Falcons squash Giants in shut-out victory

Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

John Abraham bottles up David Wilson

The Falcons laid a beatdown on the defending Super Bowl champions, routing the New York Giants by a score of 34-0. It marks the first regular season shutout of the Giants since 1996. It is also the first time the Falcons have shut out their opponent since a 24-0 win over the Oakland Raiders in 2008, and their first time doing so in the Georgia Dome since a 30-0 victory over the Carolina Panthers in 2002.

After a couple of lackluster performances, Matt Ryan bounced back with a strong effort completing 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. He started the game completing his first 8 passes. His efforts today give him 4,202 passing yards on the season, breaking the Falcons all-time season high of 4,177 he set a year ago. On the ground, Michael Turner led the Falcons with 52 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Jacquizz Rodgers added 11 carries for 25 yards, while Jason Snelling closed out the game with 6 carries for 39 yards. Julio Jones had a pair of touchdown grabs, leading the team with 6 receptions for 74 yards. He passed the 1000-yard receiver mark for the first time in his burgeoning Falcon career. Tony Gonzalez also had 6 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Harry Douglas (3 catches, 83 yards), Jason Snelling (3 catches, 16 yards), and Roddy White (2 catches, 16 yards) also contributed on the day. Matt Bryant hit on a pair of field goals, from 38 and 19 yards. Matt Bosher punted a pair of times for an average of 40 yards. Dominique Franks returned a pair of punts for 10 yards, and the Falcons had no kickoff returns on the day. The Falcons offense was efficient, converting 9 of 13 third downs. They also dominated on time of possession, holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes, compared to the Giants’ 21-minutes of possession.

Defensively the Falcons clamped down on a Giants offense that put up 52 points last week against the New Orleans Saints. They were held to only 256 total yards, their second-lowest output of the season. They only converted 4 of 10 third downs, and were 0 for 3 on fourth down attempts. The Falcons picked of Eli Manning twice, and also forced a late fumble. Sean Weatherspoon led the defense with 9 tackles. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Kroy Biermann (1 tackle, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles, 1 interception); Akeem Dent (3 tackles); Chris Hope (5 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Robert McClain (4 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (5 tackles); and Asante Samuel (1 tackle, 1 interception) all had notable games.

