Unsung Heroes of the Atlanta Falcons' 2012 Season

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Unsung Heroes of the Atlanta Falcons' 2012 Season
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons have some amazing unsung heroes—those guys that every great team has who give unexpected contributions and are irreplaceable.

Atlanta has four of these players. They are loved by the team and fans alike, but no one else has them in high esteem. These four players have proven their mettle as the Falcons would not have gone 11-2 without their contributions.

 

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Jaquizz "Quizz" Rodgers has taken over as the closer for the Falcons. He's made clutch plays all season, and his ability to step up when the game on the line has made him a crucial hero for the team.

Should Rodgers have a more expanded role?

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But his overall ability this year has shown that he deserves a more expanded role. The 4.1 yards per carry and the 7.6 yards per catch that Rodgers has provided the offense more first downs as a whole.

Rodgers has a combined 28 first downs on just over half as many touches as Michael Turner—who has 34. The offense is more efficient. Add in a 26.9 yard per return average and Rodgers has 1,106 all-purpose yards this season—484 return yards, 295 rushing yards and 327 receiving yards.

Quizz has shown that he is supposed to be on the field with his third down back role this year. The unfortunate part is that he has earned a bigger role than he plays. It will be interesting to see how the team uses him in the playoffs, because Turner has shown that he is pretty much done.

 

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

LB Stephen Nicholas

How many linebackers in the NFL have at least 81 tackles, 2.0 sacks, a fumble forced, a fumble recovered, an interception, four pass deflections and 31 tackles for either a loss or no gain?

Very, very few. And guess what? Stephen Nicholas is one of them.

Nicholas is showing that he is an impact linebacker and a fringe Pro Bowl caliber one at that. Add in his leadership at the linebacker and defensive levels, and he has proven to be more than just the role player he was before this season.

Nicholas' ability to cover, blitz and play the run has given the Falcons a good linebacker to play next to Weatherspoon. At 29 years old, he's finally coming into his prime.

While he may never be in the Pro Bowl, he is loved by Falcons fans and has been a key cog to the defensive machine this season.

 

Al Bello/Getty Images

P/KOS Matt Bosher

Wait, a punter?

Yes, the punter. Or more importantly, the field position specialist as I like to call it, because he's the punter and kickoff specialist.

Matt "the BasherBosher has been playing very well in his second year as the Falcons punter and kickoff specialist. His numbers as a whole have improved from his rookie year, and he has been trending up the second half of the season.

Field position is completely underrated in today's NFL by fans and analysts, but it's just as important as controlling the clock or converting on third downs. By giving opposing teams longer fields, the defense has a better shot of holding off a touchdown. 

And the offense has a better shot of getting the ball back quicker. So Bosher's job as the field position specialist is crucial. He's been averaging 47.4 yards per punt this season. What's even better, though, is that in five of the Falcons 13 games, he has averaged 50 yards per punt or more. 

Add in an average starting field position from kickoffs of just their own 20.5-yard line and Bosher has been an excellent kick specialist. To go even further, he's the seventh best kickoff man according to ProFootballFocus's grading system, earning a 20.5 grade.

But then again, field position specialist isn't going to be one spot that gets a lot of love. So, I'll give him his just due now.

 

DE Kroy Biermann

Affectionately known by Falcons fans on Twitter as "Kroy the Beer Man" or "Duff Man", he's not just the man who married Kim Zolciak.

He's actually a really good football player too.

Used primarily in the "Amoeba" package and in the nickel packages, Biermann is unique because he can not just line up at defensive end. He's been lining up at both inside and outside linebacker and even has lined up at defensive tackle and safety. 

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His positional versatility combined with his natural athleticism has made him vital to the Falcons defense this year. He's the second most productive pass-rusher on the Falcons behind just John Abraham as he has 19 pressures, six quarterback hits and three quarterback sacks.

His 25 tackles for either a loss or no gain on his 32 total tackles makes him a top producer as a run stuffer as well. Oh, and did I mention that the Beer Man plays special teams as well? When it comes to examples of heart overruling talent, Biermann's work ethic is what should be studied.

Probably the most unsung hero on the Falcons is Kroy Biermann. By just having him on the team, the Falcons were able to see that Ray Edwards was a complete waste of space in comparison.

 

All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium StatsESPN.com, CFBStats.com or NFL.com. 

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.

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