Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon responded with one word when asked if Sunday’s 34-0 win was a little bit of payback from last year’s 24-2 playoff loss.
“Zero,” said Weatherspoon, without the hint of a smile.
Weatherspoon wasn’t saying there were no feelings of one-upmanship. He was inferring the exact opposite and pointing to Sunday’s scoreboard.
“It wasn’t about the win,” said the team’s weakside linebacker once the game was safe in the fourth quarter. “It was about keeping that zero up there.”
Keeping that zero on the scoreboard wasn’t the only moral victory of Sunday’s win. The Falcons showed the rest of the league just how good they could play.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was 23-for-28 with 270 yards and three touchdowns. He also broke his own franchise record for passing yards in a season and is now at 4,202.
The running back corps—Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers—combined for 126 yards on the ground and helped the offense open up passing lanes because of its effectiveness running the football.
But the defense was the big story.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was held to just 161 yards and picked off twice. His quarterback rating was 38.9. His first pass of the game was bobbled, then taken out of the air by cornerback Asante Samuel.
“This team thrives off of momentum,” said Samuel. “I just used my God-given ability to make plays for my team and put the offense in the best position to score. This was our best game we’ve put together so far.”
Atlanta’s defense held the Giants to just a 40 percent success rate on third downs and stopped New York three times on short-yardage fourth-down plays.
Weatherspoon said after the game that he was surprised Giants head coach Tom Coughlin continued to attempt to go for it on 4th-and-short. He said he would have taken the points in those situations because every time the Falcons stopped them on fourth down it helped build momentum.
“It’s like they were saying ‘We’re better than you,’” said Weatherspoon.
On Sunday the Giants were not even close to being better than the Falcons.
In fact, this is as close to playing like a 12-2 team as the Falcons have played all year. This 34-point shellacking of the Giants should put the rest of the NFL on notice.
If the Falcons play like this in the playoffs, no one will be able beat them.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.