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Falcons In-Season News

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Julio Jones not concerned after tweaking left ankle

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 9:56 PM ET


 

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who re-injured his left ankle during Sunday's 31-24 loss to Tampa Bay, said he's not concerned about it being a lingering issue.

Jones first injured the ankle running a deep route in the third preseason game against Miami. He ran a similar route in the fourth quarter Sunday and pulled up hurt after the incompletion.

``I'm good, though,'' Jones said. ``You're never going to be 100 percent anymore. I've played through things. It's nothing that's going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do.''

Last week, Jones was limited in practice a few days before returning to full participation Thursday.

Jones had just four catches for 66 yards against the Buccaneers, including a 25-yard touchdown. He was targeted eight times total and had just one catch (14 yards) on two targets in the first half. Jones didn't have that catch until the 9:47 mark of the second quarter.

``They just tried to take me away early on in the ball game,'' Jones said. ``We expected that, with (Bucs defensive coordinator) Mike Smith and him coaching me, being my head coach. And Dirk Koetter, also. They know what I'm capable of doing. We just knew coming into the game that they were going to do that.

``I feel like I played my position and did my part by drawing coverage. And (Mohamed) Sanu did a heck of a job early on for us.''

Sanu, who hobbled around the locker room nursing his own ankle injury, had five catches for 80 and a 5-yard touchdown catch in his Falcons' debut. He was wide-open one play-action pass from Ryan which led to a 59-yard gain. However, the Falcons had to settle for a field goal in the red zone.

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Falcons, Dan Quinn, agreed not to protest anthem on 9/11

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he spoke to his players prior to Sunday's season opener and the team agreed not to stage any demonstrations or protest during the national anthem.

"As a group, we felt like we wanted to make Sunday about 9/11 and the memory of that day and the significance for our country on that day," Quinn said. "Not to take away from anybody else, but we just felt on that day, (9/11) was a game-changer for lots of us. And for the guys who were young coming up, we talked about that and we even showed some film on that for Saturday morning to now look at it as a 24, 25, 26 year old as opposed to some of the young guys that they were; look at it from an adult view.

"For all us who are standing here, it was a significant time and one that we will always remember. But for the guys who were the young guys, they were in middle school and third period in the fourth grade. We had a lot of talk about it. We really did. But we really want to make that day about 9/11 and give its significance and its due the proper respect."

Pro Bowl fullback Patrick DiMarco talked about the discussion and resulting decision.

"It just shows that this team is really getting tight, that we can have those tough conversations and we can open up," DiMarco said. "We're a brotherhood. We respect each other's opinion. Not everybody always agrees with each other, but we're a brotherhood."

DiMarco expressed his thoughts about the anthem protest, as a whole, which were sparked by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to initially sit through the national anthem to protest the treatment of minorities.

"There is a social issue," DiMarco said. "There's plenty of stuff that's going on out there that's not right in the world. You've got to respect everyone for their opinion and their beliefs on everything. I think there's something bigger that we can do to get this point across. I don't know if stuff toward the flag and toward the country is the way to go with it.

"I know us, as the Atlanta Falcons organization, hopefully we can get out into the community and really do something to truly impact it, especially here in Atlanta. Down the road, something needs to change. We've got to fix it. But as a football team, we can't let it affect how we play. It can't be something that takes our minds off football. Our job it to play football. We have a great platform where we can voice our opinions and stuff. But when you win games, people listen to what you say."

The Falcons take a 0-1 record into next week's road trip to face the 1-0 Oakland Raiders.

 

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Three offensive starters, led by Julio Jones, limited for Falcons

6:19 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Devonta Freeman all were limited as the Atlanta Falcons returned to the practice field Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's matchup with the Oakland Raiders.

Jones and Sanu caught passes together at the start of practice as they continue to recover from ankle injuries. Jones tweaked his left ankle in a 31-24 season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's the same ankle Jones injured in the third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins in Orlando.

"It's nothing that's going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do," Jones told ESPN.com.

Sanu tweaked his left ankle on the last series against the Buccaneers, when his foot got stuck in the surface while trying to pivot and come up with Matt Ryan's third-down desperation attempt.

