Well, that was easy. After opening the season with three straight wins over Philadelphia, New York and Dallas that required fourth-quarter comebacks, the Falcons ended the drama early Sunday against Houston. They led 28-0 at halftime and 42-0 in the third quarter before emptying the benches just like a preseason game and winning 48-21. My column on the game will be posted shortly on MyAJC.com. Below are my three “short takes” on the game.
1. This Team Ain’t No Fluke: Not every opponent will fold as easily as the Houston, which somehow has won a game this season (albeit, over Tampa Bay). But the Falcons played a solid four quarters for the first time this season after needing fourth-quarter comebacks to win their first three games and they completely dominated the Texans on both sides of the ball. This team is for real, folks. It doesn’t mean they’re going to go on to play in the Super Bowl. But four games into the season, can you name one obvious reason why they can’t? If the offensive and defensive lines continue to improve and the team can avoid significant injuries, everything is on table for this team. Everything. (Historical reference: This is the fourth time the Falcons have started at least 4-0. They made the playoffs two of the previous three times, going to the NFC title game. The Dan Henning-coached team in 1986 started 4-0 but somehow finished 7-8-1.)
2. The power of a running game: There were a few times in the Houston game when pass protection broke down against the Texans’ defensive front (which includes end J.J. Watt and outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing). But the Falcons’ ability to run — which hadn’t been the case in recent seasons — minimized the effectiveness of Houston’s pass rush. Funny how that works. Devonta Freeman, who stepped in as the starting running back when rookie Tevin Coleman suffered a fractured rib in the New York game, had touchdown runs of 16, 23 and 6 yards before the game was three quarters old. He has seven touchdowns in the last three games (surpassing the departed Steven Jackson’s output of six for the entire season last year). Offensive linemen are doing a nice job in the zone blocking scheme. Left tackle Jake Matthews made a great block on Freeman’s second touchdown when cut right on the snap to take out a Texans linebacker who was moving in for a potential tackle.
3. What was he thinking? The Falcons’ scored seven touchdowns, including one on a play that I’ve never seen before and I may never see again. Two and a half minutes into the second quarter, Houston’s Arian Foster (playing his first game of the season) took a handoff from Ryan Mallett and was stopped by an unlikely source: a teammate. Texans tackle Derek Newton inexplicably reached out and knocked the ball out of Foster’s hands. I’m assuming it was accidental, unless Newton was shaving points or Foster was on the Fantasy League team of the guy he was playing. The Falcons’ Desmond Trufant picked up the fumble and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown, making it 21-0. Foster just walked off the field. His thought bubble was not printable for family newspapers.
•Recent ramblings • Richt and Georgia fall off stage again when it matters most • Short takes: Georgia’s reality check — there’s a problem at quarterback • Georgia needs win over Alabama to alter perceptions • Weekend Predictions: Nothing sinister here – Dogs over Bama • Georgia hired Jeremy Pruitt for games like this • Nationals are a more attractive mess than the Braves • Overreaction Monday: Georgia may be 4-0 but season starts now • Georgia now can prepare for opponent that matters most: Alabama • Short takes on Georgia’s win over Southern • Weekend Predictions: Lilly takes the lead and likes Falcons • Falcons’ fourth-quarter fizzles absent so far under Dan Quinn • Braves have been more adept at building off field than on it • Overreaction Monday: Are things as they seem with Falcons, Dogs, Jackets? • Georgia chases away Spurrier demons with dominating performance • Short takes: Lambert says, ‘I just had to go through a rough patch’ • Georgia can’t blow game, Tech can’t blow chance • Tech over Irish, Georgia over South Carolina (but not by 17) • Tech has something Georgia would like — comfort at quarterback position • An impressive opening by Dan Quinn’s new Falcons • Short takes: Gruden praises Falcons’ defense after win • Georgia looks like a shaky 2-0 with its passing game • Short takes: Another Georgia win but QB issues continue • Weekend Predictions: I can’t block this Falcons’ upset from my brain • Poll: I say 9 wins for Falcons, national media mixed, what say you? • Falcons’ late roster scramble not a good sign • Fredi Gonzalez needs to make more of his losing hand • Lambert good but didn’t do enough to cement starting job • Lambert, lightning and the joy of Keith Marshall • Kennesaw State’s little startup off to a dazzling start • Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets roll, Spurrier escapes, Petrino goes down • Falcons won Julio Jones trade but would like to forget 2012 draft • Greyson Lambert’s big test won’t come in opener, it will be later • Hello, football: Thoughts on UGA, Tech, Kennesaw, both GSUs • It’s Lambert over Ramsey for now, but assume nothing for future at Georgia AJC: Falcons were never going to let Julio Jones get away