NFC South: Terance Mathis

Around the NFC South

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
10:22
AM ET
Time for a Thursday morning look at the top headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that as many as 10 or 11 Falcons have a shot at making the Pro Bowl. The rosters will be announced next week.

Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones already have over 1,000 receiving yards. Tight end Tony Gonzalez only needs 120 yards to reach that mark. The Falcons have had only one season in which three players had 1,000 receiving yards. That was 1995 when Bert Emanuel, Terance Mathis and Eric Metcalf each had 1,000 yards.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Tom Sorensen writes that the new general manager, not owner Jerry Richardson, should be the one to decide if coach Ron Rivera stays. It’s important for the general manager to be comfortable with the coach. But the timing of the hire might make things a little more complicated. If the Panthers are slow in hiring a general manager after the season and that person ends up not wanting Rivera, it might be too late to make a move because the top coaching candidates already could have jobs.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Quarterback Drew Brees said he’d be shocked if Sean Payton isn’t back coaching the Saints next season. There was a time when I thought the same thing. But, with each day that goes by with continued uncertainty about Payton’s contract situation, the chance of him becoming a free agent seems to grow.

The Saints recently paid a visit to Tulane player Devon Walker, who suffered a spinal injury in September.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Despite their four-game losing streak, the Bucs say this isn’t a repeat of last season when the team lost 10 straight games to end the season and it appeared numerous players gave up. The best way to prove that would be to bounce back and play well in the final two games.

Although quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled recently, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said the team remains excited about Freeman’s "body of work" this season. But, like the rest of the team, it would be nice to see Freeman finish the season on an upswing.

Superlatives on the Falcons

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
11:22
AM ET
With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the Atlanta Falcons' media relations department, let’s take a look at some statistical superlatives from Atlanta’s 34-0 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan had no problem handling the Giants’ blitz. When New York sent five or more pass rushers, Ryan completed six of seven passes and averaged 15.1 yards per attempt.
  • Ryan broke two of his own franchise records. He now has a team-best 4,202 passing yards on the season, breaking the record (4,177 yards he set last year). Ryan also has 369 completions on the season. He set the previous record with 357 in 2010.
  • Ryan completed 23 of 28 passes (82.1 percent) for 270 yards with three touchdowns and a 142.6 passer rating. Ryan’s completion percentage was the second-best total of his career. He completed 85.7 percent of his passes in a 2010 game against Green Bay.
  • Ryan now has posted a passer rating of 100 or better 32 times in his career. The Falcons are 31-1 in those games.
  • Not counting kneel-downs, the Falcons rushed 35 times for 133 yards. Seventy-four of those yards came after contact.
  • The shutout was Atlanta’s first since Nov. 2, 2009 at Oakland and its first in the Georgia Dome since Oct. 20, 2002 against Carolina.
  • The Falcons handed Eli Manning the first regular-season shutout of his career. It also was the first time the Giants have been shut out in the regular season since 1996.
  • Since coach Mike Smith’s arrival in 2008, the Falcons are 20-3 following a loss. The Falcons have won 10 straight games coming off a loss.
  • Cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted Manning in the first quarter. It was Samuel’s 48th career interception, which ranks No. 4 among active players.
  • Michael Turner moved into second place on the team’s all-time rushing list. Turner has 6,022 yards since joining the Falcons in 2008. Gerald Riggs is the franchise leader with 6,630 yards.
  • Julio Jones topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Jones and Roddy White became the first pair of Atlanta receivers to reach 1,000 yards in the same season since Terance Mathis and Tony Martin did it in 1998. Jones and White have combined for 148 receptions, 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
  • The Falcons have not allowed a passing touchdown in their last three home games.
  • Safety Thomas DeCoud recorded his sixth interception of the season. He and William Moore are the NFL’s only safety tandem in which both players have at least four interceptions.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 34, Giants 0

December, 16, 2012
12/16/12
3:48
PM ET

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons34-0 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: This was much more significant than a run-of-the-mill December victory for a team that already has clinched the NFC South title and a spot in the playoffs. This was a statement game for the 12-2 Falcons. A week after playing a horrible game against Carolina, they bounced back with their best outing of the season. They also did it against the team that bounced them from the playoffs last season, and they did it in a very convincing manner.

What I liked: Everything. Critics have ripped the Falcons for not putting together a complete game and, oftentimes, playing just well enough to win. Well, this one was different. The Falcons were pretty much flawless. They ran and passed the ball well on offense. The defense intercepted Eli Manning twice early in the game and came through with some big stops.

