lead of this team when it counts? Once again they have passed up on the opportunity to disprove those who say that they aren’t.
Mixed day for stand-ins
The late decision to hold Brent Grimes out of the lineup for Falcons left them looking for Dominique Franks (-1.6) and Chris Owens (+3.3) to continue deputizing. Franks played every snap, moving to the slot for Owens out wide when the Falcons went to nickel and it was Owens on the field in those nickel sets who had the better game of the two. Owens got his hand to two passes to cause incompletions whilst Franks’ most positive contribution was a hit he delivered on a blitz at the 6:40 mark in the second quarter. Franks was caught, as the Falcons were on a number of occasions, paying too much attention to Victor Cruz on Hakeem Nicks’ 72 yard touchdown pass unaware of him crossing through his zone and then unable to peel back upfield to Nicks. Franks also missed a tackle on Ahmad Bradshaw allowing him out into space on a 30 yard run early in the third on a New York scoring drive, capping off a bad time to come up with the worst game of his starting streak.
Rounding out a solid season
One of the real bright spots of the Atlanta Falcons season has been the emergence of last year’s first round pick Sean Weatherspoon who rounded out a strong bounce back season with another solid display (+2.1) this week. Weatherspoon was the most active Falcons players for the entire game registering 10 tackles along with two hits on three blitzes. He came up with one missed tackle on Brandon Jacobs early in the fourth quarter and took a poor angle on a completion to Mario Manningham at 4:55 in the fourth, but in the grand scheme of things he was one of Atlanta’s better defenders on the day. The result was a disappointing end to a solid bounce back season for Weatherspoon who looked completely at home in the NFL this season having looked out of his depth in his rookie season.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Pressure… What pressure?
It could be argued, with plenty of supporting evidence, that the single most important factor in the Giants’ success this season has been Eli Manning’s ability to work under pressure. As the second season starts Manning didn’t leave his touch under pressure behind in 2011 coming up with yet another vital display (+4.3) in the crunch. His offensive line made a slow start this week and he was pressured on 10 of his 34 dropbacks this week. However on these ten snaps Manning completed four of eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. He may not be a running or a scrambling quarterback but he has become the model for what a “mobile” quarterback is (a shared trait with his older brother). Eli’s ability to anticipate and dodge the rush before delivering a pass downfield will be crucial if the Giants are to continue their post-season success.
Defensive line peaking at the right time
The greatest parallel being drawn between the current Giants and their last Superbowl victory is the form of their defensive line at a crucial moment. The similarities are striking and that they were able to get contributions from as far down the depth chart as Rocky Bernard (+1.5) shows how dangerous this unit is. Jason Pierre-Paul (+1.5) was kept relatively quiet in the passing game, registering only 2 pressures on 35 pass rushes, but his work in the running game along with Justin Tuck (+2.1 run defense) proved crucial in shutting down the Falcons’ power running game behind Michael Turner. Three of the Giants starters graded positively in run defense this week and the fourth, Linval Joseph (-0.1), whilst quiet for long stretches came up with one of the Giants’ fourth down stops. The Giants now face a very different test this week against Green Bay and against an ailing Packer offensive line the likes of Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Osi Umenyiora will need to be at their best rushing the passer if the Giants are to take a second playoff victory at Lambeau Field in the Eli Era.
The Giants running game has been non-existent for most of the season thanks in large part to the failing of their offensive line, but just at the right time the Giants two headed monster is awaking from its slumber. Both Ahmad Bradshaw (+2.0) and Brandon Jacobs (+1.7) made key contributions with Jacobs in particular, as head coach Tom Coughlin noted after the game, setting a physical tone for the Giants when they finally got on track. The Giants were at last able to create some clear creases for Jacobs in particular to build steam and Falcons defensive backs will be nursing some bruises as they awake this morning. If the running game can up their game another level then the balance in this Giants offense would make them a threat to any team remaining in the playoffs.
- Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton both played all 66 snaps this week and for the entire season missed only 20 and 10 snaps respectively on the year.
- Spencer Adkins made four tackles in this game, unfortunately he also missed three.
- David Diehl graded positively for pass protection this week (+0.1) for the first time since he moved back to left tackle in Week 13.
After a shaky start with the rest of his offense Eli Manning was peerless. His ability to evade pressure and still make plays has been crucial to the Giants’ season and will continue to be for the rest of the playoffs.
RE: PFF Refocused: Falcons vs Giants - Paprika Neck - 01-09-2012 10:32 PM
we need a nasty attitude gaurd and defensive tackle that's wide body and can penetrate. top 10 offense and defense. WORD TO YOUR MUDDER
RE: PFF Refocused: Falcons vs Giants - I Am The Truth - 01-09-2012 11:16 PM
We are going to need a shakeup in defensive and offensive personnel AND philosophy if we are going to make noise in the playoffs. I'm curious to see what our new eventual DC and [fingers crossed] OC have in mind.