"I'm good," Sanu said of the ankle. "When I planted, my foot got stuck. My ankle rolled, and I couldn't burst out of it. It was really weird, but everything happened. I couldn't do nothing about it. I kind of had my reaction late to the ball."

Freeman was limited by a quad injury, which will be something worth monitoring approaching Sunday's game. There's already a storyline developingat running back with Tevin Coleman getting almost as many snaps as the starting Freeman in Week 1. Coleman had 117 total yards on 13 touches, while Freeman had 40 yards on 15 touches.

Although first-round draft pick Keanu Neal ran sprints Wednesday, the strong safety still hasn't started practicing yet coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Neal hasn't been ruled out for the Raiders but seems highly unlikely to play.

Defensive end Brooks Reed, who suffered a shoulder injury in the opener, ran sprints alongside Neal and was held out of practice.

The only other player not on the practice field was 36-year-old defensive endDwight Freeney, who is unlikely to practice on Wednesdays for the entire season. The Falcons want to preserve Freeney's body so he's fresh to get after the passer come game day.

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Raiders' Khalil Mack is double trouble for Falcons

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Back in the offseason, Atlanta Falcons right tackleRyan Schraeder spent extensive time studying film of the handful of top pass-rushers on the team's 2016 schedule.

One player stood out above them all, and it wasn't Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

"What I saw from Khalil Mack, he's a freak," Schraeder said about the Oakland Raiders' young superstar, a player he'll face this Sunday. "He's a freak athlete. He's all over the place. He's just different. He's strong in the run game. From pass-rushers like that, you usually don't get guys that are just as good in the run game. He's good in both. That's the hard part about him."

Last season, Mack made NFL history in just his second season by becoming the first player to be named All-Pro at two positions: defensive end and outside linebacker. He had 15 sacks, 23 tackles for losses, 24 quarterback hits, 77 combined tackles, and two forced fumbles.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is well-aware of Mack.

"I think his skill-level is as good as anybody," Ryan said. "He's got the combination of really high in talent and an unbelievable motor. I mean, you're going to see him every snap. He gets after it every snap and he's relentless, whether it's run or pass. And to me, that makes him one of the more difficult guys to go against.

"He's one of the few combination type of guys that can really do both extremely well. And he plays hard. There's no substitute for guys that play hard play in and play out."

The Falcons gave up three sacks, allowed Ryan to be hit four times, and had a crucial false start by left tackle Jake Matthews in their season-opening 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now comes a matchup with Mack in the hostile "Black Hole" environment of O.Co Coliseum, so the Falcons will have to contend with Mack's speed off the edge along with the crowd noise.

Such will make it rather difficult for a Falcons team trying to come up with more plays down the field in the passing game as well as jump-start a running game that managed just 2.4 yards per carry in Week 1. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Falcons have been held to fewer than 90 rushing yards in six straight games dating to last season, their longest streak since a six-game stretch in 2013. Prior to that, their last streak longer than six games was a franchise-record 10-game stretch in 1994.

Mack rushes from both sides, so Schraeder and Matthews will have to be well aware of him.

"They've got two good players with him and (Bruce) Irvin out there," Matthews said. "... It's going to be good challenge for us."

 

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Falcons teammates give Matt Ryan a pass for wearing slippers, but not his wife

4:30 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan made a surprise fashion statement this week, one that certainly didn't go unnoticed in his own home.

During his weekly post-practice news conference, Ryan wore a pair of UGG slippers with no socks. Both Ryan and top receiver Julio Jones received a pair from their agency, CAA.

Ryan's new look drew a reaction from his wife, Sarah, who took to Twitter to voice her opinion.

And Ryan, who said he only wears the shoes at the facility, said he wasn't aware of his wife's tweet.

"She probably crushed me on it," Ryan said with a laugh. "I know how that goes."

His teammates actually took it easy on him. In fact, they applauded him. Tight end Jacob Tamme offered some color commentary.

"I'm just going on how they look; very comfortable," Tamme said. "There's a guy comfortable in his own skin, wearing those to a press conference where you can see his feet. Your average guy would feel like he needed to do something a little different. But really, jealously would be what I feel because they do look pretty comfortable."

