The team’s six-game losing streak came to a thunderous close as the team put 26 points on the New Orleans defense and held the Saints’ explosive offense to only three field goals.
No one saw this coming, and it’s hard to tell right now what exactly it means. But one thing’s for sure: these Falcons do not look like the ones we’ve seen so far in 2019.
Here’s what we learned from this shocking upset.
1. The pass rush has life
After a dismal season of leaving quarterbacks free to frolic on the gridiron, the Falcons defensive line stepped up in major way Sunday.
Grady Jarrett led the charge with 2.5 sacks on the day, with Vic Beasley at 1.5 and Takk McKinley, Adrian Clayborn and De’Vondre Campbell also registering play-ending hits on Drew Brees.
This groundswell of sacks comes against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, mind you, even with an injury to Andrus Peat.
Whatever the Falcons did worked Sunday in terms of scheming, and it’d be a welcome sight for this to continue.
2. Brian Hill deserves a bigger chance
Brian Hill’s soaring preseason has amounted to not much as he’s sat on the depth chart behind Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith throughout the season.
Smith wound up on IR before this game, and Freeman left during action with what’s said to be a foot sprain. Chances are Hill’s in for at least 1-2 games as the team’s featured back, then.
Hill stepped up in Freeman’s absence Sunday, rushing for 60 yards and hauling in a 10-yard touchdown to help the Falcons cement its victory.
The former fifth-round pick returned to Atlanta last season after being initially waived and spending time elsewhere for his rookie year, and he’s shown in time granted why he’s worth keeping around and giving reps.
He’s played quite well and with an attitude that’s refreshing for a run game that’s been so poor all season. The Falcons need more of this from Hill going forward, and probably even more than this.
3. Matt Ryan is pretty healthy
After missing time for the first time in a decade with an ankle sprain, Ryan looked pretty much like his normal self in his return to action.
He threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns on the day, and only logged an errant pick on a mistimed throw to Calvin Ridley as a major loss on the day. A couple of balls were off, but the gameplan was more of a limiting factor than his arm.
He’s going to need about another game or so to work on the longer distance throws, but he mainly looked like the reliable signal caller we’ve come to expect.
4. Dan Quinn’s seat is less aflame than before
Beating your archrival on their turf for the first time in three years and doing that in part with an aggressive stand from the defense only helps Quinn’s cause as his fate hangs in the balance for Black Monday.
He’s not out of the woods or anything, but Sunday showed his team respond to his call for improvement and admirable flexibility on DQ’s part to cede control of the defense to Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich. His changes worked in a key matchup.
This will have to be how the team plays just about every week for him to solidify his return next season, which is a tall task and by no means guaranteed. But, right now, Quinn has to feel much better about things than he did before kickoff. His team responded and the man he really needs to impress (that’d be Arthur Blank) has to be pleased.
5. Younghoe Koo was better than expected
A bit similar to how Giorgio Tavecchio did in stead for Matt Bryant last season, new Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo was great in his first game in red and black. He was even more productive than Tavecchio, however.
He hit all four of his field goals (even one from 48 yards out) and was sound in kicking XPs.
Koo, a Georgia Southern grad, will get the rest of the way to prove why he’s the guy to be Bryant’s long-term successor throughout the rest of the year.
If this is how he plays, he might just take the job for the long haul.