Finally, the Falcons moved up in the rankings, jumping three steps to No. 20 following Sunday’s 31-23 triumph over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Many wondered how Matt Ryan would perform without top receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Instead of overusing tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan spread the ball around while also establishing a connection with Harry Douglas (seven catches, career-high 149 yards). Ryan had a career-best passer rating of 148.4.
The defense helped the cause with Thomas DeCoud’s 30-yard touchdown return off a fumble recovery to start the scoring. William Moore said going into the game that the defense needed to carry the load for the offense. Indeed, the defense was much improved thanks to an array of blitzes. It still needs much work, though, to contain some of the league’s top offenses, with the 49ers, Packers and Seahawks remaining on the schedule.
Is it too early to jump back on the bandwagon? Based on the vibe around the city, folks aren’t convinced the Falcons (2-4) can fully recover from a 1-4 start. Ryan has engineered a couple of eight-game winning streaks himself, but that’s asking a lot of him without one of the league’s top receivers in Jones.
The Falcons need to have more balance in the coming weeks against the Cardinals (No. 24), Panthers (No. 18) and Seahawks (No. 4). If, somehow, they are able to sneak above .500 following those games, then the playoffs once again become reality.