A quick-hitting look at the Falcons, who are trying to turn last season’s heartbreak into an unlikely playoff run this year. They are, as you may have heard, the first sixth-seeded team ever favored to win a divisional playoff game.
1 “We’re not here just to get here,” quarterback Matt Ryan said after last week’s resounding win over the Rams. “We want to make noise while we’re here.”
2 Only four guys have career postseason passer ratings above 100: Bart Starr (104.8), Kurt Warner (102.8), Matt Ryan (102.4), and Drew Brees (101.6). Ryan is 1-3 at Lincoln Financial Field, including a loss last season when Carson Wentz was the Eagles starter.
3 The Falcons had the ball for 13 minutes, 7 seconds in the third quarter last week. Their two drives consisted of 26 plays and resulted in a pair of Matt Bryant field goals.
4 The Falcons led last year’s Super Bowl, 28-3, with eight minutes left in the third quarter before an epic collapse resulted in a 34-28 overtime loss to the Patriots. (corrected)
5 On the other end of that spectrum is Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who lost the head-coaching job at USC in 2015 because of alcoholism. He seems to have gotten his personal life together and was named Atlanta’s OC when Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers job after last year’s Super Bowl.
6 Center Alex Mack and wide receiver Julio Jones are the Falcons’ two Pro Bowlers. Last year, they had six.
7 General manager Thomas Dimitroff traded up from No. 27 to No. 6 in 2011 in order to draft Julio Jones. The team the Falcons traded with: the Cleveland Browns.
8 In four playoff games over the last two seasons, Jones has four touchdowns and yardage totals of 67, 180, 87, and 94. He did not score a touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl.
9 Dimitroff was the Patriots’ director of college scouting from 2003 to 2007, which includes, of course, New England’s Super Bowl win over the Eagles following the 2004 season.
10 Falcons guard Ben Garland gave up a spot in Air Force pilot training in order to play in the NFL. (Boy, how tight would that cockpit be with the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Garland in it?) Garland continues to serve in the Colorado national guard, and holds the rank of captain.
11 Second-year middle linebacker Deion Jones already is one of the best in the league. He’s a menace all over the field and is exceptional in pass coverage. He led the Falcons in tackles (138) and interceptions (three) during the regular season.
12 Of the six NFC playoff teams, Atlanta is the only one that was in the postseason last year.
13 Founder Rankin Smith originally had an agreement to join the AFL in the mid-1960s but reneged when the NFL wanted to put a franchise in Atlanta. The Falcons began play in 1966.
14 Their first coach was Norb Hecker, who had been an assistant to Vince Lombardi in Green Bay. Their second coach was Norm Van Brocklin, who was the Eagles quarterback when they won the championship in 1960.
15 The Falcons have never won the championship. They are 10-13 all-time in the playoffs, including 0-2 in Super Bowls. The Eagles are 19-21 in postseason play, also 0-2 in Super Bowls. They won NFL titles in 1948, 1949, and 1960.
16 Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, 29, thought about retiring when he tore his biceps in the playoffs last season until talking it over with his wife, Shannon. “She convinced me to give it one more shot,” Clayborn said earlier this year. “She just told me this is what I love to do. She didn’t want me to go out like this. She wanted me to go out feeling good about my career and feeling good about what I did.”
17 Clayborn set a team record with six sacks in a Week 10 win over Dallas. “I guess she was right,” he said.
18 Desmond Trufant is the Falcons’ best cornerback and one of the league’s highest paid after signing a five-year extension in the offseason valued at more than $68 million ($42 million guaranteed). He suffered a torn pectoral muscle late in the 2016 season and missed the Super Bowl.
19 Running back Devonta Freeman told ESPN that he wears No. 24 in honor of his late aunt, Tamekia Brown, who died of a heart attack at age 24.
20 Several times during his newsconference this week, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz mentioned how nervous Atlanta’s running backs made him. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined to rush for 1,493 yards, gain another 616 on catches, and score 16 touchdowns. Their receiving numbers are better than any Eagles running back accumulated.
21 Veteran kicker Matt Bryant is 8 for 10 on field-goal attempts at Lincoln Financial Field and he missed an extra-point attempt in Atlanta’s 2016 loss in Philadelphia. It’s his only career PAT try here since the league changed the distance to 33 yards before the 2015 season.
22 Guard Wes Schweitzer has a degree in chemistry from San Jose State.
23 Only two running backs gained 100 yards against the Falcons defense this year. Jay Ajayi had 130 in Week 6 when he was still playing with Miami. The Rams’ Todd Gurley had 101 in Saturday’s wild-card game.
24 Safety Keanu Neal has forced eight fumbles in his first two seasons, an NFL record for a defensive back.
25 “We’re growing,” Neal said. “We haven’t even reached our peak yet. That’s the beauty of it. But the camaraderie, playing together, playing as one, that’s definitely a beautiful thing.”
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