NFC Championship 2013: Instant Grades, Analysis for Atlanta
The Falcons are hosting the NFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history. They are going for the second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history versus the 49ers in a matchup that makes people reminiscent of the old NFC West days.
Stick around with us as we grade the performances of the Falcons in their attempt to take down the San Francisco 49ers and head to the grandest stage of them all.
Matt Ryan connected deep with Julio Jones on the opening drive for the initial touchdown. San Francisco 49ers 0, Atlanta Falcons 7 with 11:24 left in the 1st quarter.
Matt Bryant knocks through a 35-yard field goal after a pass to Jacquizz Rodgers gets knocked away by Navorro Bowman. San Francisco 49ers 0, Atlanta Falcons 10 with 3:20 left in the 1st quarter.
Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones again. This time for 20-yards for a touchdown. San Francisco 49ers 0, Atlanta Falcons 17 with 14:54 left in the 2nd quarter.
LaMichael James ran 15 yards for a touchdown on a zone read play to give the 49ers their first score. San Francisco 49ers 7, Atlanta Falcons 17 with 8:08 left in the 2nd quarter.
Vernon Davis caught a four yard pass from Colin Kaepernick for the touchdown to bring it within three. San Francisco 49ers 14, Atlanta Falcons 17 with 1:55 left in the 2nd quarter.
Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for a 10 yard touchdown over the middle to answer the Vernon Davis touchdown. San Francisco 49ers 14, Atlanta Falcons 24 with 0:25 left in the 2nd quarter.
Frank Gore ran five yards for a touchdown on a zone read play. San Francisco 49ers 21, Atlanta Falcons 24 with 10:47 left in the 3rd quarter.
Frank Gore got another touchdown on a zone read to give San Francisco their first lead of the game. San Francisco 49ers 28, Atlanta Falcons 24 with 8:23 left in the game.
Final: San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24
QB Matt Ryan: C
Final grade: C
Matt Ryan finished 30-for-42 for 396 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one fumble lost. He looked amazing early on in the game but just couldn't close it out one last time.
Fourth Quarter: D
Ryan went 1-for-2 on the first drive of the quarter for just four yards in a 3-and-out. Unable to find the end zone at the end of the game, Ryan couldn't lead Atlanta back to a lead at the end.
Third Quarter: F
Ryan had his worst quarter of the game. He went 3-for-5 for 41 yards. He did however throw an interception and fumble the ball in the quarter.
Second Quarter: A
Matt Ryan opened up the quarter on the very first play with a 20-yard touchdown pass. He went just 1-for -3 on the very next drive that was stalled at the Falcons own 40. Ryan then went 6-for-7 for 75 yards and a touchdown on the next drive.
He finished the half 18-for-24 for 271 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His first hald passer rating was 151.2.
First Quarter: A+
Matt Ryan opened on the initial drive with a 46-yard touchdown after going 3-for-4 for 75 yards. The second drive led to a field goal, but Ryan was 6-for-8 on the drive for 64 yards and a a couple crucial third down completions. Ryan finished the quarter 10-for-13 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Ryan finally got over the playoff-victory hump. Now he's got to get to the Super Bowl in order to make this the absolute best season of his career.
His line of 446-for-650 (68.6 percent) for 4,969 yards, 35 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this season and postseason has shown that he has the talent to get it done. He just has to put it all together versus the 49ers' dominant defense for the Falcons to win.
Scoring 24 points on the second best scoring defense in the NFL is amazing work. However, they were just one touchdown too short and couldn't come up with the go-ahead touchdown at the end.
Fourth Quarter: D
Atlanta opened their fourth quarter at their own one-yard line. Ahmad Brooks knocked down the initial pass attempt by Matt Ryan. Mike Cox got his first run of the playoffs for four yards. On 3rd-and-6, Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for four yards to force the punt.
The second drive of the quarter started with a Roddy White catch for nine yards. Jacquizz Rodgers got the first down on the next play. Tarell Brown knocked away a deep pass to Julio Jones on the very next play.
Ryan then hit Harry Douglas on the next play for six yards to set up a shorter third down. On 3rd-and-4 from their own 37, Ryan took a shot and hit Julio Jones for five yards and the first down. Ryan then ran three yards on a first down play that broke down.
