The Falcons could not have looked more impressive on offense than they did on Thursday night. The team didn’t punt a single time, and the offense looked effortless in putting over 40 on the board yet again. Amazingly, this team may actually be getting better on offense, while the young defense continues to show signs that they may not be a complete liability. These are just a few of my takeaways from this game.
Ryan is the clear MVP leader right now
Just to think, in the first game of the season, Falcons fans were booing QB Matt Ryan. Since that game, he’s done nothing but put together the best season he’s ever had, and one of the best in the league right now. He leads the league in several major categories, and he’s already passed his TD total from all of last year.
Stats are just stats, though. The real difference is that Ryan is protecting the ball (only 4 INTs) and is spreading the ball around in a way that makes this offense nearly unstoppable. He’s already thrown a TD pass to 11 different receivers and the team is 3-1 when Julio doesn’t have 100 yards - something that was unthinkable last year.
Forget what you’ve heard about Tom Brady being the front-runner. Matt Ryan is playing at an All-Pro level and should be considered the clear leader for the MVP race right now.
The defense keeps improving
No one will mistake the injured Buccaneers as a top offensive unit, but they have historically owned the Falcons since drafting Jameis Winston. In the first half of the game, it looked like the D was going to let us down again.
Then it clicked. Whatever it is that keeps happening with this defense, they figured it out. In the second half, the defense continually hurried Jameis Winston, adding 3 sacks to their total and generally just forcing the Bucs QB to rush throws or throw it away. Forget the final score, this defense effectively shutdown the crazy crab legs for the second half, before they amassed stats in garbage time.
That said, this still isn’t a “good” defense, but the arrow is pointing up. Each game is showing growth in key areas. Whether it’s the pass rush, or solid tackling, or younger corners doing well in coverage - there are reasons to be optimistic that this could eventually be a top-10 defense.
Youth coming through big
Austin Hooper. Taylor Gabriel. Deion Jones. Keanu Neal. De’Vondre Campbell. Grady Jarrett. Vic Beasley. All of these young players were big contributors last night, and all are clearly a part of the long-term future for the team.
Falcons 3 leading tacklers (Campbell, Jones, Neal) last night were all rookies. You don't see that very often, especially on a 6-3 team.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) November 4, 2016
As much fun as this season has been so far, it’s the promise for the future that has many fans truly excited. We’re already seeing significant contributions from many of our young players, which gives us the hope that - if they continue to improve - this could be a very good, young team in the coming years. After going through the painful stretch between 2013 and 2015, seeing a young and exciting roster come together is such a relief.
What are your takeaways from the game against the Bucs?