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Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons: What led to their first win of 2020? - The Athletic


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Here ya go @fuego

 

by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic

 

Body language can tell you a lot about a team, and on Sunday, the Falcons’ body language reflected a team that finally was getting the results it wanted in a 40-23 win at Minnesota. It started when the camera panned to interim head coach Raheem Morris and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich on the sideline after the defense’s goal-line stand in the opening minutes of the second quarter. While they were wearing masks, their eyes gave away their smiles as they quickly embraced after the stop.

Then, during the fourth quarter, when the Falcons held a considerable lead, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley sat on the bench, cutting up and smiling with one another. That’s a far cry from the past couple of weeks, when Jones was nursing a hamstring injury, dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt on the sideline while a frustrated Ridley stalked up and down the sideline during losses.

After the game, Morris proudly held up the game ball, saying he was never letting it go because of what it meant to him and what it meant to the entire team after the Falcons earned their first win of the season.

A minute later, Matt Ryan sat in the same chair and exchanged pleasantries. When asked how he was doing, he sighed and laughed and said he was … doing well. His sigh was joyful, not dejected as it has been in the weeks prior.

The Falcons finally broke through the glass ceiling Sunday, and while there is a lot to be said — and will be said — about the game itself, to get the full scope of their win, you have to start a full week before. The Falcons’ week leading up to the win was anything but easy. It held its share of challenges. A number of things were stacked against the Falcons: the firing of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, the rearranging of the coaching staff, two players placed on the COVID-19 list, two coaches unable to travel to Minnesota because one assistant coach tested positive, the facility being shut down Thursday. It was a lot to deal with in seven days.

Looking back, Ryan said the Falcons were able to hold everything together, to use what was happening as a springboard to find the success they had against the Vikings.

He said he thought Morris did a good job of laying out the plan of how the Falcons were going to move forward. That included Morris setting up separate meetings with the leaders of the offense and defense. For the defense, Morris and Ricardo Allen spoke during the week about how it was a meeting specifically designated to calling out the “run and hit” leaders on the team. That group included players like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Allen and Grady Jarrett. Allen said Morris challenged the group to give him more, and more is what he and the Falcons received Sunday.

Deion Jones came up with an interception on the first play of the game. Neal was the second-leading tackler, just behind rookie A.J. Terrell, who had the first interception of his career. Oluokun also had his first career interception. The Vikings were 3-for-10 on third down, and they ran for only 32 yards, and the time of possession was extremely lopsided in Atlanta’s favor. Minnesota had the ball for only 19:53, a far cry from Atlanta’s 40:07. Ryan called that disparity “deflating to your opponent.”

Asked about the newfound energy the defense seemed to play with, Deion Jones said to come out differently against Minnesota was “kind of the point.”

Offensively, Morris challenged the unit to lead the team. He said he saw the group take control of that assignment at halftime.

“They, then, led me,” Morris said. “They got me going in the right direction to be aggressive and doing the things that we want to do there. It’s awesome when you ask your guys to stand up, and they do it. Today, I gave those guys the keys, and they took it, and they ran with it and were able to get a good win.”

Ryan said Morris told the players it was up to them to hold everyone accountable, and Morris made clear what the offensive leaders’ responsibility was: find a way to get in the end zone. Ryan, who was 30-of-40 passing for 371 yards and four touchdowns, said the offense met the challenge.

That included getting the ball to Julio Jones, who had eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his return.

“We were better (Sunday),” Ryan said. “We were better with that. We need to be better with that as we continue to move forward.”

The stronger performance began with the challenge set before the team during a tough week. Allen said Wednesday that the game, against a struggling Minnesota team, was a chance for the Falcons to “show who they are as men.” The week didn’t make it easy to do that, but Ryan said the Falcons approached the obstacles with an attitude that led to the victory.

