The Atlanta Falcons took care of business and then some up in Indianapolis against the hapless (and winless) Colts. It wasn’t the most perfect game they’ve ever played (that interception on the 1 inch line being particularly atrocious), but the Falcons took control early on and the game seemed much farther out of reach than the score indicated. The Birds did what they needed to against an inferior team and now must get ready for one of the biggest games of the year as they host the NFC South leading and most hated New Orleans Saints. A look at the needed win up in Indy….
Yes, it was only one game, but fans looking for a breakout game from the heralded rookie Julio Jones finally got one. The detractors will surely always be there and it was just one game against the worst team in the NFL, but the “explosion” that everyone had been waiting on finally came to fruition.
The first long touchdown was a thing of beauty. Matt Ryan threw a long bomb to the tune of almost 57 yards in the air (so much for the weak arm argument) and the ball appeared to be doomed where 3 Colt defenders were right around the ball. Jones found the ball in the air, dove, and found a way to come down with the ball. The ruling on the field was initially called incomplete, but after urging Coach Smith to challenge the play, it was ruled a catch and a touchdown.
The next one was just as spectacular where Jones caught a quick slant and turned on the jet burners for beautiful 80 yard touchdown catch and run. It was just one game and he’ll always have “the trade” hanging over his head, but no one can argue about his production and potential. In only 6 games played, Jones has 489 yards receiving, three 100 yard receiving game, and 2 touchdowns. He also has plays of 49, 50, and 80 yards. To be sure, Dimitroff gave up a lot, but if early returns are any indication, it was well worth it.
The Falcons did what they were supposed to and got off to an excellent start against a sub-par team. They gobbled up a fumble on the first series of defense and drove down a short field to score a touchdown without putting the ball in the air. The defense had another great day on 3rd downs and the Falcons were quickly up 14-0 and then 21-0 with Julio Jones fireworks. Even though the one interception was beyond egregious, the game never seemed in any doubt whatsoever.
Matt Ryan generally had a pretty good day with almost 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. However, Ryan still isn’t looking the sharpest he’s looked. Not just including the awful interception, there were several balls that could have or should have been picked off. He had some moments of excellence including his 3 touchdown tosses and several good and long 3rd down conversions, but he has 9 interceptions at the halfway point compared to 12 touchdown passes. Maybe it’s the scheme or maybe it’s just Ryan having a less-than-stellar year, but his overall play will need to improve if the Falcons want to reach their goals.
Michael Turner looked good early on and finished with 71 yards and a touchdown before they reduced his workload as the game was out of reach. Speaking of Turner, he’s up to almost 700 yards rushing with 7 touchdowns at the halfway point. Jacquizz Rodgers got 10 carries in the game and didn’t disappoint with 44 yards rushing and chipped in a nice 16 yard catch out of the backfield. Jason Snelling even got 8 carries in the contest and Julio Jones ran for 33 yards on 2 reverses. The loss of Ovie Mughelli was a terrible blow, but it appears that an upside may be Rodgers and Snelling getting more playing time.
It was against officially the worst team in the NFL, but the Falcons defense continued their good work by limiting the Colts to no offensive points and held them to a 28% third down conversion rate (4-14). They got one interception from Kelvin Hayden and had their hands on several more. They got two more sacks courtesy of Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters (who now has three on the year) and good pressure from Abraham, Edwards, and Nicholas. They had glimpses of going back into the hated soft zone, but that was probably a product of the game never being in doubt. They’ll get another huge test against Brees and Saints next weekend, but they have improved almost every week and appear to be the defense fans have been waiting on. They now own the NFL’s longest streak for getting at least one takeaway at 27 games, which is impressive all on it’s on.
Fans probably started to feel that same sinking feeling of allowing their opponent back in the game when Ryan threw that terrible interception right before halftime and allowed the Colts to cut the lead to 21-7. The Birds under Coach Smith have had tons of examples of allowing teams to get into rhythm and get back in the game, but much to their credit they put this one out of reach. They came out in the second half and had a forgettable series and had to punt. The defense got the ball back to the offense and the Falcons went on a 73 yard scoring drive to make it 28-7. The Falcons definitely let off the gas towards the end, but the game never seemed to in doubt and that’s something they’ve had a problem with in the past.
Next up of course is the Falcons biggest rival: the New Orleans Saints. The Saints just beat the Bucs to send them to a 4-4 record and it appears that this game is even bigger than it once was. The Falcons can take the division lead with a win over the Saints on Sunday, with two more home games and easy patch of a schedule coming up (Titans, Vikings, Jaguars). Conversely, a loss would be a major blow to a team that seems to be hitting a stride and away games to the Saints, Panthers, and Texans. Any Falcons-Saints game is always huge, but with their respective records and the way the schedule is setting up, this one is even bigger.
Have a go at the Falcons 3rd win in a row over the hapless Colts………