Stat of the day: The shutout marked the first time the Giants have been held scoreless in a regular-season game with Manning as their quarterback.

Busting a myth: There are a lot of people out there who say Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan can’t throw the deep ball. I always have disputed that claim. And Ryan gave me some more evidence to work with. If you haven’t seen his 40-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, please go watch the replay. It should be on all of the highlight shows.

Super omen? Speaking of Jones, he went for more than 1,000 receiving yards for the season on Sunday. Teammate Roddy White already was past the 1,000-yard mark. They are the first Atlanta duo to post 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since Terance Mathis and Tony Martin in the 1998 season. In case you don't remember, that's the season the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl for the only time in franchise history.

Pro Bowl bound? Very quietly, Atlanta free safety Thomas DeCoud has emerged as a force. He intercepted Manning in the first half. That gives DeCoud six interceptions on the season. The fifth-year player should get strong consideration for a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team.

What’s next: The Falcons face a bit of a short week. They play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Saturday night.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 15 games:

Good news/bad news: Coming off a loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons can take solace in the fact they’ve won their previous 11 games immediately after a loss. The Falcons have not lost back-to-back games since 2009. They also are playing in the Georgia Dome, where they’ve won 10 straight games (the NFL’s longest active home winning streak). So everything appears to be in Atlanta’s favor. Until you consider this -- the Falcons have not won a home game against the New York Giants since 1978.

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireWith three more receiving yards Julio Jones will reach 1,000 yards for the season.
Terrific tandems: The meeting between the Falcons and Giants will feature the two most prolific pairs of wide receivers in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season. In that span, Atlanta’s Roddy White and Julio Jones have combined for 4,392 receiving yards, while New York’s Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have combined for 4,384 yards. By the way, Jones needs only three receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the season. That would make Jones and White the first pair of Atlanta receivers to hit 1,000 yards since Tony Martin and Terance Mathis in 1998.

A record they don’t want: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are allowing 311.6 passing yards per game. At that pace, they would give up 4,986 passing yards by the end of the season, which would be an NFL record. The current record was set last season when the Green Bay Packers gave up 4,796 yards.

A record he doesn’t want: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leads the league with 32 touchdown passes and is tied with Andrew Luck for the league lead with 18 interceptions. Since 1970, Lynn Dickey (1983) and Brian Sipe (1979) are the only quarterbacks to lead the league in both touchdowns and interceptions.

Intentional grounding: The Carolina Panthers have been making the most of quarterback Cam Newton's running ability. He leads the team with 640 rushing yards. The last quarterback to finish a season as his team’s leading rusher was Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb in 2000.

Reflecting on the Falcons' victory

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
10:27
AM ET
ATLANTA -- With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the Falcons’ media relations department, let’s take a by-the-numbers look back at how Atlanta defeated the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night:
  • The 23-13 victory put the Falcons only a Tampa Bay loss or tie at Denver on Sunday away from clinching the NFC South title. The Falcons also can clinch a playoff berth with a loss by Seattle on Sunday.
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez's first catch of the game was his 70th reception of the season. Gonzalez now has 10 straight seasons with at least 70 receptions. That ties the NFL record set by Tim Brown. Gonzalez also now has 13 seasons in which he has caught at least 70 passes, which ties him with Jerry Rice for the NFL record.
  • The Falcons scored a touchdown on their opening drive. They have scored an NFL-best 26 touchdowns on opening drives since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan now is 32-4 at home in his career. Ryan’s home winning percentage is .889. That’s second only to Tom Brady (.933) since the start of the 2008 season.
  • Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards. His 1,572 yards in November established a new franchise record for passing yards in a month. Steve Bartkowski set the previous record with 1,494 yards in November 1981.
  • The Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times. That ties the franchise record for interceptions in a game. The last time the Falcons recorded five interceptions in a game was when they picked off Jim Hart five times in 1980.
  • Although Atlanta’s running game has been mediocre much of the season, the Falcons got off to a great start on the ground. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined to average 13.6 yards per rush between the tackles in the first quarter. Atlanta had 95 yards rushing between the tackles in the first quarter the third-best total by any team this season. The Falcons had averaged only 3.2 yards per carry coming into the game. The Falcons finished the game with 122 of their 126 total rushing yards (not counting kneel downs) between the tackles, after averaging only 59 yards between the tackles per game in the first 10 games.
  • Strong safety William Moore had two interceptions and free safety Thomas DeCoud had one. They now have combined for 10 takeaways this season and those have resulted in 30 points.
  • Turner’s 3-yard touchdown run on the opening drive established a new franchise record for touchdowns. Receiver Terance Mathis had the previous record (57).
  • Defensive end John Abraham recorded Atlanta’s only sack and it came in a crucial spot in the fourth quarter. That gives Abraham 10 sacks on the season. He now has 10 or more sacks in seven seasons.
  • Abraham is the NFL’s active sack leader with 122 in his career. He now is tied with Simeon Rice for 14th place on the NFL’s all-time sack list.

