For my full column on the Falcons’ 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers, which moved them into first place in the NFC South, click here.
Or, for short-attention span theater, here are my three “Short Takes” on the game:
1. Welcome to the South: It doesn’t matter that the Falcons have only proven that they can defeat NFC South teams because, at least to this point, that’s all they have needed to do. They’re 4-0 vs. South and 0-6 vs. other teams. But a 4-6 overall record is good enough for first place in the division (factoring in a tiebreaker edge over the Saints). Does it make sense? No. But they’re here. Seattle won a division title with a 7-9 record. At some point, the Falcons probably will have to win at least one or two games outside the division to hold on. It also seems safe to assume that this division race, and the playoff berth that goes with it, will come down to the final two regular season games against New Orleans and Carolina.
2. A word about the defense: The Falcons’ offense rarely tested Carolina’s chaotic secondary deep, struggled to get into the end zone (one touchdown, four field goals) and scored only three points following Panthers’ turnovers. This against one of the worst defenses in the league. But the Falcons’ defense has improved the last two weeks. Yes, the opponents (Tampa Bay and Carolina) probably have something to do with that. But there’s something to be said for consecutive road wins, and the defense has been the biggest reason. The Falcons forced three turnovers and had four sacks last week at Tampa Bay and Sunday had two interceptions and two sacks. After an early field goal, Carolina was held scoreless on the next seven possessions until allowing touchdown passes of 22 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter. Given injuries, a young secondary and the team’s lack of a pass rush, that’s a more than acceptable day,
3. A hat-tip to Roddy White: OK, sometimes he says (or Tweets) things he shouldn’t. But the Falcons’ receiver remains one of the toughest players on the roster, plays through injuries and makes tough catches. He came through Sunday with a team-high eight receptions for 75 yards, including a two-yard touchdown catch that made it 16-3. White also became only the 42nd receiver in NFL history to surpass 10,000 yards in his career (he now has 10,002). At the age of 33 and in his 10th season, the guy can still play.
•A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Dogs have a statement win, now hope for best with Gurley — AJC: Three short takes on Georgia’s win and Gurley — MyAJC: As hoops open, Tech looks far more ready than Georgia — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets cross bridge, Falcons back to normal — MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now) — AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee? — MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him) — AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis — MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs — AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay — MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs — MyAJC: Amid Atlanta misery, can Hawks really be shining light? — AJC: Election Day: Vote to keep or fire coaches (polls) — MyAJC: Georgia blows it all with inexcusable performance — AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s stunning loss to Florida — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators — AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley — MyAJC: Mark Richt deserves credit for holding Georgia together — AJC: NCAA mum but Muschamp expects Gurley to play vs. Florida — AJC: Will Arthur Blank make move with Mike Smith (and reader poll)?