The Falcons defense got off to a fast start as Asante Samuel picked off Eli Manning on the second play from scrimmage. Samuel jumped the throw, and then was able to bobble the ball back into his hands and get a 6-yard return. That started the Falcons offense at the Giants own 16-yard line on their first series 57 seconds into the game. The Falcons committed to the ground, pounding Michael Turner four times to get the score and build a quick 7-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game. The Giants responded by putting together a strong drive. They were able to convert a pair of third downs. On the first one, David Wilson on 3rd & 2 ran off the left side for a 25-yard gain to get the ball to midfield. Then a few plays later, Manning found Domenik Hixon on 3rd & 1 for a 19-yard gain to get in the redzone. On 3rd & 3 at the Falcons 12-yard line, pressure on a delayed blitz up the middle by Spoon affected Manning’s throw to Hixon which fell incomplete. Lawrence Tynes came on the field to attempt the 30-yard field goal, but his kicked sailed wide left leaving the Giants with nothing after a 9-play, 68-yard drive. The Falcons offense took advantage on their next drive. They had a 3rd & 3 opportunity early in the drive, which they converted on a 5-yard pass to Roddy White from Ryan. Two plays later, Ryan’s checkdown to Mike Cox went for 11 yards after Cox tumbled over an oncoming defender. Two plays later, with the corner biting on a pump fake, Ryan found an open Harry Douglas downfield for a 37-yard gain. That put the ball at the Giants 11-yard line. On 3rd & 11, Ryan threw a perfect pass high over the middle which Tony Gonzalez high-pointed to get the 12-yard touchdown score. That capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive that gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The defense responded thanks to a three-and-out. On first down of that series, Manning’s pass to an open Hakeem Nicks who had beat Dunta Robinson on a deep post went over the head of the receiver. Then on third down, pressure from Babineaux forced Manning to step up in the pocket where Kroy Biermann was waiting to bring him down for the sack. The Giants punted as the second quarter began. The Falcons drive stalled when Chase Blackburn jumped a quick out to Gonzalez and broke it up. On the first play of the next Giants series, John Abraham swallowed David Wilson in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. On the next play, Thomas DeCoud made a beautiful break on Manning’s pass to Nicks, picking it off at the Giants 32-yard line. He would return it 5 yards to set up the Falcons offense deep in Giants territory. On first down, Turner burst up the middle for a 9-yard gain to get into the redzone. His next run was bottled up for no gain. On 3rd & 1, the Falcons tried to get cute with an end-around pitch to Harry Douglas, but he lost a yard. So Matt Bryant came onto the field to attempt his first field goal, which he nailed from 38 yards out to give the Falcons a 17-0 lead. Hoping to slow down the Falcons momentum, the Giants looked to establish the run on their next series. They handed off to Kregg Lumpkin on 3 of the first 5 plays, where he combined for a total of 39 yards to get the ball into Falcon territory. But then Lumpkin was stalled by the Falcons linebackers. On 2nd & 2, Stephen Nicholas wrapped up Lumpkin for no gain. Then on the ensuing third down, the Falcons front stepped up and stone-walled Lumpkin a yard shy of the first down marker. With the Giants looking for a momentum shift, they went for it on 4th down with 6:08 left on the first half clock at the Falcons 32-yard line. But Weatherspoon was able to get off the block up the middle, and he and Akeem Dent stuffed David Wilson for no gain on 4th & 1. The Falcons took over at their own 32, and Ryan hit Snelling on a swing pass for a 14-yard gain on first down. On second down, the ball slipped from Ryan’s hand on a quick pass to go incomplete. Then on 3rd down, Chris Canty beat Justin Blalock on a rush up the middle to get the 5-yard sack. Then Blalock was penalized for a false start to set up 3rd & 20. The Falcons had a checkdown to Snelling for 3 yards to set up the Bosher punt. Bosher was able to boom the kick 61 yards, but it was a bit too far as it bounced just past the goalline for a touchback. But a holding call on Giants corner Justin Tryon backed up New York to their own 10 yard line to start the drive. On 3rd & 1 of the next series, Nicks beat Robinson on a quick slant for a big 24-yard gain to get the ball near midfield. On the next play, Manning escapes the pocket and rolling right was able to find Hixon open. With Samuel stumbling while trying to make the tackle after the catch, Hixon was able to rumble for a 37-yard gain to put the ball in the redzone. Lumpkin had a 2-yard run just prior to the two-minute warning. After the break, Manning found Hixon over the middle on a shallow crossing pattern for 7 yards to set up a 3rd & 1. But again, Weatherspoon was there to bottle up Lumpkin for no gain. At the Falcons 11, the Giants opt to go for it again on fourth down with 1:14 left on the first half clock. Manning’s low pass to Cruz is broken up by Samuel and the Falcons take over after another turnover on downs. After a 3-yard run by Rodgers, the Falcons knelt on the ball, content to go into halftime with their 17-point lead and the ball coming their way to start the second half.

