There was definitely sweating occurring late from the Falcons fan base and probably from those roaming the Falcons sidelines. Nonetheless, the Falcons emerged victorious, 34-27, against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The win was largely aided by a fast start by the Falcons, which to be fair, we have seen numerous times this season. It is the third win over the last four games by the Falcons and interim head coach Raheem Morris is rightfully credited for this team’s improved play. Let’s highlight the takeaways from this solid win by Atlanta.
Good ol’ Matt Ryan
Understandably, the play of Matt Ryan has been overlooked this season. Given that the team started 0-5, Ryan even took a considerable amount of blame, largely unfairly I might add. However, at the time of this writing, Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards, is 13th in passing touchdowns, and third in the league in passing plays of 20 yards or more. Against the Broncos on Sunday, Ryan was his normal self.
Ryan completed 25-of-35 for 284 yards and three touchdowns along with an interception. It should also be noted that Ryan had this solid outing without his stud receiver Calvin Ridley. Ryan also completed passes to eight different receivers. In addition, Ryan recorded a QB rating of 105.1 or more for the third time in the last four games. Ryan has been inserted in plenty of trade rumors this season, yet his play this season has been excellent and is the key reason why the Falcons offense has been as productive as it often has been this year.
Digging deep in the depth chart
The Falcons had to take the field here without one of their best playmakers in Ridley due to a foot injury. Sure, having the rare specimen that is Julio Jones is a luxury but with Jones likely seeing plenty of double teams all game long, the Falcons were going to need a few to step up in Ridley’s absence.
That indeed occurred from second-year receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. The former Virginia Cavalier posted a career-high 103 receiving on just four receptions. His day included a 51-yard touchdown bomb from Ryan to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter. If you recall, Zaccheaus also posted an 86-yard day against Green Bay back in week four. It was an outing that the Falcons needed opposite Jones, especially on a day when the running game was not necessarily reliable. Zaccheaus is listed as fourth on the depth chart at receiver but on Sunday, he proved that he is capable of developing and being a weapon in this offense.
The maturation of Foye
I’m not sure if anyone felt that a breakout season was on the horizon for Foye Oluokun but he is in the midst of one. On Sunday, the former Yale standout led the team in tackles with 10 and even recorded his first sack of the season along with four quarterback hits. As a safety in college, Oluokun was expected to have a transitional stage but so far this season, he has exceeded expectations and has been the author of many of the season’s biggest plays.
At this point of the season, Oluokun has played 71% of the team’s defensive snaps and has already eclipsed his snap total from last season. For a defense that has taken plenty of body blows this season, Oluokun has been able to pack his own punch and be a reliable asset on the defensive side of the ball, and seems to be getting better by the week.