Ryan then hit Julio Jones at midfield for another five yards. On 3rd-and-2 from midfield, Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a catch that brought the Falcons to the 49ers 28. Jacquizz Rodgers then gains nine yards on first down to bring it inside of the red zone.
Harry Douglas gained two yards for another first down at the 16. Rodgers gained a yard before the two minute warning. Ryan hit Jason Snelling for five yards on the next play to bring it to the 49ers 10. On 3rd-and-4 from the 49ers 10, Ahmad Brooks batted the pass away. On 4th-and-4 from their own 10, Roddy White got interfered with and it was knocked away.
On the final drive of the game, Julio Jones caught the Matt Ryan pass over the middle of the field and
Third Quarter: F
Opening at their own 20-yard line, Michael Turner gained three yards to start the half. Matt Ryan than hit Tony Gonzalez for 14 yards for a first down. Jacquizz Rodgers then got a two yard gain on a run to bring it to the 39.
The second down play went right to Gonzalez for another 14 yards and first down. Ryan was then sacked for no loss by Isaac Sopoaga on a coverage sack. Then on the very next play, Ryan threw his first interception of the game to Chris Culliver.
On the first drive after the interception, Jacquizz Rodgers gained seven yards on a run. Jason Snelling then gained 12 yards on second down. Rodgers then gained another 10 yards on his next two runs for another first down.
On the first pass of the drive, Ryan went deep to Roddy White but it was knocked away by Carlos Rogers. A no gain by Snelling set up a third down. On 3rd-and-10 from the 49ers 42, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for 13 yards and another first down.
Rodgers gained one yard on the next play, and then it was followed by a fumble by Matt Ryan on the snap that was recovered by Aldon Smith.
Second Quarter: A
Opening the quarter at the 49ers 20-yard line, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a touchdown pass deep on the left side of the field.
Taking over at their own 20, Ryan hit Roddy White for a 14-yard first down pass. Then Michael Turner carried four guys to gain six yards. An overthrow of Jacquizz Rodgers set up another third down. On 3rd-and-4 from their own 40-yard line, Ryan overthrew Rodgers again for the first punt.
The second drive of the quarter opened with a 15-yard pass to Roddy White. The next play was an incompletion. A 17-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez to follow the incompletion was followed by an illegal contact penalty for another five yards.
Another 13-yard completion to Roddy White to bring the Falcons to the 49ers 31. That was followed by a 15-yard completion to Julio Jones. Another six yards on a completion to Tony Gonzalez gives Atlanta the ball in a 2nd-and-4 situation at the 49ers 10.
On 2nd down, Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for a 10-yard touchdown to bring the Falcons back up 10 points.
First Quarter: A+
Atlanta opened with a 3-yard Michael Turner run on offense. Then, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 13-yard gain. Turner got stuffed on another run for just one yard. Ryan missed a second down pass to Roddy White.
On 3rd-and-9 from the Falcons 37, Ryan hit White at the 49ers' 47 for the first down and a 16-yard gain. A one-yard Jacquizz Rodgers run on first down was then followed by a deep touchdown pass to Julio Jones for 46-yards.
A quick-hitter to Jones opened the second drive with an 8-yard gain. Turner gained three yards to force the chains to continue moving on second down. Jones had another acrobatic catch on the next first down for seven more yards.
On the next second down of the drive, Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for five yards and another first down. On the next first down, Roddy White caught yet another first down pass. Michael Turner got stuffed and then Julio Jones failed to bring in a ball in bounds to bring up another third down.
For 3rd-and-10 from the 50, Julio Jones stole the ball away from the defender for the first down and 27 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers had the first negative-yardage run of the day followed the big Jones catch. Then Tony Gonzalez got another eight yards on the next play to set up a short third down. On 3rd-and-4, Ryan missed Jacquizz Rodgers to set up a 35-yard field goal.
On the final drive of the quarter, Michael Turner gained four yards on the first drive. Then he had another hole for 10 yards. On an ensuing play-action play, Ryan hit White for 23 yards to close the quarter out.
Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers had their best games of the season versus the Seahawks last week. Turner averaged 7.00 yards per carry on his 14 carries while Rodgers averaged 6.4 yards per carry on his 10 carries. The run game had 167 yards on 26 runs last week for the best rushing game of the season.
