Short takes: An easy Falcons win, and this is a team to take seriously

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman breaks a tackle attempt by Houston safety Quintin Demps on his way to the endzone for his second of three touchdown runs in an easy Atlanta win. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman breaks a tackle attempt by Houston safety Quintin Demps on his way to the endzone for his second of three touchdown runs in an easy Atlanta win. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman breaks a tackle attempt by Houston safety Quintin Demps on his way to the endzone for his second of three touchdown runs in an easy Atlanta win. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

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.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the game column.

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 (Historical reference: This is the fourth time the Falcons have started at least 4-0.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.

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Reader Comments 0

50 comments
candlin14
candlin14

The first two season of Cams career he was 1-3 versus Atlanta. The last two seasons he is 3-1... I am worried about that. Since we can not pressure the QB, I am extremely worried about teams like Green Bay, Carolina, Patriots, Arizona and some others picking us apart if we play them.. 


I do think the Falcons have come a long way from the past two years but I don't see them having the firepower to compete versus the elite teams... Forgot to mention Denver. I hope I am wrong! I wish for one year we can play a complete season and step it up another level in the playoffs. 


Let do this Falcons... Exceed Expectations.

MoreyP
MoreyP

With their weak division, ATL should win the title easily, but will go out in round 1 of the playoffs---book it!

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

I wanna be excited about this team so badly, but I can just see it now--just like UGA, just like the Hawks last season, just like the 2010 Falcons team--look great all season playing a cupcake schedule but as soon as you play a real team (Packers) you not only lose, you get exposed for the utter and complete fraud that you are.  Here's hoping that doesn't happen, and maybe I'm just a jaded and emotionally scarred fan of Atl/GA teams, and I will certainly enjoy watching week-in-week-out, but.....just sayin.

Falcons63
Falcons63

@CarrollSanders  JMO, but 13-3 is an achievement no matter who you are playing.  You can't attribute 13 wins to a cupcake schedule.  Everyone you beat can't be terrible.  The Falcons lost that playoff game to a Packers team they beat earlier in the season.  In that regular season game the Packers had the crucial turnovers.  In the playoff game, it was the Falcons. I don't see the team as a fraud.  They could have played 10 games and probably split them evenly.  One game should not be indicative of a season or a team. Of course you will have fans who will say anything short of a SuperBowl is unacceptable.  If that is the case you have 1 winner and 31 loser's every year.  So much for winning 10-11 games and looking back and thinking we had a good season.  But hey... JMO...

candlin14
candlin14

@CarrollSanders


You are right on about UGA but I always explain this when people talk about Ryans playoff loses. 

1) Rookie Season > Lost to Arizona who went to the super bowl... Arizona Lost Super Bowl

2) Third Season > Lost to Green Bay , GB went to super bowl and won it

3) Fourth Season > Lost to New York Giants, Giants went to super bowl and won it

4) Fifth Season > Lost to 49ers, San Fran went to super bowl and lost it


When Ryan loses in the playoffs, he is losing to good teams. All four loses to teams who eventually made it to the big game. Two of them won it. I think Ryan will get us there eventually. I really do.

NomNomNomATL
NomNomNomATL

Your grammar is horrible. "This Team Ain’t No Fluke" is a double negative, hence, this team is a fluke. Dumbass.

RickinWarnerRobins
RickinWarnerRobins

This team did not play a "solid four quarters."  The second stringers, who played the latter part of the third quarter, then the fourth quarter, were horrible...gave up tremendous yardage and was run and passed all over.  The first string players did great...no doubt, but the subs definitely need work and a foot up their rears as they'd have given the game away had there been enough time left.  The back-ups in the secondary were atrocious...absolutely couldn't have stopped a team of 90 year olds eaten up with arthritis from catching passes.

JackClemens
JackClemens

"The Dan Henning-coached team in 1986 started 4-0 but somehow finished 7-8-1.)"


"somehow" = "Dan Henning"


Mystery solved. You're welcome.

DumbandDumber
DumbandDumber

Falcons have easiest schedule in league or close to it NFC East, AFC South, 3rd place teams from last year, and play in an easy division). They could win 12 or 13 and not even be that good. Get a bye in playoffs and then get beat in first game.

GT71
GT71

Bottom Line:

The BIG boys on both sides of the line did very well.

As Shultz said, 'Funny how that works' - it's the base requirement of good football. Without O&D lines, it's all hat and no cattle (hat tip to the Texans, there).  An apt analogy for football anyway.

With a pretty good set of LBs and some VERY good DBs, the D seems to have  a chance of the positive ink the O skill guys have been getting in recent years.

