With Sunday’s victory over the Seahawks, the Falcons became one of the final four teams in the playoffs. Atlanta thoroughly dominated the Seahawks in the first half to a tune of 20-0. The second half was a different story. The offense fell apart completely, scoring only 6 points while Seattle clawed there way back into the game. Russell Wilson led his team back from the 20 point deficit to take the lead with under a minute left in the game. It looked over at that point with Atlanta finding a way to blow another playoff game. Matt Ryan seemed likely to lose in the playoffs for their 4th time in 5 years. That was until Ryan rallied his troops and took his team down the field in only two plays to get Matt Bryant into field goal position. Bryant nailed the field goal to give Atlanta the lead back. The only problem was that Mike Smith’s horrible clock management left over 10 seconds left on the clock. That is not a whole lot, but in a playoff game when you could have milked the clock down to zero, you cannot leave anytime left on the clock. What happened next almost led to the biggest let down in Falcons football history. An attempted squib kick hit the front line of the Seahawks kick return team, giving them the football around the 50 yard line. Russell Wilson had one or two plays to bring the Seahawks into field goal position. He couldn’t get it done, but the fact that he came so close is a bit concerning.
Still, it is the playoffs. Anything can happen and every game will be against the top competition. Matt Ryan got it done in the end and Tony Gonzalez finally won his first ever playoff game. Now the Faclons are only one game away from the Super Bowl. The best part, they get to continue this ride at home. Home field advantage can be absolutely crucial in the playoffs, especially when you are playing an elite team in the 49ers. San Francisco is making their second straight trip to the NFC Championship game under Jim Harbaugh. The big difference between this years team and last years is that Colin Kaepernick is the new QB under center. In a surprising move by Harbaugh, he went with the guy who has never started an NFL game over Alex Smith who had great success under Harbaugh.
Kaepernick adds a whole new dimension to the 49er’s offense. The comparison brought on all week has been to Cam Newton based on the Falcons struggles against the other young QB. Atlanta saw Newton at his best this year, as he ran all over them as well as beat them through the air. Carolina very nearly beat the Falcons twice this year despite struggling against everyone else in the NFL. Newton was the primary reason for that, which is concerning. Russell Wilson is another dual threat QB that played fairly well against the Falcons. He very nearly led Seattle back from huge deficits last week. Kaepernick dominated the Packers last week. He put on one the greatest performances in the NFL history at the QB position. He accounted for 4 scores, two in the air and two on the ground. He will be a serious challenge for Mike Nolan’s defense.
The big game will be this Sunday at 3. Expect a hard fought battle with Matt Ryan going against another elite defense in the NFC. He was able to put up 30 points against a strong Seattle secondary, but he will have to do it again against one of the bet front sevens. Ryan will likely be under a lot more pressure this game with Jutin Smith and Aldon Smith rushing the edges. It won’t be an easy task, but Ryan needs to beat the best to be the best.