That set up a good, but not great passing offense that went for 250 yards. Tony Gonzalez had a great catch at the end of the game to set up the final score, but for the most part the Falcons were held in check by the best secondary in the NFL.
They should have a much easier time this week as Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown aren't as talented as the Seattle secondary. Expect the Falcons to be able to move the ball well in the passing game if they can establish the run like they did last week.
Losing a 17 point lead solely rests on the defense. However, they were able to come up with a couple crucial stops that just were never capitalized on.
Fourth Quarter: C
Atlanta allowed a 33 yard pass play to Michael Crabtree to start the quarter off. On 1st-and-goal from the 10, Frank Gore gained 5 yards. For 2nd-and-goal from the 5, Dunta Robinson forced a fumble on a short pass that was recovered by William Moore.
The second drive of the quarter opened at Atlanta's 38-yard line. Frank Gore opened up with a 7-yard gain. Then he gained just two yards on the next play. On 3rd-and-1 from the Falcons 29, Anthony Dixon gained four yards.
LaMichael James gained eight yards on the next play. Michael Crabtree took a screen down to the Falcons 9 for a first down. On 1st-and-goal from the 9, Frank Gore took the option read to the endzone to give San Francisco their first lead.
The first play was a three yard run by Frank Gore. A delay of game set the 49ers back another five yards. A three yard loss set up a third and 15 that was stopped to force a punt.
Third Quarter: C
The opening play of the half was a 20-yard completion to Randy Moss from Colin Kaepernick in soft zone coverage. Frank Gore then got a 6-yard run. Gore then gained another 10 on the next run. Sean Weatherspoon stuffed Gore on the next play for just two yards.
Delanie Walker then got a 21-yard catch and was sandwiched between Dunta Robinson and Weatherspoon at the Falcons 22-yard line. Randy Moss found a hole in the zone for 17 yards to set up goal-to-go from the five.
On 1st-and-goal, Frank Gore took it right to the endzone for a touchdown to bring the game back within three.
After the first interception of the game, the Falcons allowed Vernon Davis to gain another 31 yards on a deep pass. On a run by Colin Kaepernick, Atlanta's Akeem Dent stuffed him for a loss of two. LaMichael James brought it seven yards to set up third down.
For 3rd-and-5 from the Falcons 20, William Moore knocked the ball away to force the field goal attempt.
The first play after the Ryan fumble was a three-yard run by Frank Gore. A Kaepernick misfire set up third down. On 3rd-and-7, Atlanta's defense stopped the play but a bad penalty gave the 49ers a first down. A two yard run closed the quarter out.
Second Quarter: D
Allowing a 9-yard run to Frank Gore on first down, Gore gained four yards over the next two plays. Then on a 2nd-and-7, Gore gained another seven yards. An 8-yard pass to Randy Moss from Colin Kaepernick was followed by a 7-yard play action to Michael Crabtree.
A 3-yard gain by Crabtree on a screen was stuffed by Dunta Robinson. A screen to LaMichael James gained five yards. On 3rd-and-2 from the Falcons 37, there was a delay of game penalty. The 3rd-and-7 play was a huge 27-yard completion to Vernon Davis.
Starting at the Atlanta 15-yard line, Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree on a throw out of bounds. The second down play on the 15-yard line, was a 15-yard run by LaMichael James for a touchdown.
On the second drive of the quarter, the 49ers got called for a holding penalty. The 1st-and-19 play from the 49ers 9 was a LaMichael James run stuffed for three yards. Then on 2nd-and-16, Vernon Davis caught the ball for the first down.
Gore was stuffed for no gain on the next first down. On second down, the Falcons contain broke down and Kaepernick ran it down to the Falcons 46. Gore followed with a two yard gain. A stupid 15-yard penalty on Stephen Nicholas brought the ball within the 30-yard line.
The first play after the penalty was a 25-yard pass right to Vernon Davis to give the 49ers a goal-to-go situation. On 1st-and-goal from the Falcons 4, Kaepernick hit Davis again for a short touchdown.
The final play of the half was a Kroy Biermann tackle of LaMichael James for no gain.
First Quarter: A+
The first defensive play of the game was a 1-yard pass to Michael Crabtree on a screen stopped by Asante Samuel. Then Frank Gore was stuffed for no gain by Corey Peters on second down. On 3rd-and-9 from the 49ers 21, Thomas Decoud knocked away a pass intended for Vernon Davis to force the punt.