Yep, we got the hat and the cattle it seems.

A positive note to a very bad football weekend in GA.

Falcons63
Falcons63

Wow.... what a difference a few weeks and 4 wins make.  This same AJC staff that was so down on the Falcons now seemingly can't wait to pile on the accolades!  Seems like forever ago when Bradley and Schultz were lamenting the lack of moves on the oline.  How when the trade was made for Levitre it was a "bad sign".  Heck.. Go back a few months and the beat writer was blasting them for "not drafting the best player available"!!  Yep.. sure wish we had Gurley now! Wonder how long Mr Ledbetter would have kept his job as GM with drafting decisions like that!   Everyone remember the positives these guys are writing because they will be the first to throw Quinn and the team under the bus if they lose a couple. I truly wish sportswriters( like coaches) had to live with decisions and public comments they make and be put at the podium and asked to defend these decisions and comments instead of stepping on each other in their rush to jump on the bandwagon!


As far as the game?  Another great win by the Falcons.  It's amazing how much better the defense is playing.  Maybe Quinn is right in his philosophy of keeping it simple and let the players make plays.  Obviously not a perfect performance but still really impressive.  Can't wait to see the Redskins...

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

Jeff,

I can name two at this point. Still no pass rush to speak of. 5 sacks so far this year. Overuse of Julio (save today). He goes down...........................................


Whopper

David McCallum
David McCallum

@WhopperDawg I agree. The lack of a pass rush and the overuse of Julio. Glad to see Hankerson get something done when given the opportunity.

GT71
GT71

@David McCallum @WhopperDawg  Looks like Roddy is past his prime.  He may not be able to help.  But why not go to the Julio well often - he's the hot hand.  Just hope no injuries. And the great job the DBs are doing masks the D line rush a bit.  And that IS a danger sign.

David McCallum
David McCallum

@GT71 @David McCallum @WhopperDawg Great analysis! Always appreciate fans like you who can respond smartly and intelligently to a matter of opinions without the nonsense that has nothing to do with football. Thanks!

Falcons63
Falcons63

@WhopperDawg  Not a lot of sacks today, but they did get a number of pressures that appeared to take a toll on the QB. I don't think anyone was under the impression they would suddenly become a 50 sack per season team.  Especially with the amount of zone that Quinn usually play's.  Of course you want more sacks, but Quinn's philosophy has always been play tough against the run, force 3rd and long and make the tackle short of the 1st down.  You saw that over and over yesterday.  Same thing with Dallas.  Weeden had to constantly check the ball down.  This resulted in a high completion percentage but not a lot of yards.


As far as overuse of Julio, I don't think you can have "overuse" with a WR.  A RB? Yes.. but not a WR.   I think you use him until another team figures out how to stop him.  I would never want to be in a position to not get him the ball just because he has 10 catches in the game and now we feel like it's someone else's turn.  That's almost like putting him on a pitch count in baseball.   The Texans made a concerted effort to take Julio away.  The result was Roddy White catching a few and Hankerson looking like an All Pro.   This in spite of playing against possibly the best Dline they will face this year.  The team is 4-0.  I know it comes hard for us long suffering Falcon fans, but try not to look for negatives in a positive! 

Mike
Mike

According to ESPN and YAHOO the only reason the Falcons are 4 and 0 is because the other teams didn't show up that day (Due to NFL contractual clauses that stipulate a game must be played whether the other team shows up or not). The Falcons ended up playing the front office staff. The Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys are still God Almighty.

GT71
GT71

@Mike  Big market teams.  A shill is a shill.

DamonH
DamonH

"They made the playoffs two of the previous three times, going to the NFC title game"

they SHOULD make it this year, the schedule is starting to become very favorable right now (and the lack of good NFC East teams is helpful: Your 6 playoff teams- 1 from the East, 1 from the North, 2 from the South, 2 from the West)

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I think the offensive line coupled with the offensive coordinator minimized damage by JJ. Watt the best pass rusher in the business. Don't kid yourself-- the Falcons aren't great yet and the Texans are not that bad. There's talent on both sides of the ball. They just need a franchise quarterback. All in all the Falcons played a complete game, Matt Ryan is playing at a high level and the team is damn good....

rollon15
rollon15

Good call on the  UGA -  Bama game...ha, thought I would rub it in a bit. Only kidding, I enjoy your columns and predictions. Fortunately, I'm not a betting man


And oh yeah, Big Falcons fan. This team is for real




reckingball
reckingball

The Falcons have a really good chance, if they can sustain this level of play.

I would have to give the edge to the Falcons, on which team, ......is the best team in the NFCSouth.

