NFL Nation: Terance Mathis

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 34, Giants 0

December, 16, 2012

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons34-0 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: This was much more significant than a run-of-the-mill December victory for a team that already has clinched the NFC South title and a spot in the playoffs. This was a statement game for the 12-2 Falcons. A week after playing a horrible game against Carolina, they bounced back with their best outing of the season. They also did it against the team that bounced them from the playoffs last season, and they did it in a very convincing manner.

What I liked: Everything. Critics have ripped the Falcons for not putting together a complete game and, oftentimes, playing just well enough to win. Well, this one was different. The Falcons were pretty much flawless. They ran and passed the ball well on offense. The defense intercepted Eli Manning twice early in the game and came through with some big stops.

Stat of the day: The shutout marked the first time the Giants have been held scoreless in a regular-season game with Manning as their quarterback.

Busting a myth: There are a lot of people out there who say Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan can’t throw the deep ball. I always have disputed that claim. And Ryan gave me some more evidence to work with. If you haven’t seen his 40-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, please go watch the replay. It should be on all of the highlight shows.

Super omen? Speaking of Jones, he went for more than 1,000 receiving yards for the season on Sunday. Teammate Roddy White already was past the 1,000-yard mark. They are the first Atlanta duo to post 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since Terance Mathis and Tony Martin in the 1998 season. In case you don't remember, that's the season the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl for the only time in franchise history.

Pro Bowl bound? Very quietly, Atlanta free safety Thomas DeCoud has emerged as a force. He intercepted Manning in the first half. That gives DeCoud six interceptions on the season. The fifth-year player should get strong consideration for a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team.

What’s next: The Falcons face a bit of a short week. They play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Saturday night.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 14, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 15 games:

Good news/bad news: Coming off a loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons can take solace in the fact they’ve won their previous 11 games immediately after a loss. The Falcons have not lost back-to-back games since 2009. They also are playing in the Georgia Dome, where they’ve won 10 straight games (the NFL’s longest active home winning streak). So everything appears to be in Atlanta’s favor. Until you consider this -- the Falcons have not won a home game against the New York Giants since 1978.

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireWith three more receiving yards Julio Jones will reach 1,000 yards for the season.
Terrific tandems: The meeting between the Falcons and Giants will feature the two most prolific pairs of wide receivers in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season. In that span, Atlanta’s Roddy White and Julio Jones have combined for 4,392 receiving yards, while New York’s Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have combined for 4,384 yards. By the way, Jones needs only three receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the season. That would make Jones and White the first pair of Atlanta receivers to hit 1,000 yards since Tony Martin and Terance Mathis in 1998.

A record they don’t want: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are allowing 311.6 passing yards per game. At that pace, they would give up 4,986 passing yards by the end of the season, which would be an NFL record. The current record was set last season when the Green Bay Packers gave up 4,796 yards.

A record he doesn’t want: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads the league with 32 touchdown passes and is tied with Andrew Luck for the league lead with 18 interceptions. Since 1970, Lynn Dickey (1983) and Brian Sipe (1979) are the only quarterbacks to lead the league in both touchdowns and interceptions.

Intentional grounding: The Carolina Panthers have been making the most of quarterback Cam Newton's running ability. He leads the team with 640 rushing yards. The last quarterback to finish a season as his team’s leading rusher was Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb in 2000.

Reflecting on the Falcons' victory

November, 30, 2012
ATLANTA -- With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the Falcons’ media relations department, let’s take a by-the-numbers look back at how Atlanta defeated the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night:
  • The 23-13 victory put the Falcons only a Tampa Bay loss or tie at Denver on Sunday away from clinching the NFC South title. The Falcons also can clinch a playoff berth with a loss by Seattle on Sunday.
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez's first catch of the game was his 70th reception of the season. Gonzalez now has 10 straight seasons with at least 70 receptions. That ties the NFL record set by Tim Brown. Gonzalez also now has 13 seasons in which he has caught at least 70 passes, which ties him with Jerry Rice for the NFL record.
  • The Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive. They have scored an NFL-best 26 touchdowns on opening drives since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan now is 32-4 at home in his career. Ryan’s home winning percentage is .889. That’s second only to Tom Brady (.933) since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards. His 1,572 yards in November established a new franchise record for passing yards in a month. Steve Bartkowski set the previous record with 1,494 yards in November 1981.
  • The Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times. That ties the franchise record for interceptions in a game. The last time the Falcons recorded five interceptions in a game was when they picked off Jim Hart five times in 1980.
  • Although Atlanta’s running game has been mediocre much of the season, the Falcons got off to a great start on the ground. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined to average 13.6 yards per rush between the tackles in the first quarter. Atlanta had 95 yards rushing between the tackles in the first quarter the third-best total by any team this season. The Falcons had averaged only 3.2 yards per carry coming into the game. The Falcons finished the game with 122 of their 126 total rushing yards (not counting kneel downs) between the tackles, after averaging only 59 yards between the tackles per game in the first 10 games.
  • Strong safety William Moore had two interceptions and free safety Thomas DeCoud had one. They now have combined for 10 takeaways this season and those have resulted in 30 points.
  • Turner’s 3-yard touchdown run on the opening drive established a new franchise record for touchdowns. Receiver Terance Mathis had the previous record (57).
  • Defensive end John Abraham recorded Atlanta’s only sack and it came in a crucial spot in the fourth quarter. That gives Abraham 10 sacks on the season. He now has 10 or more sacks in seven seasons.
  • Abraham is the NFL’s active sack leader with 122 in his career. He now is tied with Simeon Rice for 14th place on the NFL’s all-time sack list.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 19, Cowboys 13

