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Falcons Team Report


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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports - Oct 4, 2:05 am EDT

Inside Slant

Notes, Quotes

Strategy and Personnel

Matt Ryan's legend and one of the best comeback quarterbacks will only just grow after what he did to the Carolina Panthers last week.

With their backs to the end zone and no timeouts left, Ryan, a fifth-year starter and one-time Pro Bowler, led the Falcons on a 77-yard drive to set up kicker Matt Bryant's game-winning 40-yard field goal with five seconds left.

The Falcons improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2004 and just the third time in franchise history (1986, 2004 and 2012) with a 30-28 come-from-behind win.

"They don't call him 'Matty Ice' for nothing," running back Michael Turner said. "We have faith in our quarterback, no matter what the situation."

Trailing 28-27 with 59 seconds remaining in the game, Ryan dropped back on first down from the 1-yard line to within inches of the back of the end zone and threw the ball 69 yards down the field. Wide receiver Roddy White soared over Carolina safety Haruki Nakamura to haul down the pass.

Two more plays of seven and six yards and Bryant was sent out to win the game.

The victory was the 17th game-winning drive that Ryan has engineered in the fourth quarter or overtime during his career.

"We're a quarter of the way through the season and we're right where we need to be in terms of our record," Ryan said. "I think that in terms of our play we've got a lot of improving to do. We made some mistakes; ultimately we made enough big plays to win."

Ryan, a determined and driven young man, doesn't want to rest on his laurels.

"I think that everyone is of the mindset that we need to get back to work," Ryan said. "We feel like we can get a lot better and that's what we're going to set out to do. We're going to try and improve."

Carolina has caught the wrath of Ryan a lot.

He has led the Falcons on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter in each of the team's last three games against the Panthers. Ryan is 5-0 against the Panthers at the Georgia Dome.

Earlier against Carolina, Ryan hit White for a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The scoring strike was Ryan's ninth of the season and marked the 19th straight game in which he has thrown a touchdown pass.

Ryan has tossed multiple touchdown passes in each game this season and the Falcons own a 28-5 record when he throws at least two touchdowns in a game.

He finished the game with a season-high 369 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He completed 25 of 40 pass attempts and posted a 107.2 passer rating in the win. Dating back to the 2011 season finale, Ryan has posted a passer rating above 100 in five straight games, including all four games in 2012.

It was Ryan's 11th career 300-yard game. He is just two 300-yard performances away from overtaking Steve Bartkowski's all-time mark of 12, set from 1975 to 1985. In 2011, Ryan set a single-season club record with six 300-yard passing games.

The Falcons are 27-0 when Ryan has a passer rating of 100-plus since 2008.

The Carolina win marked the first time he's posted a rating above 100 in four consecutive games in a single season.

Overall, Ryan has completed 102 of 147 pass attempts (69.4 percent) for 1,162 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions for an NFL-best 112.1 passer rating.

Now, the Falcons will try and move on from that game and extend their record to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.

"I don't really think about it too much in terms of the grand view, the big picture, the entire history of the organization," Ryan said. "What it would mean for us right now is we've gotten off to a good start. We've got a lot of work to do before we get there and we can't think about how we'll feel after this game. It's all about trying to get ourselves prepared to play it."

Ryan gives a great deal of credit to new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

"I think it's been good," Ryan said. "I think he's done a great job early on this season. He's a really good teacher and a very good play-caller. He's certainly put us in good position to make plays. I think he's done a great job."

SERIES HISTORY: 22nd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 14-6-1. The Falcons have won their last two road games with Washington. Prior to that, Atlanta was 0-9 against the Redskins

Notes, Quotes

The right hand laceration Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones suffered at San Diego in Week 3 didn't prevent him from finishing that game or playing Sunday against Carolina.

But the injury has hindered Jones from having the kind of big-play impact expected from the second-year receiver. As Jones' hand heals, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter expects him to be more involved in the offense and capitalize on more chances than he did during Atlanta's victory against Carolina on Sunday.

"Absolutely," Koetter said. "He still had eight targets. That's a fair number; it just didn't work out. Eight targets and one catch is not a good percentage. Julio's hand is not 100 percent. Credit him for playing and running his routes hard.

"But there's no doubt, (as) we've seen him in some earlier games this year, when he's 100 percent he will be even more effective."

Even with Jones hindered by the cut on his hand Sunday, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 369 yards on 40 attempts with three touchdowns. The passing game was elevated by Roddy White's big plays against Carolina's aggressive defense and the 60-yard touchdown catch by running back Michael Turner.