The Falcons were able to get a quick third down conversion to start the second half drive, as Ryan evaded pressure by Osi Umenyiora off the edge, and found Harry Douglas on a 10-yard pass over the middle. On the next play, Ryan took a deep shot to Roddy White, but it was broken up by Jayron Hosley. Turner would then bust up the middle for a 14-yard gain to give the Falcons a first down at midfield. After hitting Julio Jones on a quick slant for 10 yards two plays later, Ryan found Jones deep down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown, hitting the receiver perfectly in stride in the endzone. The Falcons now had a 24-0 lead. On the next Giants series, on 3rd & 4, Manning’s pass to Cruz downfield was overthrown. But Chris Hope launched himself into Cruz for a helmet to helmet hit, shaking up both players and drawing a 15-yard penalty to give the Giants a fresh start from their own 41-yard line. Manning would hit Martellus Bennett and then Nicks on two consecutive passes for a combined 23 yards. Two plays later, Nicholas would bottle up Wilson for no gain on a first down run. On 3rd down, Manning found HIxon on a crossing pattern over the middle, but Robert McClain came up and made an excellent open field stop 2 yards shy of the first down marker. Again, the Giants offense stayed on the field to try and convert another fourth down. Kroy Biermann was able to beat the blockers with a spin move, pressuring Manning and Jonathan Babineaux was able to bat down the pass to end another Giants drive. The Falcons now had the ball with less than 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter at their own 26-yard line. They proceeded to demoralize the Giants even further with a long, 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive that would eat all but the final 5 seconds of clock left in the third quarter. Ryan first found Douglas open down the seam for a 36-yard gain on 3rd & 9 to put the ball in Giant territory. Ryan would then convert another third down with a 10-yard pass to Gonzalez, who stiff-armed a defender to fight for the last few yards for the conversion. An end-around to Jones for 18 yards would set the ball up at the Giants 6-yard line on the eighth play of the drive. Two plays later, Quizz would run off the left side for a 5-yard gain to put the ball at the 1. Turner would then take the pitch to the left, pick his way through traffic but was stopped a few inches shy of the endzone on 3rd down. That set up a 19-yard field goal by Bryant to give the Falcons a 27-0 lead as the third quarter was closing. The Giants responded with a three-and-out thanks largely to the Falcons challenging a 9-yard completed pass to Bennett that was overturned by the officials on second down. The Giants would punt, but Dominique Franks would fumble on his return. The officials initially ruled him down by contact, but the Giants would challenge. Replay would clearly show that the ball came out before Franks touched the ground, but without a clear recovery on the part of the Giants before the scrum for the ball, the officials did not overturn the call. So the Falcons retained possession, starting their next drive at their own 31-yard line with 14:11 left on the game clock. A 9-yard gain by Turner on a screen pass set up a 3rd & 3, which the Falcons converted on a 5-yard middle pass to Gonzalez. Three plays later, another 3rd & 3 would be set up after an 8-yard Snelling run. But Ryan hit White for an 11-yard gain over the middle. A screen pass to Rodgers a few plays later went for 14 yards putting the ball at the Giants 22-yard line. On a bubble screen on the next play, Jones would break outside for 19 yards. After a Turner run up the middle for no gain, Ryan found Jones open on a fade for the 3-yard score. That play capped off a 13-play, 69-yard drive that consumed over 9 minutes of clock. On the second play of the Giants next series, John Abraham chased Lumpkin from behind and punched the ball out. Chris Hope recovered the loose ball and the Falcons had the ball right back with just 4 minutes left in the game at the Giants 35-yard line. Most of the starters left the game, with a few of the guys on the offensive line remaining in the game. Luke McCown was under center and handed the ball off to Jason Snelling for five straight plays. Snelling was able to tally 31 yards on those runs, showing some hard, physical running to get the ball down to the Giants 4 with a minute remaining. Rather than running up the score, the Falcons opted to kneel twice and the game was over.

The Falcons record now extends to 12-2 with two games remaining. Next week the Falcons travel to Detroit to take on the Lions in their final road game of the 2012 season. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have won both of their contests against the Lions, including a 23-16 road win last season. The Falcons last loss to the Lions was a road game in 2006, where they lost 30-14. The Falcons have split their last 6 road games against the Lions going back to 1997. Prior to that, they had lost 5 straight road games to the Lions. The Lions have lost three straight home games this year, and sport a 2-4 overall record at Ford Field in 2012.

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Aaron Freeman
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