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub was the first to identify them as UGG slippers because he owns a pair.

"Yeah, I've got a pair of those and they're comfortable," Schaub said. "I think they were like 80 bucks. It's all about comfort. It's all about taking care of those feet from Sunday to Sunday. If that's what he's comfortable wearing around here, I'm all for it.

"Plus some of the meeting rooms can be kind of cold, so to wear sandals or something could make your feet cold. If I brought mine in, I'd probably be wearing them, too."

The Falcons will be just fine as long as Ryan doesn't wear them on the field Sunday in Oakland.

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Julio Jones 'good to go' vs. Raiders but still cautious with left ankle

6:18 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones reiterated he'll be ready go against the Oakland Raiders Sunday after re-injuring his left ankle in a season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones emphasized not being too concerned about the ankle by saying he wouldn't push it if he felt it would affect him long-term. The Falcons have been cautious with their top player, as he was dinged up with foot and ankle injuries in the preseason and to start the regular season.

"No, I'm fine," Jones said Thursday. "I'm good. I'm good to go. It's nothing that I think about. Just can't play slow. If I feel like I can't go, I wouldn't go."

Jones was listed as limited for a second consecutive day Thursday. However, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Jones should return to full practice on Friday before the Falcons leave for Oakland.

Jones originally injured the ankle in the third preseason game against Miami in Orlando, Florida. He expressed little concern about tweaking the ankle last week.

Jones posted the second-highest single-season receiving total in NFL history with 1,871 yards on 136 catches last season. He had just four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in last week's 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons' No. 2 wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu, also is recovering from a left ankle injury suffered in the opener. Sanu also is expected to return to full practice Friday.

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan addressed how having both Jones and Sanu limited this week might affect the offense's preparation for the Raiders.

"It's something we're pretty used to," Shanahan said. "It was like that a lot last year, too. That's part of the NFL. You don't have a ton of guys, and it's a physical game. So, guys are beat up a lot."

Running back Devonta Freeman, who was limited with a bruised quad Wednesday, returned to full practice Thursday. Defensive end Brooks Reed was held out of practice for the second consecutive day Thursday with a shoulder injury.

Also, rookie starting inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell was added to the injury report with an ankle injury. Campbell was limited Thursday after having full participation Wednesday.

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Finally get to here from Kyle about the offensive strategy.  

 

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan on when he knows a running back has established a rhythm: "When I'm looking up, whether it's from the box or the sideline, and I think it's only a 3-yard gain, and I go to my call sheet and it's actually a 6-yard gain. We're blocking it for 3 but guys are running hard and making 3 on their own. When you get stuff like that, you get into rhythms. That makes it a lot easier to stick with it." Shanahan said he'll go with the hot hand between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Almost equal snaps and touches between the two in Week 1.

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

"We go no-huddle at least once every week," Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan said.

 

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5 hours ago, blkbigdog35 said:

Finally get to here from Kyle about the offensive strategy.  

 

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan on when he knows a running back has established a rhythm: "When I'm looking up, whether it's from the box or the sideline, and I think it's only a 3-yard gain, and I go to my call sheet and it's actually a 6-yard gain. We're blocking it for 3 but guys are running hard and making 3 on their own. When you get stuff like that, you get into rhythms. That makes it a lot easier to stick with it." Shanahan said he'll go with the hot hand between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield. Almost equal snaps and touches between the two in Week 1.

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

"We go no-huddle at least once every week," Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan said.

 

Hoping so...

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Falcons LB De'Vondre Campbell (ankle) out Sunday

2:09 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie starting linebackerDe'Vondre Campbell, who injured an ankle Thursday during practice, has been ruled out for the game Sunday at Oakland.

Campbell, a fourth-round draft pick from Minnesota, was expected to have a major role this week if the Falcons decided to increase their blitz package.

"It's sore, for sure," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Campbell's ankle. "So, we'll hold him this week. Honestly, not going to even give a timeline of (when). We're just going to grind for a while and just see, 'Hey, can we get it back in how soon of a time.'"

Campbell's absence means the Falcons won't have the player they expect to thrive in covering tight ends and running backs. He will be replaced at weak-side linebacker by veteran Sean Weatherspoon, a former first-round draft pick with 41 career starts.