Statistical superlatives on the Falcons

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:59
AM ET
It wasn’t pretty on the surface, but the Atlanta Falcons got to 9-1 with their 23-19 victory against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and Atlanta’s media relations department, let’s take a look at some of the statistical superlatives and a few lowlights from the game:
  • The Falcons clinched their fifth consecutive winning season. The franchise never had back-to-back winning seasons since coach Mike Smith arrived in 2008 and accomplished that in his first two seasons. It's kind of strange because the Falcons aren't making a big deal or talking much about clinching a winning season. I guess that goes hand in hand with their biggest theme of this season -- that simply winning in the regular season isn't enough.
  • Matt Ryan was intercepted a career-high five times. He also was intercepted three times in the first quarter, the most times he ever has been intercepted in a quarter.
  • Ryan became the first Atlanta quarterback with five interceptions in a game since Bobby Hebert (yeah, he didn't just play for the Saints) was picked off six times in a 1996 game against the Rams.
  • Ryan became the first quarterback to throw five interceptions without a touchdown pass and come away with a win since Bart Starr in 1967.
  • Ryan’s career home record is 31-4 (an .886 winning percentage). That’s the best percentage by a quarterback to debut a career in the Super Bowl era.
  • Ryan recorded the 20th fourth-quarter, game-winning drive of his career. That’s the most by any quarterback since 2008 and the most by any quarterback in his first five seasons since 1966
  • Atlanta’s 9-1 record marks the best 10-game start in franchise history.
  • The Falcons now have won nine straight home games, the most since a 10-game streak in the 1997 and ’98 seasons.
  • The Falcons improved to 19-3 after a loss in Smith’s tenure. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2009 season.
  • Running back Michael Turner now has 56 touchdowns since joining the Falcons. He is tied with receiver Andre Rison for No. 2 on the team’s all-time list. Receiver Terance Mathis holds the team record with 57 touchdowns.
  • The Falcons held the Cardinals to 173 net yards of offense. A major reason for that came due to the fact the Falcons allowed Arizona to convert only 2 of 16 (13 percent) third downs into first downs.
  • Defensive end John Abraham finished with two sacks and now has 121 for his career. Abraham is the NFL’s active leader in sacks and one of only 15 players in history with 120 or more career sacks.
  • Roddy White had his fifth game of the season with at least 100 receiving yards. It was also the third consecutive game in which White has had 100 receiving yards. He holds the franchise record with 33 games in which he has had at least 100 receiving yards.
  • White needs 54 yards to record his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season.
Let’s take a look back at the statistical superlatives from Atlanta’s 19-13 victory against Dallas on Sunday night, with some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the Falcons media relations department.
  • The Falcons became the 15th team to start 8-0 since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. They also are the 31st team in the NFL’s 93-year history to start a season with wins in the first eight games. However, the Falcons are only the third team in history with at least five of those wins coming by a one-possession margin.
  • Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan now is 30-4 (.882) in career home games. That’s the best home winning percentage by a starting quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger.
  • Ryan was 4-of-7 for 100 yards on throws of 15 yards or more downfield. Six of those attempts were targeted for Roddy White, who caught three of them for 62 yards.
  • Ryan completed 24 of 34 pass attempts (70.6 percent) for 342 yards and a 102.8 passer rating. The Falcons are now 29-0 in games in which Ryan has a passer rating of 100 or better.
  • Ryan recorded the 13th 300-yard game of his career. That’s a new franchise record as he moved one ahead of the previous record held by Steve Bartkowski.
  • Despite the productive night, Ryan had his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass snapped at 22.
  • Michael Turner rushed for 102 yards. He now has a team-record 27 100-yard games.
  • White and Julio Jones each had more than 100 receiving yards. That’s the third game over the past two seasons in which both have topped the 100-yard mark. It also marked the 31st 100-yard game of White’s career and he now has 577 career receptions, which moved him past Terance Mathis’ previous team record of 573 career receptions.
  • In his last four games, White has 29 catches for 461 yards (an average of 115 yards per game).
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 36 yards. He joined Jerry Rice to become one of only two players in NFL history to record 15 seasons with 50 or more receptions. Gonzalez is the only player in NFL history to have 50 or more catches in 15 consecutive seasons.
  • Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux had his best game of the season. Babineaux was in on seven tackles (five solo), with one sack, one tackle for a loss and one passed defensed. Babineaux and fellow defensive tackle Corey Peters were largely responsible for holding Dallas to 65 rushing yards. That marked the second straight game in which Atlanta’s defense has held its opponent to less than 100 yards rushing.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 19, Cowboys 13

