The Falcons are 7-0. Really let that sink in for a second. Atlanta continues to venture into uncharted waters, remaining the only undefeated in the NFL. Everyone around the organization seems to be more than pleased with the progress of this team, and why shouldn't they be?
Critics will likely spin this as an Eagles loss instead of a Falcons win, but we've become accustomed to that type of mentality. Regardless of what outsiders say, Mike Smith and his squad just keep winning.
Overall we saw a complete performance from Atlanta in Week 8. Of course there's always room from improvement, but this was one of the more dominant displays against a team with a ton of talent. Let's take a look at what we learned this time around.
1) The Falcons know how to win: Indoors, outdoors, at home, on the road, in the rain, against Andy Reid coming off his bye week, with Matt Ryan throwing three interceptions. None of it has mattered so far. Somehow they were the underdogs against the Eagles, because who expected the undefeated team to come out on top?
Looking ahead, the Falcons will play outdoors twice in their remaining nine games, at Tampa in Week 12 and at Carolina in Week 14. While it's comforting to know they've emerged victorious from two games in poor weather, they fact that they'll be under a roof for the majority of the second half bodes well for their record. Honestly 16-0 isn't a ridiculous notion, but let's not jinx it. Hopefully I didn't just jinx it by saying let's not jinx it.
2) Matt Ryan for MVP, still: A quarterback rating of 137.4 in Week 8 further solidified Ryan's ongoing case for becoming the league's most valuable player. Leading your team to an undefeated record should open the eyes of most analysts around the league, but I'm sure Ryan will still be passed over for bigger names like Peyton Manning.
As Knox mentions here, Will Brinson made the claim that Ryan's resume speaks for itself. However, Brinson went on to ramble about the accomplishments of Manning this season. Sure, Peyton looks good, but returning from neck surgery shouldn't elevate his chances for the award. How many players have returned from major injuries to put in huge performances so far this season? And don't point out the fact Manning just demolished the Saints defense. Josh Freeman threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns against them two weeks ago. I'm fairly certain any of you could manage a couple touchdowns against the Saints group of individuals they call a defense. It will be a close race to the finish. If Ryan continues his stellar play and the Falcons keep winning, though, I don't see how you can't call him MVP.
3) The Michael Turner train might have reached the end of the line: The Falcons gave Turner a season-high 24 carries on Sunday, and he managed just 58 yards with that workload. Philly isn't stout against the run, and Turner wasn't making much of his runs. Standard procedure basically goes as follows: Turner receives handoff, stutter-steps a bit, falls forward at the line for a few yards.
Falcons desperately need an upgrade on Turner to go deep in the playoffs, but they seem to be in denial there— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) October 29, 2012
Wesseling is clearly far removed from the Turner bandwagon. We heard the disgruntled comments from The Burner before the bye week, and the Falcons obviously made it a point to get him more involved. Fortunately Quizz picked up some of the slack, busting off a few big runs here and there. I'm not ready to completely give up on No. 33, but that display against the Eagles doesn't leave me confident about the ground game going forward. There's no cap room to make a major upgrade, and that's not the Falcons nature in the middle of the season. They'll have to endure. Keep Quizz and possibly Snelling actively involved each week.
4) There is plenty of depth on this roster: Kroy Biermann and Robert McClain received the game balls for Week 8. That should tell you something about a team with so many stars throughout the depth chart. How great was it to see McClain level Vick from his blindside? Plus, the guy apparently likes Family Guy. His stock is way up in my book.
#Falcons must be falling in love w/nickelback Robert McClain. He played 90% of snaps, had that big hit on the blitz on Vick.— John Manasso (@jmanasso) October 29, 2012
Clearly McClain is winning over the coaching staff. Biermann provided a sack and two hits, Christopher Owens made a huge play to knock down a pass to Jason Avant on third down, Drew Davis caught a touchdown pass. Everyone looks like they want to get in on the action. It's pleasing to see lesser-known names (at least to passing fans) making an impact.
5) Tackling, stopping the run improving: After the Raiders game it was clear the coaching staff needed to get back to the basics on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith happy with tackling and angles on run defense. Credits last week's "basics" practice last Monday for correcting issue.— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) October 29, 2012
Jay also said last Monday's practice was "8th grade football", implying the team was doing exactly what they needed to do. Fix the basics. According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons finished with seven missed tackles in Week 8. They credit Asante Samuel with four of them. I do recall him taking a bad angle on a few plays, but I didn't think his tackling was too egregious.
DOL also notes the run defense stepped up, holding LeSean McCoy, one of the most talented runners in the NFL, to 45 yards on 16 carries. The Falcons used their Big Three Tackle alignment to help provide more penetration into the backfield. Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters take up some space, and they can engage multiple blockers to help open up room for other defenders. It was good to see Peters out there. He'll be far more involved as he shakes off the rust.
What stood out in your mind from the win in Philly?