Quinn also ruled out first-round draft pick Keanu Neal, who continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery. The rookie strong safety was not expected to play this week and didn't practice, but Neal did take a positive step by participating in some of the walkthrough Friday. Neal could return in Week 3, when the Falcons face the rival New Orleans Saints on ESPN Monday Night Football.

Wide receiver Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, both coming off ankle injuries had full participation in practice Friday and are set to play Sunday. Defensive end Brooks Reed, who was limited Friday with a shoulder injury, is questionable.

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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

League fined Falcons CB Robert Alford $9,115 following that altercation with Bucs WR Mike Evans that led to Alford's costly unnecessary roughness penalty. Alford said Evans head-butted him, and Alford stuck his finger at Evans' facemask in retaliation well after the play.

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FPI: RAIDERS HEAVY FAVES AGAINST FALCONS

The Raiders have a 71 percent chance of beating the Falcons, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Our NFL Insiders also agree that the Raiders can continue their momentum after a Week 1 win. Week 2 predictions (Insider)

 

BULLCHIT ON THAT NONSENSE!!!!!

 

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4 hours ago, blkbigdog35 said:

FPI: RAIDERS HEAVY FAVES AGAINST FALCONS

The Raiders have a 71 percent chance of beating the Falcons, according to ESPN's Football Power Index. Our NFL Insiders also agree that the Raiders can continue their momentum after a Week 1 win. Week 2 predictions (Insider)

 

BULLCHIT ON THAT NONSENSE!!!!!

 

We can win but Oakland's offense is hot and it's at their house.  Not going to be easy for us.  

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9 hours ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

We can win but Oakland's offense is hot and it's at their house.  Not going to be easy for us.  

I'm hoping they are sour about the bucs lost and want to get this win badly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, blkbigdog35 said:

I'm hoping they are sour about the bucs lost and want to get this win badly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, this is the kind of resilience I want to see from a Quinn led team.  

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6 hours ago, blkbigdog35 said:

TATF is a zoo right now. I will be posting stuff in here to keep it about football.

Yep, it's chicken little sky is falling over there right now.:D

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15 hours ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

Yep, it's chicken little sky is falling over there right now.:D

it's in full force over there. I'm probably going to avoid it for the rest of the day.

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What's going right for the NFL's top-rated passer, Matt Ryan

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Things certainly worked in Matt Ryan's favor in the Atlanta Falcons’ 35-28 win against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, and Ryan now sits in a rather good spot among NFL quarterbacks.

Make that the top spot.

As of Monday morning, Ryan is the league’s highest-rated quarterback with a passer rating of 121.4, right above Minnesota’s Sam Bradford (121.2), San Diego’s Philip Rivers (120.3), New England Jimmy Garoppolo (117.2), and Arizona’s Carson Palmer (113.5). Ryan has more passing attempts than any of the four players below him.

This is the same Matt Ryan who absorbed his share of criticism after the team's 31-24 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay; the same Matt Ryan who supposedly doesn’t mesh with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s philosophies.

So what changed suddenly? Well Sunday, everything seem to come together when the Falcons (1-1) needed it the most. Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His passing yardage was part of 528 total yards racked up by the Falcons against the struggling Raiders defense.

Ryan was on point with his passes, particularly off play-action. He shook off a red-zone interception. He was well protected against pass-rush demon Khalil Mack and, in turn, was able to take some shots down the field to Julio Jonesand rookie tight end Austin Hooper. And, of course, the no-huddle worked like a charm as the Falcons used it more often.

Ryan engineered scores on six of seven drives over a span between the second and fourth quarters. He helped the Falcons score three consecutive times in the red zone after the Falcons went 0-2 in the red zone in the first half and followed with Ryan’s red-zone interception in the third quarter.

"Yeah, I thought we did a great job offensively getting into a rhythm," Ryan said. "We didn’t do a whole lot in the first quarter, but once we kind of found our stride, we kept going and played really well. We did a better job in the red zone; still have some opportunities to continue to improve, areas we can get better."

