In a conference where you had Green Bay, Seattle, Carolina and Arizona, the Atlanta Falcons were simply an afterthought if you truly think about it. The Falcons weren’t even the favorites to win their division. It was Carolina with the reigning league MVP and his receiving core. They had a down year and the Falcons finally looked like the team they knew they could be and won the NFC South for the first time since 2012 and clinched the two seed in the NFC. Let’s recap some of their top moments of this season and their road to Houston,Texas.
Week Two- At Oakland: After a tough loss to open the season, the Falcons made that long trip to the West Coast to face Derek Carr and the up and coming Oakland Raiders. It was a slow start for Atlanta in the first half and this game looked to be over before it started. That is why football is a tale of two halves and Atlanta willed their way back into this game behind the arm of Matt Ryan who threw for 399 yards and three touchdown passes. They got their first win of the season on the road in California, a very tough place to play for teams coming from the Eastern timezone.
Week Four- Vs Carolina: This was a big game for the Falcons. The defending division champions were in town and they were also the reigning conference champions, a few months removed from playing in Super Bowl 50. How would Atlanta fare against Cam Newton? Let’s not also forget that the Falcons handed the Panthers their only loss of the 2015 season. This game would be known as the game where Matt Ryan and Julio Jones simply took it over and had the best games of their careers. Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards and Julio accounted for 300 of those yards receiving. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a rookie defending one of the best receivers in the game today. This was a huge win for the Falcons as they sat atop the NFC South early with a 48-33 win over the Panthers.
Week Five- At Denver: One Super Bowl representative down on their schedule and one more to go. It’s always a big showdown when you have the defending champions on your scheudle. This also marked the first game for rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch for the Broncos as he was filling in for Trevor Siemian who was battling a foot injury. Atlanta started fast and never looked back. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman had the Broncos defense, which had been so stout on their toes for most of the game. With another win on the West Coast, the Falcons were 4-1 and still in first place. They also defeated both Super Bowl teams in back to back weeks.
Week Eight- Vs Green Bay: History doesn’t lie, the Packers have truly owned the Atlanta Falcons over the years and Aaron Rodgers has had his way with the Falcons defense. Green Bay was extremely short handed with this one and injuries were starting to pile up. The Falcons had lost two of their last three games and everyone was starting to wonder if they were starting to come back to reality. The Packers started fast and looked to be in control with Rodgers. Then came the fourth quarter and Matt Ryan led his guys down the field to put the Falcons ahead and put them in a great position to win the game and they held on and snapped their two-game losing streak. What a difference being 5-3 makes than being 4-4.
Week Twelve- Vs Arizona: It was a battle of the birds. A team that was expected to be a Super Bowl favorite in the Cardinals really struggled throughout much of the season and the Falcons had been inconsistent as of late. Atlanta was coming off their bye week and they looked fresh against the Cardinals. This was the most complete game of the season for them. The defense got takeaways, the offense was clicking on all cylinders and they had the perfect game-plan to neutralize that Arizona Cardinals offense that could strike at anytime and when you can hold a team like that to 19 points, you’ve done your job.
Divisional Round- Vs Seattle: Fresh off the division title, not many expected them to be here with the bye but, here they are. This was a rematch with the Seattle Seahawks and when they met the last time, they lost a nail-biter so you know revenge had to be on the mind. Normally teams that have the bye come out the gates rusty and they looked it in the beginning but as the game went along, the Falcons had things going their way and eventually wore down the Seahawks. This was the game where Matt Ryan sealed the deal for the MVP and the Falcons got their revenge and beat Seattle.
NFC Championship– One down and one more to go and the Falcons entered the final game in the Georgia Dome. This time, the Green Bay Packers were finally healthy with key guys back on offense. I loved Atlanta’s game-plan in this one. they rushed five, had guys sitting on the edges and kept Aaron Rodgers in that pocket all game long. The Falcons offense did their part of course and put up 31 points in the first half which none of us saw coming. Julio Jones also continued his recent dominance of Green Bay. With the win, this was the Falcons first conference title since 1999.
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