Originally written December 16, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
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PASSING GAME Falcons After falling out of the MVP race with a five-game string of mediocre-to-awful outings, Matt Ryan returned to form against the Giants, exacting revenge with a 23-of-28 passing performance for 270 yards. When it was all over, he had three touchdowns and no interceptions. Ryan surpassed his own franchise record for passing yards in this one, as he now has 4,202 yards with two games remaining on the schedule. Five Atlanta receivers caught multiple passes, led by wideout Julio Jones, who caught six passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns. And is it possible to forget Tony Gonzalez? Ever? He extended his all-time tight end touchdown record he now has 103 career trips to the end zone. Grade: A Giants It was a forgettable day for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who could get absolutely nothing going against Atlanta's defense. Not only was his offense shut out in the 34-0 rout, but he completed just 13 of his 25 passes and threw two picks. His leading receiver Domenik Hixon finished with five catches for 80 yards. Grade: D RUNNING GAME Falcons With 129 yards on 38 carries, Atlanta's running game showed up in this one, pacing an offense that held the ball for nearly 39 minutes. This unit has been chastised throughout the season, but any production close to Sunday's performance will be sufficient with the Falcons' dangerous passing attack. Running back Michael Turner finished with 52 yards and a score, but he was spelled by Jason Snelling (39 yards), Jacquizz Rodgers (25 yards) and Julio Jones (18 yards). Grade: B Giants Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw did not play, but backups Kregg Lumpkin and David Wilson were respectable in relief. Though the Giants ran the ball just 21 times, they did gain 97 yards to create a threat. Of course, nothing seemed to work for long, and when Manning is not clicking this Giants' offense often stalls. Grade: B- DEFENSE Falcons During their loss to the Giants in last season's playoff game, the offense was the focus of attention after it posted just two points in 60 minutes. But it is certainly worth mentioning that Sunday provided a proving ground for Atlanta's defense and they stepped up in a huge way: Holding a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback scoreless and forcing three turnovers. They held the Giants to 256 yards of total offense. The Falcons' playmaking secondary made the necessary plays Asante Samuel and Thomas DeCoud both picked off passes and the front-seven forced just enough pressure to keep Manning uncomfortable. Grade: A Giants Any defense that is kept on the field for 39 minutes against the Falcons' offense is going to struggle, and the Giants' defense did not receive a helping hand from its offense Sunday. However, giving up 34 points will never spark much praise. The Falcons racked up nearly 400 yards of offense and did not turn the ball over once on 10 drives. The Giants did force quite a few negative plays (five tackles for loss). Grade: C SPECIAL TEAMS Falcons Kicker Matt Bryant made both of his field goals. Punter Matt Bosher punted the ball twice, averaging 40 yards and not allowed a single return. While there was a brief scare on a possible fumble by Dominque Franks, the Falcons did not hurt themselves on special teams. Bryant has now made 31 of his 36 field goal attempts this season. Grade: B Giants New York punter Steve Weatherford had a strong outing, averaging 55 yards on two kicks, but the rest of the Giants' special teams unit did not impress. Kicker Lawrence Tynes missed his only field goal, while dynamic returner David Wilson, who also split time at running back, was held in check. Grade: C-
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