If you would have told me that the Falcons would be 3-1 at this point in the season, I would have told you that you were crazy. Yet, here we are. After the first quarter of the season, the Falcons have put together the best offense in the NFL and a defense that will give us all heart attacks. It’s not a recipe for long-term success, but there are signs things may be turning the corner.
This offense is good, but more importantly is aggressive
The Falcons have now scored 35+ points in three straight games, putting up a ridiculous 41 against a good Panthers defense. The only time the Falcons appeared to be stoppable was when they willingly shifted to being more conservative to burn down the clock.
More importantly, this Falcons offense may be one of the most aggressive ever. From the very first pass, this offense went right after the Panthers. It is a mentality we haven’t really seen from this team before, and it’s getting stronger with each game. Ryan is consistently challenging downfield now, and it forces opposing safeties to think twice before moving up into the box.
The payoff for this type of aggressive play will come down the road, as defenses get more and more nervous about the deep shots the team will take. It’s a fantastic development, and Ryan’s accuracy with the deep ball appears to be as good as it has ever been. If they stay aggressive, this offense has a chance to be nearly unstoppable. At the very least, it’s ridiculously fun to watch.
The defense may be turning a corner
Through the first three quarters, the Panthers offense looked absolutely lost. The Falcons finally were able to put together some pressure on the QB and it showed in his inaccurate passes and frustrated play.
Granted, the team allowed the Panthers to come storming back in the fourth quarter and mental lapses still appear to be there, but there were signs that this team is beginning to turn the corner. We kept Greg Olsen in check for a good portion of the game and limited the Panthers to only an offensive field goal for most of the first half.
If the team is going to have success for the rest of the year, they have to figure out how to keep these performances consistent. The glimpses are there and it may be 2017 before we see the consistency, but there are definite signs this group may be turning the corner.
The rookies are looking good
Keanu Neal. Deion Jones. Austin Hooper. Brian Poole. All four of these rookies made plays today and are an important part of the future of this franchise. If this team is going to be successful for the long run, these young players will be a key part of it. So far, the early returns are promising.
Deion Jones has looked very good early on, showcasing his speed and unexpected physicality through four games. Neal has also shown to be a fast safety, capable of closing the gap quickly and limiting damage. He even successfully covered Greg Olsen on several plays, taking him away as a receiving option. Austin Hooper netted another big reception - this one for a touchdown - showing that he should be an even bigger factor in 2017 and beyond. Brian Poole - the un-drafted rookie from Florida - has been solid as our nickel corner, a critical role on a defense that plays more than half of it’s snaps out of nickel sets. This doesn’t even touch on De’Vondre Campbell’s start, who will hopefully return soon from injury.
Rookies are always going to make mistakes, and there are likely to be some painful moments from these guys this year. But the early returns are encouraging and speak well to the future of this franchise.
What are your takeaways from the Panthers game?