November, 4, 2012
11/04/12
11:25
PM ET

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 19-13 victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The method was by no means pretty, but the Falcons remained the only unbeaten team in the NFL. At 8-0, they’re well on their way to clinching the NFC South and still in the NFC lead for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Falcons have been accused plenty of times this season of not always having pretty wins. But the bottom line is they’re winning and, if they keep doing that, they’ll get the respect their fans so desperately crave.

The Turner point: For most of the night, Atlanta running back Michael Turner looked old and slow and the lack of any threat in the running game was taking a toll on the passing game. But that all changed late in the third quarter when Turner broke off a 43-yard run to set up his own 3-yard touchdown run that broke a 6-6 tie. The Dallas defense was loading up and going after Matt Ryan, until Turner showed he still can turn a corner. Turner finished with 20 carries for 102 yards.

Dynamic duo: Julio Jones (118) and Roddy White (129) each topped the 100-yard receiving mark. White also set a new franchise record for receptions when he broke Terance Mathis' mark of 573 career catches.

Best surprise: Even without injured linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who might be Atlanta’s best defensive player, the Falcons played perhaps their best all-around defensive game. They limited the Cowboys to just two field goals until allowing a touchdown pass with 5:21 remaining.

Worst surprise: Atlanta’s Matt Bryant usually is one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers. But not on Sunday night. Bryant missed two field goal attempts. The last time Bryant missed two field goals in one game was Sept. 17, 2006. That’s when Bryant was playing for Tampa Bay. The opponent that day? The Falcons. But Bryant did hit a 36-yard field goal with 7:49 remaining and a 32-yarder with 17 seconds left to give the Falcons some insurance.

What’s next: The Falcons play at New Orleans next Sunday.

Superlatives on the Falcons

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
9:24
AM ET
With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and Atlanta’s media-relations team, let’s take a run through the statistical highlights of the Falcons’ 24-17 victory against the Washington Redskins.
  • Washington did a good job keeping Atlanta’s passing game in check inside the numbers. But Matt Ryan was able to carve up the edges of the field. On throws outside the numbers, Ryan was 19 of 25 (76 percent) for 184 yards and both of his touchdowns.
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez had a huge day, catching 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Gonzalez was targeted 14 times, the most he’s been targeted since joining the Falcons. Gonzalez’s touchdown was his 24th catch on an end-zone target since the start of the 2008 season -- the most by any tight end during that span.
  • Gonzalez’s 13 receptions were the second-highest total of his career. He had 14 catches while playing for Kansas City on Christmas Day 2004.
  • Coach Mike Smith now has a 48-21 record. With a win next week, he’ll tie Dan Reeves for most victories in franchise history. Reeves was 49-59-1.
  • Gonzalez tied Don Hutson for eighth place on the NFL’s all-time touchdown receptions list. Tim Brown and Steve Largent, who each had 100 touchdown catches, are the next players ahead of Gonzalez.
  • Ryan led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter Sunday. He also did that the previous week against Carolina. In his five-year career, Ryan now has 18 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
  • Ryan has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 20 straight games. He also has thrown two or more touchdowns in each of his last six games.
  • The Atlanta defense held the Redskins to 12 first downs and allowed Washington to convert on one of nine third-down attempts.
  • Matt Bryant now has made a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, the longest road field goal of his career. Bryant also has made 23 straight field goals. He set the franchise record with 30 straight between 2010 and '11.
  • Roddy White had four catches for 68 yards. He now has 561 career receptions. He needs 13 more to pass Terance Mathis as the franchise’s all-time leader.
ATLANTA – Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons’ 45-24 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

What it means: The Falcons are 10-6 and in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Falcons are in as the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. They’ll play on the road against the winner of Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. The Buccaneers ended their season in dismal fashion. After starting off 4-2, they lost their final 10 games and weren’t even competitive in most of those.

