Although this season has tested fans’ patience and cardiovascular health, we cannot deny that the Falcons have exceeded expectations and have shown that they have the talent and grit to be successful after the bye week as well. Let’s relive the magic of Atlanta’s six wins in the first six weeks of the season.
Falcons (40) vs. Chiefs (24)
The Falcons came right out of the gate in week one and impressed us from the start. Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. The defense looked vanilla early, but--shocker--made adjustments at the half, and dominated KC in the third and fourth quarters, with Matt Cassel throwing INTs to WIlliam Moore and Stephen Nicholas. It was a promising start to the season.
Broncos (21) vs. Falcons (27)
The defense was on fire, picking off Payton Manning three times, and posting three sacks on the day. Ryan threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns, and Matt Bryant was reliable with three field goals. The Broncos fought back in the second half, only to be defeated. The Broncos have not been as good as expected, but they have one of the best QBs of all time under center in Manning, and they have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. This was a quality win.
Falcons (27) vs. Chargers (3)
This has been Atlanta’s best showing on both sides of the ball this season thus far. The Falcons shut down the Chargers offense, holding them to three points, and the offense was efficient and effective. Michael Turner had a solid game, with 80 yards rushing and one touchdown. Ryan threw for 275 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Thomas DeCoud was formidable, with two interceptions and one fumble recovery. San Diego is a mercurial team, but the Falcons absolutely dominated them on the road.
Panthers (28) vs. Falcons (30)
Carolina is a division opponent, and they know the Falcons well. Matt Ryan had a great day, with 369 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception, but the offensive line allowed seven sacks. Michael Turner had a great day against the Panthers, with 103 yards rushing, and--unexpectedly--a 68 yard receiving touchdown. The defense was disruptive, forcing three fumbles--but they allowed 199 yards rushing. It all came down to a Matt Bryant field goal, which he nailed for the fourth win of the season.
Falcons (24) vs. Redskins (17)
This was a hard-fought win on the road against a good Redskins team that was desperate to end an extended losing streak at home. Ryan was successful throwing the ball, with 345 passing yards, two touchdowns and one particularly unfortunate interception to Ryan Kerrigan that resulted in a touchdown for Washington. Ryan also fumbled once. The Redskins--a team with a legitimate rushing attack--put up 129 yards on the Falcons defense. Dunta Robinson and Thomas DeCoud both intercepted the Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins after RGIII left the game with a Sean Weatherspoon-induced concussion. Michael Turner ran in a touchdown with just under three minutes left to play to put the Falcons ahead of the Redskins for the win.
Raiders (20) vs. Falcons (23)
On paper, it seemed like the Falcons should have been able to handle the Raiders pretty easily. However, NFL games are not actually played on paper. The Falcons struggled throughout, offensively and defensively. Carson Palmer threw for 353 yards one touchdown, and one magical pick six by Asante Samuel. John Abraham was Palmer’s worst nightmare all day long, with three sacks and a beautiful forced fumble. The Raiders rushed for 149 yards, illustrating once again that the Falcons need to shore up their run defense. Matt Ryan was intercepted three times--one pick appeared to be a bad choice by Ryan, but on the other two, he was hit as he released the ball, putting the pass off target. Pass protection was not great, and run blocking left a lot to be desired. Matt Bryant even missed an early field goal, although he made the one that mattered, to win the game with one second left on the clock.
The team is doing a lot of things well, obviously. Matt Ryan has really developed from last season to this year. He’s more accurate, he’s more confident, and he’s added the deep ball to his repertoire. The Falcons defense is much more aggressive this season, and necessarily so.
The offensive line must protect Ryan more effectively. The pressure seems to be getting to Ryan, quite literally. And, the Falcons have to improve their run blocking. If the Falcons rushing attack improves, it will help to keep pressure off of Ryan.
The Falcons defense has to be tougher against the run. Corey Peters should be back after the bye week, which will help tremendously. It would also be nice to see some form tackling. In my opinion the Falcons have regressed from week one to week six in defensive fundamentals.
There are only two stats that really matter in the NFL, and those are the numbers in the wins and losses columns. But, there’s a whole lot of season left. If the Falcons address these weaknesses and correct them, there is no limit to what this team can achieve this season.
How do you feel about where the Falcons are at this point in the season? What do you think they need to improve?