The Falcons (3-4) have a bye this week.
Here are four things that went right for the Falcons over the first seven games:
1. Play of Matt Ryan. While the defense was trying to work through three major injuries, Ryan tried to carry the team.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has done a masterful job of staying with an anemic rushing attack in order to set up the play-action passes that Ryan is so effective with.
In the win over the Giants, Ryan completed 18 consecutive passed to close out the 23-20 victory and completed passes to 10 different receivers.
Ryan, who’s played in the passing friendly era, moved up to 13th on the all-time completions list. He moved ahead of Vinny Testaverde (3,787).
Ryan and the offense have tried mightily to carry the team, but faltered late against New Orleans and Cincinnati with stalled drives and failed to capitalized on a blocked punt that gave them the ball on the 8-yard line.
The margin of error is slim for the team and the offense needs to stay at or very near peak efficiency.
Since the win over Carolina, Ryan has 203 attempts without an interception which is a new franchise record. He surpassed Steve Bartkowski’s record of 197 set in 1982-83.
Before play started in Week 8, Ryan led the NFL in passing yards this season with 2,335.
The Falcons have solved their red zone issues. After completing 2 of 10 passes for 13 yards and one touchdown in the opening loss to the Eagles, Ryan has completed 18 of 20 passes for 165 yards and 10 touchdowns.
2. Ridley’s emergence. Ridley has fit right into the Falcons’ offense. After being a non-factor in the season opener against Philadelphia, Ridley has shown his play-making ability.
He’s caught 27 of 35 targets for 392 yards and six touchdowns. His 14.5 yards per catch average leads all rookies who have at least 15 catches on the season.
He’s also had three rushes for 13 yards and has returned two kickoffs for 50 yards.
“It’s the work we put in,” said Ridley about his fast start. “We go out there and catch it every day in practice. We put in the work.”
3. McKinley matters. Takk McKinley, the second year defensive end, is the team’s top pass rusher. He has six sacks, five tackles for losses and eight quarterback hits.
McKinley, who played part-time as a rookie, also has 31 tackles. He’s played 263 of the defensive snaps, 54.6 percent.
4. Hooper’s hands. Third-year tight end Austin Hooper is off to a great start.
Hooper’s caught 33 of 41 targets for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He’s on pace to catch 75 passes, gain 734 yards and score six touchdowns.
That would be the most by a Falcons’ tight end since Jacob Tamme caught 59 passes in 2015. The great Tony Gonzalez caught 83 passes for 859 yards and eight touchdown at age 37 in 2013.
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