2012 NFL Playoffs: Quick-Hit Reactions from Falcons vs. Giants

The Giants absolutely destroyed a hapless Falcons team on Sunday, 24-2. Here are quick-hit reactions from this Wildcard drubbing.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) passes under pressure against the Atlanta Falcons during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– While their pass rush was suspect early on, the Giants’ offensive line did a fantastic job opening holes for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Then the Falcons’ defense helped out by constantly diving at shoestrings instead of wrapping up. The G-Men hadn’t run the football well all year but they finally got their bruising, punishing style back today.

– It took a while for Eli Manning to get going but once Jacobs and the running game started to open up passing lanes, the Giants’ offense really took off. One thing Manning did was stay patient. John Abraham was getting a ton of pressure on him early on, but Eli stood tough and constantly kept his eyes downfield. When his receivers started to beat the coverage, he made accurate passes and then guys like Hakeem Nicks did the rest. (Again, with a lot of help from piss poor tackling by Atlanta.)

– It’ll be interesting to see how New York fares next weekend heading into Green Bay. They hung with the Packers earlier this year in New York and they certainly have the weapons to pull off an upset. They’ve also looked like a more confident team these past three weeks, so we’re probably in store for a great matchup in the Divisional round. Then again, the Packers aren’t going to piss themselves like the Falcons did today.

– While the media will surely make this game about the Giants (who did dominate, there’s no question), you can’t overlook the fact that Mike Smith, Mike Mularkey and Matt Ryan continue to kill the Falcons in big games. His defense bailed him out by getting a safety on the next possession but Smith blew it by going for it on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Instead of taking a field goal after a successful drive (the Falcons’ first in three possessions), Smith went for it, then the Falcons’ o-line didn’t get any push and Ryan was stopped short. Then, in the same situation in the third quarter, Smith elects to go for it again and Ryan is stuffed on another sneak. This isn’t the first time that Smith has blown it on fourth-and-1 this season. He cost the Falcons a potential victory against the Saints earlier this year by going for it on his own 29-yard-line in overtime. The Falcons were stuffed then too, and the Saints received a rather easy victory. Smith clearly has no idea what “risk versus reward” means and he cost his team yet again today. Both of those plays deflated an offense that couldn’t move the ball to save its life and a defense that had kept the team in the game. It was stupid, stupid coaching from a man that has been fantastic in the regular season but now 0-3 in the playoffs.

– Of course, Smith doesn’t call the plays for the Falcons – that’s Mike Mularkey’s job. Why Mularkey would run two quarterback sneaks when his offensive line had gotten zero push all day is beyond me. Mularkey wants to be a head coach again in the NFL and the Falcons should be praying he gets his shot. He’s a horrendous playcaller in big games because he gets too conservative, too predictable and he puts his players in losing situations. He has no imagination when it comes to game planning for good defenses and he can’t make in-game adjustments either. His game plan today was to run Michael Turner 25 times and hope that would be enough. When the Giants’ shut down the Falcons’ running game, Mularkey had no other plan. For this offense to only score two points is pathetic, especially when you consider how vulnerable New York’s secondary was coming into the playoffs. And hey, the Falcons’ offense wasn’t even though ones that scored the two points – that was the defense. I just keeping thinking about the Miami Dolphins, who are reportedly interested in Mularkey as a head coach. What are they thinking after today? “Yep, that’s our guy! Dude clearly knows how to win.”

– Of course, Mularkey isn’t on the field. Matt Ryan has proven to be a pretty good regular season quarterback but he quivers when the spotlight is on him. Just like he did versus Chicago, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans earlier this year, Ryan anticipated the rush instead of reacting to it. When he’s scared, he takes his eyes off his receivers and immediately looks to dump the ball off. At this juncture, it’s entirely fair to play the, “Can Matt Ryan ever win a playoff game?” card.

– Hey Roddy White, that’s not a flaming arrow coming at your face – it’s the ball. Try catching it.

– I actually feel for Atlanta’s defense because until the fourth quarter, they played well enough to win. They didn’t tackle well but their top corner Brent Grimes was deemed inactive before the start of the game and they were without starting strong-side linebacker Stephen Nicholas as well. They also lost their starting strong safety William Moore in the first half, yet despite being overmatched they hung in there while the offense continued to fail them. It’s certainly not the defense’s fault that Atlanta came up short in the postseason yet again.

– When you watch a punchless, scared team like the Falcons, you have a greater appreciation for teams like the Packers, Saints, Steelers, and Patriots, who don’t lack that killer instinct when it comes to the postseason. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they can’t trade up in the draft for a backbone.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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