After Matt Ryan went 23-of-28 (82.1 percent) for 270 yards and three touchdowns, people still weren't talking about his MVP chances. But they will.
After Julio Jones took seven touches and created 92 yards and two touchdowns out of them, people won't call him the best playmaker in the NFL. But they can.
After Kroy Biermann sacked Eli Manning, John Abraham popped a ball out to seal the game and Thomas DeCoud and Asante Samuel intercepted Manning, people still will not give the defense their due. But they should.
Atlanta dominated the Giants with all three phases of the game. They had their usual surprise depth player contribute—Harry Douglas for three catches and 83 yards. They had the defense step up at home as usual.
But the complete game the Falcons played made the statement that they want to win. And win a lot.
Win signifies more than just another tick in the win column
Huge win for the #Falcons. Critics won't give them credit for this, but it's a big, defining win after rough Week 14.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 16, 2012
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller said it best. This should give Atlanta motivation and the confidence needed to win in the playoffs. It wasn't just a win, though. It was a statement game that said to the world, "Don't sleep on Atlanta, they are just as good as everyone else in the title picture."
The Falcons may have left in the first game of their first three playoff matchups in the Mike Smith era. But this team is completely different. In previous years, the Falcons have lost to teams that eventually won the NFC and that could have been beaten by the Falcons.
The biggest difference between this Falcons team and previous years is both the attitude of the team and the play callers. In 2010 and 2011, the Falcons came out flat. They came out with no heart in the playoff games. But they had trouble during the season doing the same.
However, in 2012, the team has had very few games that they've come out unmotivated to. And in their big games, they seem to come out with a chip on their shoulder. This year, the Falcons have proven they can beat anyone and everyone by going out and doing it.
They have beaten every team they have played—Carolina and New Orleans are 1-1 versus Atlanta. But by going out there and demolishing the Giants, they have proven they have the mettle to win multiple playoff games.
Yes. Multiple playoff games. Plural.
As Ric Flair used to say, "In order to be the man, you have to beat the man"
And the Falcons have just beat the man. Yes, it's just the regular season, but this game could have far-reaching implications. With the loss, the Giants are now a wild-card team because the Redskins own the tiebreakers.
Most—including myself—came into this game expecting a hard-fought matchup and a close result either way. However, the Falcons Molly whopped the defending champions in a matchup that looked closer to what the Falcons-Chiefs game was expected to be.
By crushing the team that many thought was still the best in the NFC, Atlanta has conquered their personal Ric Flair this week. Now they just need to take on their Hulk Hogan—a playoff win.
Momentum going forward will need to snowball
I hope they keep this momentum! Getting "hot" at the right time #Falcons— Jason Heyward (@JasonHeyward) December 16, 2012
As Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward stated, the Falcons are getting hot at the right time of the season. If they can turn a big win this week into big wins over the final two weeks of the season, they could end up in the playoffs with a ton of momentum.
Momentum will be the name of the game as the season ends. And this win will make it start. If Atlanta can have this momentum snowball through it's last two weeks of the season, and then use the bye week to heal up, they could be very dangerous in the playoffs.
If the Falcons are rolling and playing complete games like they did Sunday, they can beat anyone.
And I mean, anyone.
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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