The NFC should be afraid. Very afraid. The Atlanta Falcons offense is finally waking up and at the right time. For the second week in a row the Falcons posted 34 points this time defeating the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers. En route to the win Julio Jones woke up from a season long slumber to enter the NFL record books again.
Joins becomes the first receiver in NFL history to have three 250-yard receiving games. Sunday he hauled in 12 passes for 253 yards and two scores highlighting an offensive highlight spectacle for the Falcons.
Despite scoring 34 points Monday night, the offense had one of their worst performances in recent memories gaining on 89 yards on the ground and snapping Matt Ryan’s 64 game streak of consecutive games with at least 200 yards passing. Well they made up for it Sunday.
By half time the Falcons had almost as many yards passing as they did the entire game against Seattle (191 to 195) as Ryan passed for 317 yards and a touchdown. Mohammed Sanu added another 51 yards as he threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jones to shake things up early in the second quarter to break a 3-3 tie. Tevin Coleman added to the offensive onslaught at he had 97 yards on 12 carries. Terron Ward added another 35 but a fumble on a long run deep in Tampa Bay territory almost spoiled a great offensive performance by Atlanta.
Holding on to a 27-20 lead midway through the fourth Ward broke free for a 15 yard run into the red zone but the ball was stripped and the Buccaneers picked up the loose ball. Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick engineered a drive deep into Atlanta territory but were unable to convert a third and two at the Falcons 19 and a fourth and one at the 18 turning the ball over on downs.
That’s when Ryan and the Falcons went to work again. Ryan went 4-of-4 on the drive mixing runs by Coleman and Ward with Coleman going around the right end and diving into the end zone to extend Atlanta’s lead to 34-20 with 1:53 to play.
For the first time in recent memory the Falcons played a complete game on offense. Ryan once again had all the time in the world in the pocket as he and Jones appear to be back in the groove they were in the second half of last season when they started their run to the Super Bowl. With almost 400 yards passing and almost 150 yards rushing, not to mention Andre Roberts’ kick returns made the Falcons a three-headed monster. Add to that constant pressure on Tampa Bay QB Ryan Fitzpatrick despite only one interception the Falcons may be putting the NFC on notice winning their third game in a row and their first of a three-game home stand.
The best thing about Sunday was Julio got his groove back. Perhaps the league’s best receiver Jones has bee sub-par all season and at no fault of his own. Sure, defenses have been double teaming him – that’s nothing new. The problem coming into the game was routes and play calling. Week after week after week I have complained about the offense’s inability or lack of desire to stretch the field. When you’ve got the reigning NFL NVP and most dangerous receiver on your team why are you throwing short routes all the time and the fact you have at least eight or nine guys on your team that can catch the ball, why have Ryan’s numbers gone down as well as Julio’s. Sunday was indeed a breakout for both going forward and despite my concerns with the offense to date the Falcons are sitting at 7-4 only one game out of first place and in the sixth seed for the playoffs. With five game remaining they have three home games and four of the last five are against teams in playoff contention for this season. They have NFC North leaders this Sunday followed by two games against the Saints and finish the season against Carolina.
Weird crowds, politic and injuries have made the NFL hard to watch at times this season. There have been no breakout receivers or big games this season with Odell Beckham on IR and Julio being underutilized. His 253-yard game Sunday was just the thing to make the NFL more interesting this season. For the first time in a long time it was nice to hear the announcer on the P.A. yell, “Joooolio!” after one catch after another. Welcome back Julio, I hope you’re here to stay.
The Falcons remain home this Sunday s they host the Minnesota Vikings. Kickoff is 1pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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