November, 4, 2012

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 19-13 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The method was by no means pretty, but the Falcons remained the only unbeaten team in the NFL. At 8-0, they’re well on their way to clinching the NFC South and still in the NFC lead for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Falcons have been accused plenty of times this season of not always having pretty wins. But the bottom line is they’re winning and, if they keep doing that, they’ll get the respect their fans so desperately crave.

The Turner point: For most of the night, Atlanta running back Michael Turner looked old and slow and the lack of any threat in the running game was taking a toll on the passing game. But that all changed late in the third quarter when Turner broke off a 43-yard run to set up his own 3-yard touchdown run that broke a 6-6 tie. The Dallas defense was loading up and going after Matt Ryan, until Turner showed he still can turn a corner. Turner finished with 19 carries for 100 yards.

Dynamic duo: Julio Jones (118) and Roddy White (129) each topped the 100-yard receiving mark. White also set a new franchise record for receptions when he broke Terance Mathis' mark of 573 career catches.

Best surprise: Even without injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who might be Atlanta’s best defensive player, the Falcons played perhaps their best all-around defensive game. They limited the Cowboys to just two field goals until allowing a touchdown pass with 5:21 remaining.

Worst surprise: Atlanta’s Matt Bryant usually is one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers. But not on Sunday night. Bryant missed two field goal attempts. The last time Bryant missed two field goals in one game was Sept. 17, 2006. That’s when Bryant was playing for Tampa Bay. The opponent that day? The Falcons. But Bryant did hit a 36-yard field goal with 7:49 remaining and a 32-yarder with 17 seconds left to give the Falcons some insurance.

What’s next: The Falcons play at New Orleans next Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 45, Bucs 24

January, 1, 2012
ATLANTA – Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons’ 45-24 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

What it means: The Falcons are 10-6 and in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Falcons are in as the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. They’ll play on the road against the winner of Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. The Buccaneers ended their season in dismal fashion. After starting off 4-2, they lost their final 10 games and weren’t even competitive in most of those.

Momentum found: The Falcons bounced back nicely after a bad Monday night loss to the New Orleans Saints. Yeah, they were playing the Bucs, who might have become the worst team in the NFL, but the victory should create a positive vibe for the Falcons as they head into the playoffs.

Record Turner: Michael Turner broke Gerald Riggs’ team record for career rushing touchdowns with two in the first half. Turner now has 50 rushing touchdowns since joining the Falcons in 2008. Riggs set his record over the course of seven seasons. Turner also tied Riggs’ team record with his 25th 100-yard rushing game since joining the Falcons. Too bad Turner doesn’t play for the Saints. Sean Payton would have kept feeding Turner the ball and given him a shot at a 500-yard day.

Roddy’s records: Roddy White became Atlanta’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He passed Terance Mathis’ previous record of 7,349 yards. White also had his 100th catch of the season. That makes White the first player to have two seasons of 100 or more catches.

Farewell, Jeff George: Quarterback Matt Ryan surpassed Jeff George’s 1995 record for passing yards in a season (4,143).

The Morris Watch: If Tampa Bay’s ownership hadn’t made a decision about the future of coach Raheem Morris before Sunday, another embarrassing loss couldn’t have helped his case. This game was over almost as soon as it started and it’s stunning to remember that the Bucs beat the Falcons in Week 3. As has been the case through most of the losing streak, the Bucs looked like a team with no direction. At some point in the next few days, the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs will have to break its silence and let the world know if they’re sticking with Morris or going in a different direction.