Such is true, but the Falcons will take a performance like Sunday’s from Ryan any week moving forward. Inside the numbers, Ryan completed 7 of 9 passes against the blitz Sunday for 129 yards, two touchdowns, and six first downs, according to ESPN Statistics and Information.

Ryan finished 11 of 15 for 196 yards, a touchdown, and nine first downs off play-action, the most yards and attempts off play-action in his career. It certainly helped that running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 139 rushing yards on 29 carries, allowing for the play-action to be more effective. Freeman led the way with 93 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

Ryan found nine different receivers against the Raiders, led by Jones with five receptions for 106 yards and a 21-yard touchdown just outside the red zone. Justin Hardy's first career touchdown came off a jump ball that deflected off the hands of Coleman. And a touchdown pass to Jacob Tammecame on a day Ryan targeted his tight ends 13 times total.

Now Ryan and the Falcons just have to sustain the offensive momentum. He said entering the season that the team is capable of averaging 30 points per game. Well, the Falcons could have hit 50 had a few more red-zone opportunities gone their way in Oakland.

Next up is the rival New Orleans Saints (0-2) in ESPN's Week 3 "Monday Night Football" matchup. In two losses to the Saints last season, Ryan posted passer-ratings of 102.0 and 103.2 respectively, throwing four touchdowns with one interception.

The Falcons don’t need Ryan to be spectacular every week. They just need him to be consistently solid and avoid turnovers.

 

It's early I know but he is definitely showing great improvement but I got a feeling that his confidence is going to keep growing which definitely benefits the offense.  

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Falcons' Desmond Trufant: Injury not about the celebration

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant downplayed injuring his left leg after celebrating a play in Sunday's 35-28 win against theOakland Raiders.

The Pro Bowler stepped in front to break up a pass intended for Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and almost came up with the interception. Trufant leaped in the air twice and waved his hands after causing the incompletion. On the second jump, he fell to the ground holding his left leg.

"I didn't get injured because of the celebration," Truant said. "I always celebrate a play like that. I just felt something in my leg. I was worried for a moment, but I'm all good."

Trufant went to the sideline and received medical treatment immediately after the play, which occurred with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter. He returned to the game and ended up playing.

Trufant and Cooper battled all day.

"You see that I followed him the whole way," Trufant said. "I think there was one time where he was down in the slot where I couldn't get to him. What did he have, like five catches? I think I won that battle."

Cooper was targeted nine times and had 71 receiving yards, including a long play of 25 yards on a leaping grab in the soft spot of the zone. On Cooper's first catch -- a screen pass -- Trufant was playing well off as the Raiders went with a bunch set.

Trufant was whistled for pass interference on a third-down play against Cooper. And Cooper appeared to score a 51-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter while guarded by Trufant, but Trufant forced Cooper to step out of bounds and come back in, so Cooper was whistled for illegal touching to wipe out the score.

 

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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Julio Jones had an MRI after someone fell on his calf. Jones will be limited upon returning to practice Thursday. Rookie first rounder Keanu Neal (knee scope) will return to practice limited Thursday. No update on DeVondre Campbell (ankle).

 

Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer 

Dan Quinn said it was no huddle about 25 percent vs.Raiders. Not just about working out of shotgun. Ran no huddle under center too. Praised Alex Mack for helping the no huddle flow.

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Falcons vs. Raiders recap: Atlanta’s road win puts the team back on solid footing

139

The 35-28 triumph was a messy game, but it was a step forward for Atlanta, and a step forward is what was needed.

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic Sep 19, 2016, 8:00a
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult, as a writer on deadline, to not get wrapped up in the story in front of you. That story, during the third quarter when the Falcons lost the lead yet again, was a grim one. I may have typed out some metaphors that involved fire and sadness.

A funny thing happened on the way to a sad recap, though: The Falcons won. They won despite penalties and a classic Matt Ryan red zone interception and the lack of a pass rush and a fine day from the Raiders offense. They won despite Kyle Shanahan, Ryan, Dan Quinn, Bryan Cox, Robert Alford, and whichever frequent scapegoat you can scare up. They won on the road against a promising young team, even if that team’s defense looks far worse than advertised heading into the season. It was a good win.

