Julio Jones had his way with the Giants secondary.
Based off the predictions and previews of many analysts, nobody saw this coming. Everyone had to expect Atlanta to be fired up following a lackluster effort against the Carolina Panthers last week. Let's not forget that the Falcons were 6-0 going into this game at home and have put together some great defensive performances at the Georgia Dome.
The five interceptions of Drew Brees and three interceptions of Peyton Manning stand out the most, but Atlanta has played even better at home on defense. You knew the Falcons were going to show up, but the New York Giants putting up a dud wasn't expected.
New York was exposed throughout the game and their once-feared pass rush was nowhere to be found. That led to their below-average secondary being no match for Atlanta despite Roddy White being mostly a non factor with his injury issues. The offense never had a proper flow and Eli Manning look rattled throughout the game.
I'll break down the two teams and what the future holds for them after this. It's shocking to see how this game played out because this was essentially a must-win game for the Giants. For those that said Atlanta had more to prove, they already won their division. That's a ridiculous claim and now it's the Giants that are in desperation mode.
Atlanta's Interior "Flaws" Became Strengths
The major difference for the Falcons in this game was through the trenches. Even though the Giants had some success in the running game, they couldn't get it done when it counted the most. After a failed sweep play by David Wilson that was caused by star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the Giants seemed to erase any running plays from their playbook on 3rd- and 4th-and-short yardage plays.
Atlanta may have only had one sack on Eli Manning, but they did enough to frustrate him. On more than a few occasions, Manning couldn't step into his throws and had hands in his face. Mike Nolan's variety of blitzing was on display again and Manning couldn't patent deep passes.
What really impressed me the most with Atlanta in their statement win was the offensive line. Atlanta's shaky offensive line has had their problems at home this year against weaker opponents, which had to concern Matt Ryan going into the game. Instead Ryan was sacked once and had time for most of the game to connect with deep passes.
We knew that Ryan was going to have success if he had time, which he did. Ryan was 23-of-28, throwing for 278 yards and three touchdowns. He had three pass plays over 30 yards, including getting Harry Douglas involved. Everyone knows about White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, but Harry Douglas has always flashed potential as an x-factor. It was on display, as he had three catches for 83 yards, catching the Giants off guard.
It was a complete performance by Atlanta, which was a major shocker. They were missing William Moore, who has been a top-five player on their defense this year. I felt that he was going to be a major loss in this game, but the Falcons secondary continue to make plays. Thomas DeCoud got his sixth interception and cemented his spot in the Pro Bowl with another great game.
This was a game to remember for Falcon fans and this should give them confidence going into the playoffs. If the offensive and defensive line can continue to play like they did against the Giants, then the Falcons will be almost unbeatable.
New York Has Lost Their Edge
The Giants have never been considered dominant, but they have aspects as a team that make you intimidated. They have a pass rush that has given quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton nightmares this year. The wide receiver duo of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks is considered to be among the best in the NFL with a great quarterback like Manning.
Where did that go yesterday in a must-win game? The pass rush was mostly nonexistent except for a few flashes by Osi Umenyiora. Justin Tuck is aging and his play has been declining since 2011. Jason Pierre-Paul was nowhere to be found, which was shocking. The fact that they couldn't get going was going to give the secondary little chance to stop Matt Ryan.
The next element of the game was how the passing game never got going. Even though Atlanta's secondary is very underappreciated and better than advertised, Eli Manning was bound to have a big game. Instead he was rattled and never connected with Cruz or Nicks. Nicks seems to be playing hurt, but when you have talent like Nicks and you are on the field, you are expected to make plays.
The constant poor offensive play calling continued for the Giants. They had glimpses of success running the ball but the Giants need to open the playbook open. When you have two star receivers and are down by 24, you have to stop running the ball on first and second downs. It was poor play-calling and it may cost more than just Kevin Gilbride's job.
I'm not saying he's going to get fired, but Tom Coughlin will be on the hot seat if they don't make the playoffs. The Giants are far too talented to miss the playoffs and the disappointing performances by star players won't be tolerated.
The Future For Both Teams
Despite the dominant win, Atlanta still has work to do. They need a win at Detroit to clinch home-field advantage so expect to see the first team play at least one more full game. The Lions look defeated after losing to a poor Arizona team so expect Atlanta to clinch.
With that win, you'll see players like Roddy White, John Abraham, Todd McClure and other veterans rest for the playoffs. They deserve it and you don't want to risk injuries. This team doesn't need anymore momentum, this win did it for them.
As for the Giants, they are in must-win mode. Similar to last year, they need to win their last two games to get in. The games are very winnable against a Ravens team that is imploding and a weak Eagles team.
They are capable of being a threat in the playoffs again, but the pass rush has to regain it's form along with the star receivers. Its always great to see role players step up, but the Giants need players like Cruz, Pierre-Paul, and Nicks to start producing like they did in 2011 for them to get in the playoffs.
Allen Strk is a columnist on Bleacher Report. You can read more of my work at TJRSports.com covering the NFL, NBA, and MMA. You can follow me at @Allen_Strk on Twitter or e-mail questions/comments at AStrk19@gmail.com.