What’s next: The Falcons have to wait until the end of Sunday night’s game between the Giants and Cowboys to find out where they’ll travel to for the first round of the playoffs. The Buccaneers will get a top 10 draft pick and an offseason that’s sure to be filled with change even if Morris stays.
As we wait to find out who the New Orleans Saints will play in the first round of the playoffs (it will be the winner of tonight’s game between St. Louis and Seattle), let’s take a look at some superlatives on the Atlanta Falcons.
  • With their 31-10 victory against Carolina, the Falcons finished 13-3. That’s the second-highest win total in franchise history (14 in 1998 is the best) and it gives the Falcons the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and the NFC South title.
  • The division title is the first the Falcons have won since 2004 and only the fourth time in franchise history Atlanta has won a division. Their 1980 and 1998 titles were as champions of the NFC West. The only other time the Falcons have been the NFC’s top seed was 1980.
  • Matt Ryan tied Dan Marino for most wins by a rookie quarterback in his first three seasons since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Ryan has a 33-13 record as a starter. In games Ryan has started in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons are 20-2. His .909 winning percentage is the best among all active quarterbacks at their home stadium.
  • Coach Mike Smith is 33-15 in his three seasons with the Falcons. Dan Reeves and Jim Mora shared the previous best record with 26 wins in their first three seasons.
  • Eric Weems returned a punt for a 55-yard touchdown against the Panthers. That makes him the first player in franchise history to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. Weems also had a kickoff return for a touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 13.
  • Roddy White set a new record with 112 catches for the season. Terance Mathis previously held the record with 111 catches in 1994.

Roddy White closing on franchise marks

December, 24, 2010
Although he’s cooled a bit in recent weeks after carrying the Falcons or much of the season, receiver Roddy White remains on pace for a record-breaking season.

Heading into Monday night’s showdown with New Orleans, White has 106 catches. The team record is 111 by Terance Mathis in 1994.

With two games remaining, White also is well within range of topping his own franchise record for receiving yards. White has 1,307 yards this season. He set the franchise record with 1,382 in 2008.

Best Falcons Team Ever: 1998

June, 28, 2010
Notable players: QB Chris Chandler, RB Jamal Anderson, WR Terance Mathis, LB Jessie Tuggle, K Morten Andersen, LB Cornelius Bennett.

[+] EnlargeJamal Anderson
Getty ImagesJamal Anderson rushed for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1998.
If ever there’s been a one-year wonder, it was the 1998 Atlanta Falcons. For the better part of three months, this team was as hot as any team ever and it really didn’t matter who was coaching.

With coach Dan Reeves having open-heart surgery late in the season, Rich Brooks took over as the interim coach and the Falcons just kept on winning with a great defense and Anderson having a huge year. The Falcons went from Oct. 25, 1998, until the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, 1999, and didn’t lose a game.

During a Dec. 13 victory in New Orleans that made the Falcons 12-2, Reeves began experiencing chest pains. When he mentioned it to team doctors the next morning, they took a look and quickly rushed him into surgery. Without Reeves, the Falcons won the next two regular-season games to finish a franchise-best 14-2.

With some help from a first-round bye, Reeves was able to return for two very narrow playoff victories against San Francisco and Minnesota. The NFC Championship Game was in Minnesota, but Atlanta upset the Vikings. That also put the Falcons into the Super Bowl for the first -- and only -- time. The opponent was Denver.

That set up a great subplot as Reeves went against John Elway, the quarterback he had clashed with when they were together with the Broncos. Things didn’t go well for the Falcons even before the game.

Safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the night before the game and that created turmoil for Reeves and the Falcons. In the end, Robinson played, but it didn’t really matter. Elway and the Broncos had the upper hand, winning 34-19.

Most impressive win: The Nov. 1 game against St. Louis gets an honorable mention because it came after the Falcons got trashed by the Jets and it started the long winning streak. But people who were with the team then said the most important game was on Dec. 20 at Detroit. With Brooks coaching the team, the Falcons overcame three deficits to win 24-17 and clinched the NFC West title (this was before the NFC South was formed in 2002).

Research room: The 1998 Falcons led the NFL in takeaways (44), fumble recoveries (25 ) and time of possession (33:10).

Honorable mention

1980: With quarterback Steve Bartkowski and running back William Andrews leading the way, the Falcons won a division title for the first time in franchise history.

2008: In the aftermath of Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick, coach Mike Smith came in and took over a team that was expected by many to be horrible. With rookie Matt Ryan at quarterback, the Falcons went to the playoffs.

2002: This team made history by going into Lambeau Field and handing the Packers their first home playoff loss in franchise history.