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@reckingball Panthers and Falcons have exact same schedules except for 2 games. Panthers play Seahawks & Packers while Falcons play Vikings & 49ers. I think that will make the difference and Falcons will win the division.

reckingball
reckingball

" His thought bubble was unprintable"...........that was funny.

sacks
sacks

I thought overall the birds played well..Yeah I know, look at the competition!


I wonder why Shanahan did not let back up q/b run the entire playbook??  What in hell is 


he going to learn handing the ball off every play???  It's like the offense shut down when the Coach made the


change!

EricEllis
EricEllis

@sacks They were likely just running clock to try and end the game quickly before suffering any more injuries...

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

The Falcons are serious, Cam Newton and the Panthers not so much.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@AlwaysReady

Wouldn't be counting my chickens just yet against those guys--especially at their place.

EricEllis
EricEllis

@AlwaysReady While I agree that the Falcons are an overall better team than Carolina (especially at the QB position), they don't play each other until the second week of December so we will have to wait a while for definitive proof.  Carolina historically plays Atlanta tough so I wouldn't take anything for granted, but the Falcons' schedule is so weak this year that Atlanta has a real chance of being 12-0 by the time they face off.  

David McCallum
David McCallum

As a Falcons fan, I would still give the edge to the Panthers as the best team in the south. Until the Falcons prove, including their subs that they can shut down a team for four quarters I cannot put them in front of the Panthers. Now, this could change in a few weeks. 

David McCallum
David McCallum

@DawgNole @David McCallum In theory I agree with you. I'm just sick and tired of teams moving the ball on the Falcons defense seemingly anytime they want, regardless what the circumstances are. I truly wanted to see the defense pitch a shut out.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@David McCallum @DawgNole

Yeah, a shutout would've been nice. Giving up that flurry of 4Q TDs didn't exactly leave a warm-and-fuzzy about our depth on D. 

But it was pretty cool to be able to actually relax relatively early--secure in the knowledge that the Falcons had this one won. Doesn't happen often around here.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@David McCallum

They'll play Carolina twice--plenty of opportunity to determine which team's the cream of the South Division crop.

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

@David McCallum Really? Who do the Panthers have on offense? What team has the Panthers shutdown for four quarters? They've had an even easier schedule than the Falcons as they beatup on Mccown (Saints), Winslow (Bucs), Mallet (Texans), and Boles (Jaguars). They're gonna play the Seahawks after the bye week and then the Packers a few weeks after that, expect them to get blown out in both games.

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

It seems as though Atlanta took the game plan Alabama had for Georgia and used it on the Texans

DawgNole
DawgNole

JS: "But the Falcons played a solid four quarters for the first time this season.

_________________________

Not quite. That fourth quarter was pretty bad (outscored 7-21).

Of course, they needed only three quarters to put this one away.

Dman
Dman

I was thinking he waited too long to take out the starters. Glad no one got hurt. After watching the Texans walk all over our second team, I understood why he waited...

Great win today...

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Amazing! I didn't see 4-0 coming a few months ago but I'll take it. Great job by Quinn who has this team much more motivated and in sync than Smitty ever did. Hindsight 20/20 I think Smitty's downfalll started with his allegiance to the Innefective coordinators from JAX. Quinn has a higher quality coaching staff which shows in the player attitudes. Even crazier may be Carolina at 4-0 with all their injuries. Looks like the NFC South is becoming a 2 horse race.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I already popped something else while on a video site - but that's another story...

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Let's start popping the champagne now - playoffs here we come!

EricEllis
EricEllis

@DawgNole @TreeRollins I'm guessing its "SeenthisB4" in disguise looking for any hope of bringing down the Falcons.  Haven't see that guy around in a while now that I think about it!

Rhetoric
Rhetoric

Great win!!! If anyone had told me the Falcons would begin the season  4 - 0,

I would have called them delusional.

extremus
extremus

Mr. Schultz,


I read elsewhere that Freeman's first two games are historic for a running back's first two games; if I recall correctly no other RB has ever scored three touchdowns in their first two starts.  And there have been a lot of GREAT running backs in this league's history, so it certainly bears mentioning.  Not saying whether he'll keep it up but it's absolutely a feather in Freeman's cap.

EricEllis
EricEllis

@extremus Freeman looks like a player (who saw his chance to become the heir apparent starter drafted away in Tevin Coleman) who has now gotten a second opportunity to showcase what he can do.  He is making the most of the opportunity and looks like a really strong runner in addition to the speed he always had.  When Coleman comes back Atlanta is going to enjoy a strong ground threat to go along with their aerial attack.  That will mean even bigger possibilities for the play-action game and Matt Ryan...