The first time the Falcons ever started a season 4-0 they ended up succumbing to injuries and, perhaps, their own doubts about whether they really were that good.

The second time the Falcons were perfect through four games they ended up winning the NFC South and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

The Falcons, 4-0 for just the third time in franchise history, are looking to finish more like 2004 than 1986.

"They have a very, very good chance," said Gerald Riggs, the Pro Bowl running back on the 1986 Falcons team. "Everybody can look to everything in the regular season, but the proof is what happens in the postseason. They should have no issue getting in the postseason."

The franchise that started play in 1966 has never opened a season 5-0.

By The Numbers:

28 - The Falcons home record is 28-6 under coach Mike Smith.

Quote To Note:

"I was probably chilling in the cradle, you know what I mean. I was watching TV or something. I was born in 1985. I was out in the world. I was chilling, probably watching Sesame Street."

—Falcons safety William Moore on what he was doing back in 1986, the first time the franchise started the season 4-0

Strategy nad Personnel

The pass protection had been stout until the Panthers romped around the Georgia Dome, amassing seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits.

But Falcons coach Mike Smith elected not to place all of the blame on the offensive line.

Smith and wide receiver Roddy White pointed out that receivers were not breaking off routes in some blitz situations and that forced quarterback Matt Ryan to hold the ball longer than the play required. Also, Carolina appeared to sit on some of Ryan's favorite routes.

"There are a lot of factors that go into protecting the quarterback," Smith said. "We gave up way too many sacks in the game, but they weren't all on the offensive line. I can assure you that. It was an effort that everybody was a part of. We've got to shore up our pass protection."

Player Notes

QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL with a 112.1 passing rating. In his career, the Falcons are 27-0 when Ryan has a 100-plus rating (4-0 in 2012).

RB Michael Turner rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the last meeting with the Redskins.

WR Roddy White had eight catches for 169 yards (21.1 average) and two touchdowns last week. Since 2007, his 498 receptions are the most in the NFC


WR Julio Jones in nine career road games has 51 catches for 919 yards (102.1 per game) and eight touchdowns.

TE Tony Gonzalez has a touchdown in two of three career games against the Redskins.

Injury Impact

TE Michael Palmer (shoulder) and did not play against Carolina and is not expected to play against Washington. He did not practice on Wednesday.

RB Antone Smith (hamstring) returned to practice and was limited.

FB Lousaka Polite(left hamstring) did not practice


DT Jonathan Babineaux (groin) was limited in practice.

LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh) was limited in practice.

WR Julio Jones (hand) fully participated.

C Todd McClure (pectoral) was limited in practice.

Game Plan:

After facing Carolina's Cam Newton, a player that has to be accounted for in the run game, the Falcons will face another talented runner in Robert Griffin III.

The defensive ends, John Abraham (five tackles), Kroy Biermann (two) and Ray Edwards (three), played a key role against Carolina's read-zone option.

Washington runs some of the same plays and the Falcons must prepare for the bootleg looks that Mike Shanahan's offense has featured this season.

Newton had nine rushes for 86 yards and passed for 215 more yards.

"I think we've got an idea of what worked and what didn't work," Smith said. "We're going to be facing a very similar offense. Robert Griffin III is not nearly as big. He's got more foot speed than the quarterback that we just played. We're going to have some different issues."

Matchups To Watch:

Falcons CB Asante Samuel, who is looking for his first interception this season, vs. Redskins WR Pierre Garcon, who is averaging 25.8 yards per catch. The dangerous Garcon, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, has an 88-yard touchdown reception, the longest in the league this season. He missed two games with a foot injury. He played against Tampa Bay last week and caught a pass for 20 yards. Samuel has been playing well in run support and hasn't been challenged much this season.

Falcons WR Roddy White, who had a big game last week, vs. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall, who played four seasons with the Falcons from 2004-07 and had 17 interceptions. White had eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns last week against Carolina. White and Hall used to work against each other in practice and know each other's moves and tendencies. Hall had an interception last week against Tampa Bay.

Falcons RT Tyson Clabo, who struggled last week against Carolina's Charles Johnson, vs. Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan, who had a sack last week and is aiming for his fifth game with at least a half a sack. He had a solid rookie campaign in 2011 as he finished second on the team with 7.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Football Writers' Association's All-Rookie Team. He's being asked to pick up the production that was lost when linebacker Brian Orakpo went down with a season-ending pectoral injury. He has 3.5 sacks this season and has knocked down seven passes.


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