Momentum found: The Falcons bounced back nicely after a bad Monday night loss to the New Orleans Saints. Yeah, they were playing the Bucs, who might have become the worst team in the NFL, but the victory should create a positive vibe for the Falcons as they head into the playoffs.

Record Turner: Michael Turner broke Gerald Riggs’ team record for career rushing touchdowns with two in the first half. Turner now has 50 rushing touchdowns since joining the Falcons in 2008. Riggs set his record over the course of seven seasons. Turner also tied Riggs’ team record with his 25th 100-yard rushing game since joining the Falcons. Too bad Turner doesn’t play for the Saints. Sean Payton would have kept feeding Turner the ball and given him a shot at a 500-yard day.

Roddy’s records: Roddy White became Atlanta’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He passed Terance Mathis’ previous record of 7,349 yards. White also had his 100th catch of the season. That makes White the first player to have two seasons of 100 or more catches.

Farewell, Jeff George: Quarterback Matt Ryan surpassed Jeff George’s 1995 record for passing yards in a season (4,143).

The Morris Watch: If Tampa Bay’s ownership hadn’t made a decision about the future of coach Raheem Morris before Sunday, another embarrassing loss couldn’t have helped his case. This game was over almost as soon as it started and it’s stunning to remember that the Bucs beat the Falcons in Week 3. As has been the case through most of the losing streak, the Bucs looked like a team with no direction. At some point in the next few days, the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs will have to break its silence and let the world know if they’re sticking with Morris or going in a different direction.

What’s next: The Falcons have to wait until the end of Sunday night’s game between the Giants and Cowboys to find out where they’ll travel to for the first round of the playoffs. The Buccaneers will get a top 10 draft pick and an offseason that’s sure to be filled with change even if Morris stays.

Superlatives on the Falcons' win

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
9:47
AM ET
Let’s take a look at some statistical highlights from the Atlanta Falcons’ 31-23 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:

    [+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
    Bob Donnan/US PresswireAtlanta QB Matt Ryan said he's hoping that some added muscle will help him be more effective in late-season games.
  • Running back Michael Turner gained 76 yards on 21 carries. That gives Turner 1,068 rushing yards for the season. Turner has run for more than 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons in Atlanta, including each of the past two seasons.

  • Coach Mike Smith now has a 6-2 record against Carolina.

  • The Falcons are now 17-3 (.850) following a loss since Smith arrived in 2008. In that time frame, only New England has a better winning percentage (.867) after a loss.

  • The Falcons scored 24 straight points in the second half after trailing by as many as 16 points. This represents the fourth-largest comeback in franchise history.

  • Matt Ryan now has 16 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.

  • Ryan tied a career high with four touchdown passes. Ryan is now second in franchise history with 89 touchdown passes. He passed Chris Chandler and Chris Miller, who each had 87 touchdown passes while with the Falcons.

  • Ryan finished with a 120.5 NFL passer rating. It was the fifth time this season Ryan had a passer rating above 100. Since Ryan’s arrival in 2008, the Falcons are 21-0 when his passer rating is above 100.

  • Ryan now has thrown at least one touchdown in 12 straight games and in 27 of his past 28 games.

  • Rookie receiver Julio Jones caught three passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Jones is the second rookie in NFL history to twice have a 100-yard game with a 30-yard per catch average and two touchdowns in one season. The only other player to do that was Randy Moss in 1998.

  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez had seven catches for 82 yards and now has 13,275 career receiving yards. Gonzalez moved into 11th place on the all-time list, passing Andre Reed (13,198 yards). Gonzalez needs 108 yards to pass Torry Holt and move into the top 10.

  • Receiver Roddy White caught his sixth touchdown pass of the season. White now has caught a touchdown in each of the past three games.

  • White went over the 500-catch mark for his career. He now has 502 receptions and that puts him second on the franchise’s all-time list. Terance Mathis (573) is the team’s all-time leader.

  • Rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers caught the first touchdown pass of his career. Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to eight different receivers this season.

  • Second-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon continues to emerge as a standout. Weatherspoon had nine tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses. Weatherspoon leads the Falcons in tackles for losses with 13.

