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(Sunday, December 16th)
Final Score: Atlanta 34, NY Giants 0
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - The Atlanta Falcons got their revenge, and made quite a statement as well in doing so.
Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes, including a pair to Julio Jones, and the Falcons dealt the New York Giants their first regular-season shutout in 16 years with an authoritative 34-0 victory at the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta (12-2) got its payback for a 24-2 throttling by the Giants during last season's NFC Wild Card Playoffs behind a near-flawless performance from Ryan, with the standout quarterback completing a sharp 23-of-28 passes for 270 yards without a turnover.
The Falcons' defense did its part as well, intercepting New York's Eli Manning twice in the first half and stopping the Giants on downs three times over the course of the game.
"In my opinion, this was the best game we put together so far," said Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel."
Manning managed just 161 yards on an off-target 13-of-25 efficiency as New York (8-6) was held scoreless in a non-playoff setting for the first time since a 24-0 setback at Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 1996.
Jones ended with 74 yards on six catches and Tony Gonzalez added a touchdown grab for the NFC South champion Falcons, who could have clinched a first- round playoff bye if San Francisco had lost to New England on Sunday night. The Niners came up with a 41-34 win over the Patriots.
The result proved to be considerably more costly for the Giants, now 2-4 over their last six outings. New York fell into a three-way tie with Dallas and Washington for first place in the NFC East, as the Cowboys and Redskins both won their matchups on Sunday.
"Atlanta was very, very good and we were very, very bad," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin remarked. "We came out and did exactly what we said we couldn't afford to do, which was turn the ball over."
New York was plagued by mistakes and missed opportunities throughout the game, and particularly so during a sloppy first half in which the more opportunistic Falcons capitalized on a pair of Manning turnovers en route to building a 17-0 lead.
Manning's first interception came on the game's second snap from scrimmage, with Samuel jumping in front of intended target Hakeem Nicks and returning the pick six yards to the New York 16. The takeaway led to a 4-play series of all Michael Turner runs, the last a 1-yard plunge that put the Falcons on top less than three minutes into the contest.
"This team thrives off of momentum," said Samuel. "I just used my god-given ability to make plays for my team and put the offense in the best position to score the football."
The Giants moved inside the Falcons' 15-yard line on the ensuing possession, but wound up coming away empty after Lawrence Tynes shanked a 30-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Atlanta then marched 80 yards in 10 plays to extend the margin to double digits. Ryan, who was a perfect 6-for-6 for 66 yards over the Falcons' initial two drives, got his club back in scoring position by finding a wide-open Harry Douglas for a 37-yard gain to the New York 11, then later came through during a 3rd-and-11 situation by hitting a leaping Gonzalez in the middle of the end zone for a 14-0 advantage late in the first quarter.
Another Manning interception, a misread to Nicks that Thomas DeCoud snared at the Giants' 27, set up a 38-yard Matt Bryant field goal less than five minutes into the second quarter that would account for the 17-point differential at the break.
New York would have a couple of chances to close the gap prior to intermission, but failed to come through each time.
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon thwarted the first threat by stuffing David Wilson on a 4th-and-1 from the Atlanta 32. After New York got the ball back, Manning connected on a pair of deep passes -- a 24-yard delivery to Nicks and a 37-yarder to Domenik Hixon that placed the Giants into the red zone nearing the two-minute warning -- but again ended up stopped on downs when Samuel broke up Manning's 4th-and-1 attempt for Victor Cruz from the 11- yard line.
"That was all my call," said Coughlin on the decision not to try a field goal on those drives. "The thinking was we needed to generate a lift for our sideline, as (the momentum) was all going one way. That did not work out either. It was very, very disappointing."
Atlanta showed no signs of letting up in the second half, as Ryan quickly put a dent into New York's comeback hopes by engineering an 8-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 40-yard scoring strike to Jones to begin the third quarter.
The Giants would turn the ball over on downs once more on their opening touch of the second half, with Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux batting down a Manning pass on 4th-and-2 from the Falcons' 25. Atlanta proceeded to put together another long scoring sequence, churning out 73 yards in 12 plays and getting as far as the New York 1 before ultimately settling for Bryant's 19-yard kick and a 27-0 cushion in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
After New York went three-and-out on its subsequent possession, Ryan put the finishing touches on the rout by directing a 13-play, 69-yard series highlighted by three completions that converted third downs. The last was a 19-yard connection to Jones that brought Atlanta to the New York 3, and the pair hooked up for a 3-yard score just two plays later to make the score 34-0 with 4:57 left.
The Giants did sustain a 23-0 defeat to Carolina in the 2005 NFC Wild Card Playoffs. The loss was New York's most lopsided since a 44-7 decision at Minnesota in the 2009 regular-season finale ... Including last January's playoff triumph, the Giants had prevailed in four straight encounters with Atlanta and had a six-game winning streak as the visitor in this series snapped. The Falcons hadn't topped New York in Atlanta since a 23-20 verdict on Oct. 1, 1978 ... Atlanta improved to 20-0 all-time at the Georgia Dome when Ryan produces a quarterback rating of 100 or better, and Ryan became the first Falcons signal-caller to record consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons during the game ... Manning (2,586) became the Giants' all-time leader in completions in the loss, surpassing Phil Simms' previous team mark of 2,576 ... New York guard Chris Snee left the contest in the second quarter with a hip injury and did not return ... The Giants wore helmet decals during the game honoring the victims of this week's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
12/17 00:27:08 ET
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