I don’t know how many more good wins this team has in them, and neither do you. So many of us were ready to write this team off after that Buccaneers loss, and that may still wind up being the correct reaction when all is said and done, but we do not know. I’ve come to the conclusion that coming to conclusions is what the average football fan does best, and that it ultimately does no favors to our health or sanity to do so.

Here’s what we do know: Matt Ryan inarguably looks better than he did in this offense a year ago. The ground game looks like an asset, as do the tight ends. The defense looks shaky at best, the pass rush hasn’t materialized, and the Falcons are woefully thin at cornerback if injuries or ineffectiveness hit. This is a flawed football team that is going to drive us nuts on a weekly basis, but a quick glance at the state of the NFL right now is enough to tell you that all is not lost.

 

This is just a long-winded reminder that no story is truly written until it is finished, and the story of this 1-1 Falcons team isn’t close to over, whether it ends up being a tale of triumph or sorry talk of tragedy. If you’re tempted to write this team off or pencil them in for a playoff spot, then, I suggest you sit back and absorb the ride. It’ll take us...somewhere.

On to the full recap.

The Good

  • Matt Ryan was hot and cold through most of the first three quarters of the game, but he caught fire in a big way in the third. The first drive there ended in an ugly, mistimed interception, but the Falcons were chewing up huge chunks of yardage, and that continued on the very next drive, as Ryan swiftly brought them down the field and threw a 14 yard touchdown to Jacob Tamme. 

He then followed that with a crazy end zone risk that Justin Hardy caught off of a tip, putting Ryan at a lot of yards and three touchdowns for the day. The Oakland defense looks terrible after two weeks, but aside from a couple of missed throws and that pick, Ryan really does look genuinely improved this season. 

  • The ground game immediately looked better in this one, something that continued for the entire day. The Falcons have to run successfully if they’re going to be a team to beat in 2016, and they went a long way toward erasing doubt after a putrid first week on the ground.

Freeman was the hot hand, and he was terrific in the first half in particular, but Coleman wound up having a nice day and was once again a major factor in the passing game. This does truly look like a timeshare, and while that will drive their respective fantasy owners nuts, it benefits the Falcons.

 
  • Justin Hardy had been quiet this game and the last one, but that heads up catch off a tip in the end zone for a touchdown was a case of making a good play when you’re lucky enough to be in the right place the right time. Kudos to him.
  • Julio Jones has been having trouble with his ankle that I’m sure is in no way relate to other players stepping on it, but he still managed to deliver one **** of a day, putting up over 100 yards and a touchdown on just five targets (he caught all five). Ryan’s been spreading the ball around better this year, and while that will ultimately impact Julio’s numbers, he’s still eating.
  • The defense did not necessarily enjoy a stellar day, but there were some big stops and promising plays. Vic Beasley’s sack that wasn’t a sack (more on that shortly) and big run stop, Deion Jones and Kemal Ishmael flying all over the field to make plays
  • Every single one of you who had the audacity to criticize Eric Weems should be shut up in a shame clost for the next week. Weems had a brilliant 72 yard return that got him to the Oakland 19 late in the second quarter, and while the Falcons squandered that, he continues to be one of the better special teamers in the NFL.
  • Vic Beasley’s sack came when he ran Derek Carr out of bounds, but it was a key play and it did what it needed to do, so kudos to him. Hopefully this is the first of many this season. He also had a key third quarter run stop, and is hopefully just getting warmed up.
  • Give it up for the pass protection, which looked like it would go off the rails early in the game, but settled down in a big way. Jake Matthews was noticeably improved this week.

The Ugly

  • The pass rush quietly had an impact on this one, with the Falcons (Jonathan Babineaux in particular) getting into the backfield and impacting some throws, but it was on balance another anemic effort. Bryan Cox’s defensive line (and more broadly, Richard Smith’s defense) has been responsible for just one sack on the season, a handful of pressures, and has not shown the kind of improvement we’re all hoping for. There’s time, yes, but chances are the Falcons are going to shake things up here a bit in 2017, whether by firing coaches or changing over personnel.
  • Robert Alford has been underrated for years, in all honesty, which makes the first two games of the 2016 season frustrating. The call on him on the interception was perhaps borderline, but he had some lapse in coverage for the second straight game, and with the Falcons currently riding with only four cornerbacks, they really can’t afford Alford’s struggles.

