Defeating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants is an impressive achievement.
Even more impressive is when it's done the way the Atlanta Falcons did it.
The Falcons didn't just win Sunday the way they had 11 times prior this season—they dominated, from the first play down to the last.
The result was a 34-0 shutout of the Giants, exacting revenge on the the team that had knocked them out of the playoffs 24-2 last January.
These Falcons looked completely different from the lifeless group that was run over by the Carolina Panthers last week, in more ways than one. The running game actually moved forward, the offense converted nearly 70 percent of its third down attempts and the defense stonewalled a team that put up 52 points on the scoreboard just a week prior.
Yet, perhaps the greatest sign that the Falcons have turned the corner is the fact they played a complete game.
Like they have many other times this season, the Falcons got off to a lightning-fast start, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and 17-0 by halftime.
The biggest question at that point was how the Falcons would play coming out of the tunnel in the second half.
The last time they played a Manning brother, the Falcons let him climb out of a 20-7 halftime lead to nearly bring his Denver Broncos back to within a touchdown. The Falcons would escape with a narrow 27-21 win in Week 2.
Conservative play-calling in the second half was greatly to blame for allowing that near-comeback.
But this time, instead of trotting out a timid gameplan in the third quarter—as he had done many other times this season—offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter kept the pressure on against the Giants.
Receiving the first possession of the third quarter, Koetter had Ryan attempt a deep pass to Roddy White on the fourth offensive play of the half. Even though that pass fell incomplete, Koetter didn't let up, calling for yet another deep pass just four plays later.
This time it was executed to perfection, as Ryan threw a bomb to a streaking Julio Jones for a 40-yard touchdown and 24-0 lead.
And Koetter didn't stop there—he kept attacking.
Ryan would go on to throw a total of 16 passes in the second half, completing 13 for 173 yards and two touchdowns to finish 23-of-28 for 270 yards and three touchdowns on the day, as Koetter continued to call a mix of screen passes, downfield passes and even an end around en route to 17 more points in the second half.
It all made for a Falcons team that kept the pedal to the metal from beginning to end and their reward was their biggest win of the season in their biggest game of the season.
The next step for them now is to do so consistently, but if Sunday's performance is any indication, this team is more than ready for the postseason.
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