With October upon us raise your hand if you thought the Atlanta Falcons would be in sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Yep, just what I thought.
The Atlanta Falcons after a dysfunctional tart to the season at home won their second game in a row Monday night defeating divisional rival New Orleans 45-32. Not many people paid attention since over 84 million tuned into the first presidential debate, but those that witnessed saw another dominating performance by the visiting Falcons.
The Falcons lead the league in points scored with 104. To give you an idea of how strong the Atlanta offense is so far, the 45 points scored Monday night is more than both the Titans and Texans have scored all season (42 apiece). The LA Rams have only scored 46 points through three games and the Seahawks, who many believe will represent the NFC again in the Super Bowl, have only scored 52 points all season.
“We’ve got a lot of unselfish guys, and we have a group of guys who just want to win. I mean, and I’m not positive, but I think we had eight different guys catch the ball. That’s a lot of people for a defense to key in on. Our wide receivers also did a great job on seam blocking on the outside a lot to get our running backs into the secondary so they could be as effective as they were,” said Atlanta’s Matt Ryan about the offense.
The Falcons have done an about face after an opening day loss that had many wondering if second year coach Dan Quinn was already on the hot seat as the offense moved the ball but were unable to capitalize once inside the red zone. “We wanted to really be aggressive. We wanted to make sure that if it was a fourth down attempt, we needed to convert. We wanted to make sure in every way that we wanted to stay aggressive and keep attacking. The team did a very nice job of mixing up the run and the pass, knowing that there were going to be certain things there for us,” said Quinn.
While it’s too early to reserve playoff tickets there is conservative hope the offense that sputtered the second half of last season are finally firing on all cylinders. Granted we’re only three games into the season at this point but the Falcons so there is plenty of time for us to get disappointed once again. But for the record the Falcons are number one in the league in total yards, as the offense has averaged 448 yards a game. The passing game slipped to fifth place in total yards as Ryan threw for only 240 yards against the Saints, but he did throw for two scores and there were no turnovers. Ryan didn’t need to pass as much thanks to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Campbell. Freeman and Coleman accounted for 194 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns and 102 yards through the air and another score.
“It is really exciting to run the ball like we did tonight. We mixed up the play-calling and I thought it caught them (Saints) off balance a little bit on the defense. We were all up to the challenge out there. Coming into this stadium and winning on the road; we’re really proud of the victory,” said Falcons tackle Jake Matthews.
The continuing liability for the Falcons remains the defense. They did manage their first sack of the season Monday night, but Drew Brees once again put on a passing clinic as he threw for 376 yards and three scores. But an interception late in the game helped seal the Saints’ fate. Deion Jones returned the Brees interception 90 yards for the score, which at that point gave Atlanta a 20-point lead at 45-25.
“While I was running, it seemed to be going in slow motion. When I got near the end zone, I said to myself, ‘I have got to get across the line and get in.’ It was just amazing to come back here and play in front of all of my fellow New Orleanians as well as in front of my entire family. It was a blessing. It was like a dream come true,” said Jones of his interception return.
“We’ve beat them before on a Thursday night, but on Monday night they’ve had our number the last few years. To go out there and get the victory against them tonight; it is going to make the ride home so much sweeter,” said Falcons linebacker Sean Witherspoon.
The Falcons return home to the confines of the Georgia Dome Sunday where they will face league MVP Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have already lost twice as many games as they lot all of last year. Sunday saw Newton get sacked eight times as the Panther quarterback has been used as a punching bag the first three games as he has taken a lot of hits already. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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