Alford, of course, is working with an undrafted free agent rookie as the third cornerback and is responsible for covering good players, so we’re not going to beat him up too badly. He didn’t have a terrible game, on balance, and has the talent to have great ones.

  • What is going on with these penalties? You anticipate a certain number per game, no matter who the team is, but the Falcons have had some very bad, very costly penalties, including a 12 men on the field on an Oakland punt that led to a touchdown when the play was reversed. That Julio Jones spiked football call was, in my opinion, egregious on the part of the referees, but the Falcons still need to get these things cleaned up.
  • Broadly, this team came uncomfortably close to blowing this game multiple times, and if you can’t shake the feeling that too many of the missed tackles, penalties, and missed opportunities look the same as they did a year ago, you’re not alone. That’s the quiet undercurrent we need to pay attention to in a close loss, because if Atlanta continues to screw up in the same ways, the screws are going to tighten on Dan Quinn first and foremost.

The Wrapup

Game MVP

Feels good to give this one to Matt Ryan again. Despite the pick, he threw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns and led some very impressive drives. Honorable mentions can go to many on offense.

One Takeaway

The Falcons are not a finished product (I know I say that a lot), but they are capable of beating a quality football team on the road. That’s big.

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Falcons defensive reinforcements Keanu Neal, O'Brien Schofield could return soon

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons are on pace to add at least two fresh defensive pieces, including their first-round draft pick.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said rookie safety Keanu Neal, who hasn't played this season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the preseason, is expected to return to practice Thursday on a limited basis. Also, free agent outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, considered one of the team's strong voices last season, told ESPN.com he expects to re-sign with the Falcons this week, although the move is not quite official.

Adding Neal and Schofield should be a positive as the Falcons head into their Week 3 showdown with the rival New Orleans Saints on ESPN's "Monday Night Football". Neal showed in the preseason that he's capable of swarming the field as a hard-hitting tackler, something the Falcons could use after missing 10 tackles in their 35-28 win at Oakland. However, Neal's replacement, Kemal Ishmael, had 15 tackles and a key fourth-down stop against the Raiders, which might allow the coaches to be patient before inserting Neal into the lineup.

"It's the tackling down in the box, that's where he's featured best," Quinn said of Ishmael. "When Keanu's able to come back, Ish will certainly still have a role in doing what we do. He is very reliable in terms of his tackling, his approach."

Regardless, the Falcons expect the return of Neal to boost the defense.

As for Schofield, he's expected to come back and fill the same strongside linebacker role he played near the end of last season, with some pass-rush responsibilities sprinkled in. Right now, the Falcons are using Vic Beasley Jr. and Philip Wheeler at that spot. With Schofield in the mix, Wheeler could go back to playing inside linebacker, because rookie inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell is recovering from an ankle injury with no timetable for a return.

Schofield spent extensive time this summer working alongside former Seattle Seahawks teammate Michael Bennett to improve his pass-rush skills. Last season, Schofield had two sacks and was second on the team with 13 quarterback hits.

The Falcons enter Week 3 with just one sack, by Beasley, and that came after Raiders quarterback Derek Carr scrambled out of bounds for no gain. Seven-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, who was signed in the preseason, hasn't contributed much as of yet.

Quinn offered his assessment of the pass rush thus far.

"It's an area I'm not pleased with, I can tell you that," Quinn said. "For us to play like we need to, that part of our game has got to come through. I think nine times (against Oakland), we got the quarterback off his spot, with three hits. We're a work in progress for sure there."

Getting more pressure will help alleviate some of the explosive plays the Falcons have surrendered. Against the Raiders, the Falcons gave up seven plays of 15-plus yards, including three of 25-plus yards. That doesn't include cornerbackRobert Alford's 36-yard pass interference penalty.

Once Schofield is signed, the Falcons would have to make a corresponding roster move. It is not believed to involve placing the rookie Campbell on injured reserve. Defensive end Brooks Reed is the other player banged up with a shoulder injury, but Reed's status remains unclear as well.

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