Atlanta Falcons fans still have a reason to believe this season is worth watch.
Fresh off the heels of a 23-20 Monday Night Football victory over the New York Giants, the Falcons, who were sitting at 1-4 just a few weeks ago, are now 3-4, and are one win away from being back at .500 and in the playoff hunt. As they enter the bye week, they are riding a serious wave of momentum, sparked by an offensive attack that is equal to, if not better than its 2016 Super Bowl counterpart. With the injury bug not seeming to let up for Atlanta, and questionable defense still finds its legs, there are quite a few reasons for a Falcons fan to still linger in the realm of pessimism. However, I believe that there is more on the team to be optimistic about, regardless of what may happen after the bye week. They are not done yet, and here are a few reasons why.
Matthew Thomas Ryan
Do you hear that? If you’re saying to yourself “hear what?”, my point has been made. The Matt Ryan haters have been awfully silent since week one of the season. What about the claims that he couldn’t throw deep? What about the arguments that he is turnover prone? All of those points have been thrown out the window in light of Matt Ryan simply doing what he typically does best, ball out. Through seven games, he has thrown for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Better than those numbers is his completion percentage, which currently sits at 71%. Not bad for someone that many do not consider “elite”. Some expect Ryan to put up such lofty numbers with the incredible cast of receivers he is surrounded with, but it’s not like he has comfortably found these receivers in the pocket each game. Just look at how many times Ryan has been hit this season compared to other quarterbacks in the league.
Playing at the level he has with the amount of pressure he has faced is incredible. Another interesting comparison was drawn up by the NFL Network via their Twitter account.
I rest my case on Matt Ryan.
The Defense is getting there
By getting there, I mean they are far from where they need to be, but they are showing signs of improvement. Maybe it helped that they faced a not-so-good Giants offense, or maybe the return of Grady Jarrett was the spark that the pass rush needed to get a quarterback uncomfortable. Regardless, the defense is slowly progressing each week. Just examine some of the stats of the players who have had to step in with the absences of several starters on that side of the ball. Damontae Kazee is third on the team in total tackles with 38. He also leads the team in interceptions with three. Rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun, who is seeing more and more playing time is fourth on the team in total tackles with 33. They are definitely not Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, but they are making strides each week to round out a defense that still has a great players in each level.
Speaking of players stepping up, with the amount of injuries that the Falcons have suffered on both sides of the ball, they could easily be 1-6 or even 0-7 right now. However, they refuse to let injuries be their excuse, and if the defense had not given up last minute touchdowns to the Saints and Bengals, we could be looking at a 5-2 team instead. But that is a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” way of looking at it. The fact of the matter is, the team is still in a good spot. Despite Devonta Freeman missing practically the entire season with two different injuries, running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith have stepped up to keep the running game afloat. Yes, I know that the team is one of the worst teams in the league in terms of rushing yards per game, but with the passing attack being as deadly as it is right now, there is no need to be handing off 30+ times a game. They are both doing just enough each week so that opposing defenses will respect the run game, allowing for Ryan to destroy them on play-action passes. Not only have the offense and defense needed some personnel changes, but the special teams have too. After kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 57-yard field goal to seal the win against Tampa Bay, it was clear he was in some pain when he needed to be helped off the field. He suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him out for a few weeks. In the meantime, the Falcons resigned Giorgio Tavecchio, who spent time with the team before the season began. Many fans were nervous about his ability to make clutch kicks if needed like Bryant has made a career of doing. However, Tavecchio likely silenced the nerves quickly, when he put on a show against the Giants, going 3/3 in field goals on the night and making both extra points. The best part of his performance was his final kick, when he nailed a 56-yarder, a career long, to keep the Giants away from any chance of beating the Falcons. As long as the Falcons kicking game doesn’t miss a beat in Bryant’s hiatus, the team will likely not have to worry about missed scoring opportunities.
The season is far from over, Falcons fans. If the Falcons can get a win against the Redskins coming out of the bye week, there may be enough momentum to propel them to a very successful second half of the season.