Boy, did they deliver one Sunday to the defending
Coming off an ugly loss and criticized for failing to impress even when they won, the Falcons turned in their most well-rounded performance of the season with the playoffs approaching.
"We love the haters, man," said Falcons cornerback
It sure showed.
"I felt like I was seeing the field well," Ryan said.
The Falcons (12-2), who have already clinched the
Manning had his lowest-rated game since 2007 for New York (8-6), which dropped into a first-place tie with Washington and Dallas in the
The Giants also went 0-for-3 on fourth down and missed a short field goal.
"Atlanta was very, very good. We were very, very bad," New York coach
Despite their lofty record, Atlanta has received plenty of criticism for struggling to beat inferior opponents. A 30-20 loss to last-place Carolina the previous week only seemed to reinforce the notion that the Falcons are headed for another short stay in the playoffs. They have yet to win a postseason game since Ryan took over as the quarterback in 2008, going 0-3.
But one thing the Falcons never seem to do anymore is lose two straight games. They extended the
"Our focus was heightened from other weeks," coach
After thoroughly dominating the Giants, the Falcons have surely sent a resounding message to the rest of the league: beware of this team in the playoffs.
"Last week everybody was talking smack about us," defensive end
For the Giants, it was a miserable performance when they controlled their own destiny, at a time of year when they normally play some of their best football.
Manning threw his first pick on the second play of scrimmage, setting up a quick Atlanta touchdown. Coughlin made a curious call late in the first half, passing up another short field goal attempt when his team was almost 2 yards shy of the marker. Samuel batted down a short pass intended for
"I was thinking we needed to engender a lift for our sideline," Coughlin said. "That did not work out either."
The tone was set right away.
When Manning attempted to hit
It was all Falcons after
Manning finished 13 of 25 for 161 yards, leaving him with a dismal 38.9 rating - his worst since a Dec. 23, 2007, win at Buffalo.
"We have two games left and we have to win those two games," Manning said. "What else happens after that, we don't know and can't control."
Early in the second half, the Falcons blew it open on Ryan's 40-yard touchdown pass to Jones down the left sideline. Finally, after a drive that used up more than 9 minutes in the fourth quarter, Ryan went to Jones for a 3-yard TD.
The Giants turned it over one more time in the closing minutes, finishing off their first shutout in the regular season since a 24-0 defeat at Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 1996. The performance came just a week after they put up 52 points on the
There was a moment of silence before the game honoring the
"It was very emotional, obviously, during the game," said Cruz, who caught only three passes for 15 yards. "With a family facing that much tragedy, you want to be someone that inspires them, someone that can put a smile on their face at a time where it's tough to do that."
NOTES: More recently, the Giants were shut out in the playoffs after the 2005 season, losing at Carolina 23-0. ... Ryan has thrown for 4,202 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. ... There was one bright spot for Manning: He set a franchise record for career completions with 2,585, moving past the mark held by Phil Simms (2,576).