Atlanta Falcons – Week 8 and Still Undefeated

Each week brings something different to lead the Atlanta Falcons to victory. This time, it was an offense led by Matt Ryan that simply could do no wrong against a helpless Philadelphia Eagles defense, as the Falcons scored on their first six possessions before punting for the first time with 5:35 left, on their way to a 30-17.

And so, the myth about Andy Reid and bye weeks was gone, after going 13-0 in the previous games after the long rests. The Eagles’ biggest problem, turning the ball over, wasn’t a factor in this one. Their defense simply didn’t show up, and despite the changes on the defensive coordinator seat, Todd Bowles schemes of dropping more players into coverage aren’t working.

There was simply no pressure on Matt Ryan, who is completing just under 69% of his passes this season, sending more than four pass rushers only three times. Ryan set season highs against the Eagles in completion percentage (73.1%), yards per attempt (8.7), touchdowns (3) and first-down percentage (40%) against four or fewer pass rushers.

When Matt Ryan is given time and space, the Falcons simply can’t lose. The Falcons are 15-0 when Matt Ryan throws at least three touchdowns. That’s the second-most wins without a loss in NFL history when throwing three or more touchdowns. This time, he went with the screen pass to pick apart the Eagles defense, completing 9-10 and hitting one touchdown pass. No other quarterback in the NFL has even attempted nine screen passes in a game this season.

Once the Falcons established a very early lead, leading 14-0 in the first quarter and 24-7 in the half, they finally managed to have a good running day. Michael Turner was subdued as usual (58 yards on 24 rushes) but the Falcons ran the ball very well, finishing with 146 yards on 37 carries, getting the most from Jacquizz Rodgers who went for 60 yards on 8 carries.

A big key to the defense was actually stopping LeSean McCoy. The Falcons don’t have the best rushing defense in the NFL, but this time they limited one of the best backs in the league to only 45 yards on 16 carries and the Eagles to a total of 92, keeping Vick relatively contained, finishing with only 42 yards on 7 carries. The front line just sliced through the Eagles offensive line, sacking Vick three times, getting 3 more hits on him and in general finishing with 8 tackles for lost yards, whiel McCoy was contacted behind the line of scrimmage on five of his 16 rushes.

There’s not a single thing the Falcons do better than anyone in the NFL. They have a good defense, but especially outstanding in ballhawking or sacking quarterbacks. They just do enough to win. Same goes for the offense. Matt Ryan is mostly accurate and efficient, but he’s had his bad games this season. He simply adapts, along with those calling the plays for him, as the Falcons simply re-invent themselves every game in order to impress (mostly) on their way to another win.

Now, they’re 7-0 for the first time in franchise history, as Mike Smith won his 50th game as the Falcons’ head coach, becoming the all-time leader in Atlanta, all achieved with Matt Ryan at quarterback.

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