“Thursday hits, and we have to shut down the facility, but I really thought the way Thursday was handled with guys not skipping a beat being on these Zoom meetings that we had, having really good back-and-forth about the install and then how we responded Friday and came back and had one of our best Friday practices of the year,” Ryan said. “I thought that springboarded us to having some success (Sunday).”

While it was a team effort — and while Minnesota came into the game with its own shortcomings — the Falcons veterans stepped up to say they wanted and needed a win. Any win. It was the veterans stepping up to say they heard and accepted Morris’ challenge to show him more, to be more. On Friday, Dante Fowler said Morris was making the team “uncomfortable,” that the intensity of practice was being turned up a few notches. It paid off.

“I really did (see the veterans step up),” Morris said. “It helped me to realize now that they know what being uncomfortable is like. It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s time to turn it on up every single week.”

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

“I really did (see the veterans step up),” Morris said. “It helped me to realize now that they know what being uncomfortable is like. It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s time to turn it on up every single week.”

That quote is really telling. Quinn got way too close to the locker room and the lack of accountability was evident. You could tell Quinn's message and coaching style got old and the players looked dejected on the sidelines prior to yesterday. Matt was calling way more audibles, Morris/Ulbrich went away from the stupid 5-2, 4-2 defense that wasn't working, and every single player with the exception of Sheffield looked way better. Debo looked elite. Oliver looked good. Neal looked like old Neal. Gurley is looking revitalized. Matt was old Matt. Julio looked elite. 

The sideline's energy was completely different and guys looked like they were having fun out there. 

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14 minutes ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

There was not one falcon fan watching that game yesterday that was comfortable at the start of that 4th quarter. I was waiting...

I felt different. The play calling on both sides of the ball and the philosophy they were using lead me to feel that there was no way Minnesota was coming back...

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15 minutes ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

There was not one falcon fan watching that game yesterday that was comfortable at the start of that 4th quarter. I was waiting...

After they scored and made it 23-7 I looked at my wife and said here we go 😂 All it took was one score lol

Knew it was over though when the Julio play happened. That was a dagger. On 4th down to boot. I legit think if they stop us there, The Vikings make the game more interesting. Our past makes me assume the worst is incoming.

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4 minutes ago, PriMeTiiMe said:

After they scored and made it 23-7 I looked at my wife and said here we go 😂 All it took was one score lol

Knew it was over though when the Julio play happened. That was a dagger. On 4th down to boot. I legit think if they stop us there, The Vikings make the game more interesting. Our past makes me assume the worst is incoming.

Yea agreed. When Julio scored the TD, I knew it was over. Minnesota looks like a shockingly terrible team

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45 minutes ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

There was not one falcon fan watching that game yesterday that was comfortable at the start of that 4th quarter. I was waiting...

I was thinking the same.  Then, later, I told my wife the Falcons are not taking their foot off the gas.  I did not see the fatigue or dejection I had become "comfortable" with.  Suddenly, I became uncomfortable.  Now, I do not know what my comfort state is.  Don't care.  Falcons won.

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1 hour ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

There was not one falcon fan watching that game yesterday that was comfortable at the start of that 4th quarter. I was waiting...

That is one thing though, we let them back in it. We still had somewhat of a defensive lapse. If we hadn't scored more in the second half, well...

We were up 20-0 at the half. They scored 23 in the second half. So if that's going to continue to happen the O has got to keep scoring. So yes, I was not comfortable either.

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2 hours ago, The Don™ said:

That quote is really telling. Quinn got way too close to the locker room and the lack of accountability was evident. You could tell Quinn's message and coaching style got old and the players looked dejected on the sidelines prior to yesterday. Matt was calling way more audibles, Morris/Ulbrich went away from the stupid 5-2, 4-2 defense that wasn't working, and every single player with the exception of Sheffield looked way better. Debo looked elite. Oliver looked good. Neal looked like old Neal. Gurley is looking revitalized. Matt was old Matt. Julio looked elite. 

The sideline's energy was completely different and guys looked like they were having fun out there. 