Corey Peters knocked away the first down pass. On the 2nd down play, Frank Gore gained six yards on the ground. On 3rd-and-4 from their own 26, Corey Peters sacked Colin Kapernick to force another punt.
Atlanta has its hands full this week with Colin Kaepernick and the ginormous offensive line of the 49ers. The Falcons have an excellent front seven but they need to be able to create pressure on Kaepernick and shut down his options to win the game.
They will also have to shut down Frank Gore and the Pistol offense that is being run in San Francisco. Atlanta will get its final look this season at a dual threat quarterback and if it can finally stuff one, it will end up going to its second Super Bowl.
Special Teams: A-
Atlanta didn't make any mistakes on special teams. Their worst play was allowing a 20 yard return but they can't be penalized too much on that.
Fourth Quarter: B
Matt Bosher's second punt of the game was a 48 yard punt that was returned 20 yards. Atlanta took the first kickoff of the quarter and downed it. Harry Douglas took the punt out of bounds at the Falcons 41.
Third Quarter: A
The opening kickoff of the second half was stuffed at the 49ers 18. San Francisco kicked the next kickoff out of the back of the endzone. David Akers missed a 38-yard attempt after Ryan's interception.
Second Quarter: A
Matt Bosher kicked off through the back of the endzone. Jacquizz Rodgers downed the next ball in the back of the endzone on the next kickoff. Matt Bosher's first punt was almost blocked but it was fair caught at the 49ers 18-yard line.
Matt Bosher's second kickoff of the quarter had the 49ers stuffed at their own 16-yard line.
First Quarter: A
Atlanta let the incoming kickoff go out of bounds for a start at the 20-yard line. Matt Bosher kicked it deep on the initial kickoff for the Falcons leading to the 49ers downing the ball, and it starting at the 49ers 20-yard line.
Harry Douglas got just one yard on the first punt return of the game for Atlanta. Matt Bryant knocked the ball through on a 35-yard attempt. On the ensuing kickoff Atlanta stopped the 49ers returner at the 49ers 20-yard line.
Harry Douglas took the second punt to the Falcons 43 to start the next drive.
Matt Bosher was excellent with his field position kicks versus the Seahawks. His two punts went for 42 yards each and only one of his kickoffs was even returned.
Matt Bryant has become yet another "Matty Ice" with his clutch kicks at the end of games. He's been highly valuable in the role all season and the Falcons hold the edge here in this game.
Atlanta's punt return game wasn't tested versus the Seahawks but could be a dark horse to play a role versus San Francisco. And the kick return game was very good with Jacquizz Rodgers averaging over 26 yards per return.
Losing a 17-0 lead should never happen. The Falcons had a better team today for most of the game, but couldn't capitalize. The only bright side is that it's the first year in the new schemes.
Fourth Quarter: F
Losing a lead late and some poor play calls at the end lost it for the Falcons. Had they run a play to Tony Gonzalez in the red zone at the end instead of Roddy White on the 4th-and-4, the Falcons could have converted it.
Third Quarter: C
The defense came out and looked lost on the opening drive. That's not a good start as far as half time adjustments are concerned. Going aggressive on offense was a brilliant move though. Then, the defense stuffed the 49ers after the Ryan interception with good defense.
Second Quarter: B
Staying aggressive with the first play was great. However, Atlanta giving up a touchdown on the ensuing defensive drive was not good for the defensive confidence. The offensive playcall stayed aggressive after the touchdown was allowed, but it just didn't execute.
Allowing another touchdown was terrible for momentum going into the two minute drill. The offense staying aggressive in the two minute drill keeps the Falcons up 10 points going into halftime.
First Quarter: A+
Atlanta came out with a great initial game plan. They executed it well too. They are playing fast and loose and look like the team that won 13 games this season. Starting out the first quarter 10-0 is the best way to do it.
Mike Smith finally coaches in his first NFC Championship Game. He's going to have to rely on his team playing fast, loose and aggressively in order to win this one.
Mike Nolan has previous knowledge of the 49ers as he coached them and is largely responsible for the current group that is together there.
Dirk Koetter is going to have to create an interestingly creative game plan that will not just eat clock, but also attack the 49ers defense.
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.