Entering into the locker room at half time holding on to a comfortable 17-0 lead, the Falcons appeared confident. But not long after, well... the third quarter happened. A mistake here, a miscue there, and fourth-string cornerback Chris Owens being pressed into the formidable task of covering Percy Harvin all contributed to that lead diminishing to only three points.
But Matt Ryan and the offense, as they've done time and again, put together a fourth-quarter drive that would turn into seven points for the Falcons. Ryan did it with poise and ease, taking advantage of an inferior Vikings secondary. Owens would make a touchdown-saving tackle on Harvin, and one goal-line stand later the Falcons had all but sealed their victory.
Now on paper, most people wouldn't have expected the final score of that ball game to be so close. After all, these are the good Atlanta Falcons, the ones that went 13-3 in 2010 and now sit at 7-4 this season. The Vikings only have two wins to their name, a rookie quarterback, a porous secondary and were in fact missing their best player in Adrian Peterson on Sunday. It easily could have been a blowout. But should we really expect that?
Of the sixteen games played during last week, 13 of those contests, an overwhelming majority, were decided by a margin of 10 points or less. The week before that, nine of the 14 games played were won or lost by fewer than 10 points. Only the Packers, Patriots, and Saints were really able to "blow out" their opponents. In today's NFL- one that has come to be defined by parity- those blowouts have become the exception, and not the rule.
Even though the Falcons haven't really stomped an opponent since playing the Colts, there really is no cause for alarm at this stage. They're not the Green Bay Packers (hopefully you've already established this) and they're not built to blow teams out every week. This is still a team built around establishing and stopping the run. This is a team that relies on playing mistake-free football.
The San Francisco 49ers are another great example of a "small ball" football team. In fact, they're remarkably comparable to the Falcons: both have top-10 rushing attacks, top-10 defenses, and they sport the top two run-stopping units in the league (San Fran sits at No. 1 while Atlanta's group is No. 2).
Their average margin of victory? 12.66 points, and even that is somewhat inflated by a 45-point ravaging of the Buccaneers. The 49ers are 9-2, a team the national media has pegged as legitimate threats to go all the way in the postseason.
The point to take away here is that when you watch the Falcons play on Sunday, don't be surprised when the final score something like a 20-14 win over the T.J. Yates-led Texans. Don't fret your life away. At this point in time, it's how the Falcons are built, and as long as they win there's no urgent need to change that formula.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.