I assume DQ was watching this game. I hope he learned something from it about himself. It wasnt the players that held him back, it was him. 

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1 hour ago, PriMeTiiMe said:

After they scored and made it 23-7 I looked at my wife and said here we go 😂 All it took was one score lol

Knew it was over though when the Julio play happened. That was a dagger. On 4th down to boot. I legit think if they stop us there, The Vikings make the game more interesting. Our past makes me assume the worst is incoming.

You were like all Falcons. We were all like here we go again. Glad we pulled it out though!

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1 hour ago, PriMeTiiMe said:

After they scored and made it 23-7 I looked at my wife and said here we go 😂 All it took was one score lol

Knew it was over though when the Julio play happened. That was a dagger. On 4th down to boot. I legit think if they stop us there, The Vikings make the game more interesting. Our past makes me assume the worst is incoming.

thats exactly what i typed in the game day thread once the vikings scored Here we Go 😂😂

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1 hour ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

Yea agreed. When Julio scored the TD, I knew it was over. Minnesota looks like a shockingly terrible team

They were a .200 team beat by a .000 team that is still .000.  Not like we were playing a top rated team.  So take the win with s grain of salt.

5-11 means we have 4 more wins ahead.  After each of those wins are we going to declare the Falcons are all fixed and going to the playoffs?  We would not even be .500...

We are by far not the best team.  To even get to 9-7 we have to win 8... with our schedule we would have to be playing some really banged up teams.

I take the win with a grain of salt and still look forward to finding an HC that knows how to win a superbowl.

Its an uncharted and new chapter in Falcons football.  Lets not become too complacent too quickly.

Edited by Realsurfin
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49 minutes ago, fuego said:

That is one thing though, we let them back in it. We still had somewhat of a defensive lapse. If we hadn't scored more in the second half, well...

We were up 20-0 at the half. They scored 23 in the second half. So if that's going to continue to happen the O has got to keep scoring. So yes, I was not comfortable either.

The 8 points that they scored with under 90 seconds to score were literally meaningless.  You cant look at it as they scored 23 in the 2nd half and leave it at that

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21 minutes ago, Realsurfin said:

They were a .200 team beat by a .000 team that is still .000.  Not like we were playing a top rated team.  So take the win with s grain of salt.

5-11 means we have 4 more wins ahead.  After each of those wins are we going to declare the Falcons are all fixed and going to the playoffs?  We would not even be .500...

We are by far not the best team.  To even get to 9-7 we have to win 8... with our schedule we would have to be playing some really banged up teams.

I take the win with a grain of salt and still look forward to finding an HC that knows how to win a superbowl.

Its an uncharted and new chapter in Falcons football.  Lets not become too complacent too quickly.

Where in my post did you get a vibe that I said the team has officially turned anything around?

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Yeah, who knows?  I'm not a P-sycologist.

But they looked defeated on and off during the Pack game and somewhat during the Bears game.  

They looked taller, I know that's dumb to say.  But they looked like they were determined.  Even on the sideline.  Even between possessions were turned over.  They never looked like they were beaten.  Given that everyone in the NFL is good enough to be there it's no surprise there isn't a ton of skill difference between 1st and last.  (Except the Jets!)  Attitude matters.

I think it's possible that the cage rattling from losing your HC and GM and asst. probably rang some bells.  They were on a mission.  That's my opinion.  So what if I'm wrong.  They looked really good.  Not Falcons 0-5 good, but genuinely good.  They looked good enough Sunday that Sunday's team could have probably been 5-1 right now.  They were in the game for most of 60 minutes with really no lag.  So let's go. 

Be 1-0 every week.

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2 minutes ago, JD dirtybird21 said:

People don’t get it...like every single time I watch a game with friends, and the falcons have a lead, they always make comments like “looks like they’ve got this in the bag!” And I’m always like....uh no they don’t...like at all hahaha

Like i get happy when they score and Clap and all that but in the back of my mind im like waiting on it..sad we all have become conditioned to feel like that.

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