Superlatives on Falcons' victory

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
6:34
AM ET
Let’s take a look at some of the statistical superlatives from Atlanta’s 24-14 victory against Minnesota on Sunday.
  • The Falcons now are 8-2 against NFC North opponents since coach Mike Smith arrived in 2008.

  • Cornerback Christopher Owens stopped Percy Harvin at the Atlanta 3-yard line on a fourth-quarter kickoff return. Owens followed that by sacking Christian Ponder on the next play.
  • Second-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon continues to emerge as one of the defense’s brightest spots. He had a team-high 10 tackles, one sack, three tackles for a loss and one quarterback hit.
  • Speaking of emerging players, receiver Harry Douglas had his first touchdown catch of the season. In the past three games, Douglas has 14 catches for 229 yards.
  • Roddy White moved into sole possession of third place in team history in career touchdown catches. White has 41 touchdown receptions. He’s behind only Terance Mathis (57) and Andre Rison. White finished with 120 yards on a season-high 10 catches. He now has had over 100 receiving yards in each of the past two games.
  • Quarterback Matt Ryan, who passed for three touchdowns, now has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 10 straight games. He has thrown for more than one touchdown in three of the past four games.
  • Ryan’s 128.2 NFL passer rating was a season best. It also was the fourth-highest rating of Ryan’s career. The Falcons are 20-0 when Ryan has a rating over 100.
  • Tight end Tony Gonzalez had a season-high nine catches for 69 yards. He now has 13,093 yards, which moved him past Steve Largent (13,089) and into 12th place on the league’s all-time list for receiving yards.
  • Defensive end Lawrence Sidbury had perhaps the best day of his career. Sidbury recorded two sacks. That gives him four for the season and he’s tied for the team lead.
  • Minnesota rushed for just 64 yards on 24 carries. The Falcons now are allowing 83.5 rushing yards per game, which would qualify for the second-best average in franchise history. The Falcons have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 14 consecutive games, dating back to last season.

Around the NFC South

February, 1, 2011
2/01/11
11:16
AM ET
Time for a quick trip through the NFC South headlines.

Former Atlanta receiver Terance Mathis has joined the coaching staff at Savannah State.

Michael Vick will be the headliner for autographs at a sports memorabilia show in suburban Atlanta. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also will be a guest, but Vick is getting top billing. Before his season of redemption in Philadelphia, Vick probably wouldn't have been invited, the show promoter said.

Jim Mashek writes about how Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent important parts of their coaching careers with the New Orleans Saints.

Carolina's new wide receivers coach, Fred Graves, has a history with top receiver Steve Smith. Graves coached Smith in college at Utah.
As we wait to find out who the New Orleans Saints will play in the first round of the playoffs (it will be the winner of tonight’s game between St. Louis and Seattle), let’s take a look at some superlatives on the Atlanta Falcons.
  • With their 31-10 victory against Carolina, the Falcons finished 13-3. That’s the second-highest win total in franchise history (14 in 1998 is the best) and it gives the Falcons the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and the NFC South title.
  • The division title is the first the Falcons have won since 2004 and only the fourth time in franchise history Atlanta has won a division. Their 1980 and 1998 titles were as champions of the NFC West. The only other time the Falcons have been the NFC’s top seed was 1980.
  • Matt Ryan tied Dan Marino for most wins by a rookie quarterback in his first three seasons since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Ryan has a 33-13 record as a starter. In games Ryan has started in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons are 20-2. His .909 winning percentage is the best among all active quarterbacks at their home stadium.
  • Coach Mike Smith is 33-15 in his three seasons with the Falcons. Dan Reeves and Jim Mora shared the previous best record with 26 wins in their first three seasons.
  • Eric Weems returned a punt for a 55-yard touchdown against the Panthers. That makes him the first player in franchise history to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. Weems also had a kickoff return for a touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 13.
  • Roddy White set a new record with 112 catches for the season. Terance Mathis previously held the record with 111 catches in 1994.

Roddy White closing on franchise marks

December, 24, 2010
12/24/10
12:51
PM ET
Although he’s cooled a bit in recent weeks after carrying the Falcons or much of the season, receiver Roddy White remains on pace for a record-breaking season.

Heading into Monday night’s showdown with New Orleans, White has 106 catches. The team record is 111 by Terance Mathis in 1994.

With two games remaining, White also is well within range of topping his own franchise record for receiving yards. White has 1,307 yards this season. He set the franchise record with 1,382 in 2008.

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