Cover 9@9: Falcons’ Ta’Quon Graham made it back as part of DT rotation

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Ta'Quon Graham (95) tries to stop  49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10)  during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, October 16, 2020.  Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Ta'Quon Graham (95) tries to stop 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, October 16, 2020. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

1. The no-spin zone: Falcons defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham made his return from knee surgery in the 24-10 victory over the Panthers on Sunday.

Graham was injured against the Bears on Oct. 20. He had a long rehabilitation and was monitored closely over the offseason and in training camp.

“It was good getting some action,” Graham told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “I definitely was excited to do a regular-season game, out there with the guys for the first-time. Definitely had some nerves going for sure. I’m looking forward to continuing to build.”

Graham played 23 of the 77 defensive snaps (30%) and was credited with a tackle.

The Falcons were rotating Graham and Albert Huggins for Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata in order to keep the linemen fresh.

Huggins played 25 snaps (32%) and Jarrett played 49 snaps (64%) and Onyemata played 40 (52%).

“That definitely was a part of the plan,” Graham said. “They’ve got the rotations down. Super organized. We know who is going to go out there before the drive starts. We pretty much know how many plays and then we start looking to the sideline and get ready for guys to come. Guys are pretty fresh. Nobody is gassed or anything.”

Graham wasn’t happy with the Panthers rushing for 154 yards and averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

“Upfront, I think it’s about playing consistent,” Graham said. “There were definitely times that we had some leaky yardage. They got more yards than what we wanted them to.”

He also believes the pass rush showed up late against the Panthers.

“Toward the end of the game we were getting some sacks and QB pressures, but we want that to start a little bit earlier in the first half, of course,” Graham said.

2. Hang time: Falcons punter Bradley Pinion average 46.1 net yards per punt against the Panthers and had some great hangtimes at and above the five-second mark. He placed three punts inside the 20-yard line.

“It felt good, I wanted the first one back,” Pinion told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I didn’t hit the first one good, but after that I settled in and had a good game. The punt coverage team did a great job. Liam (McCullough) was great snapping the ball. It all works together. It was a good combination.”

Pinion was happy with the win.

“Good start to the season,” Pinion said. “There is always stuff that you’re going to (work) on and get better at. It was a good Week 1. Hopefully, we can build on it and keep going.

Pinion has an interesting outlook on punt returners.

“Every returner in the NFL is a good returner,” Pinion said. “You always have to take them out of the game. When you execute a game plan and we all work together as a team, makes it easier to do.”

3. Series history: Sunday’s game will be the 32nd regular-season meeting between the Falcons and the Packers. Green Bay leads the series 17-14, but the teams are 2-2 in playoff games.

4. Mailbag: The fans shared how they were feeling on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the game. There were more than 100 responses.

5. Love had strong debut: Packers quarterback Jordan Love, who’s 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, completed 15 of 27 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-20 dismantling of the Bears on Sunday. He finished with a passer rating of 123.2 and he rushed three times for 12 yards.

The Packers had four explosive plays of 30 yards or more and running back Aaron Jones had 11 touches for 127 yards.

“I know they’ve got two good running backs,” Graham said. “They’ve got A.J. Dillon, who’s more of a downhill runner and Aaron Jones, who catches the ball out of the backfield a lot. I just saw him take that screen to the house.”

Graham was referring to Jones scoring a 35-yard touchdown to make the score 24-6 against the Bears.

“I know they have talented backs,” Graham said. “I know they have a pretty physical (offensive) line as well. We’ll be ready and prepared for them.”

6. Quinn pass on LaFleur: Packers coach Matt LaFleur was the Falcons’ quarterback coach in 2015 and 2016.

After Kyle Shanahan left for the head job at San Francisco, Falcons coach Dan Quinn hired Steve Sarkisian, an experience play-caller. LaFleur left to be the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles for one season (2017) and then in Tennessee for one season (2018) before he landed the head job in Green Bay.

Smith took over as offensive coordinator in Tennessee in 2019 after LaFleur left.

Matt’s a terrific coach, and I thought (Sunday), they executed well,” Smith said. “When they (got) down in the red zone and they had a play extension, he worked back and got up one. We saw Aaron Jones take a short little route, and he took off.”

7. Linebackers are familiar: Former Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (2016-19) and former Georgia and Crisp County standout Quay Walker are starters for the Packers.

Walker returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown against the Bears.

The Packers defense is coordinator by Joe Barry. They had four sacks, two takeaways, six quarterback hits and seven tackles for losses against the Bears. They opened in a 4-2-5 nickel against the Bears.

“He’s adapted,” Smith said. “Different from probably the Rod Marinelli (Barry’s father-in-law) days.”

Marinelli currently is the Raiders defensive line coach. He entered the NFL under Tony Dungy with Tampa Bay and used a 4-3 scheme and helped to popularized the Cover-2 zones.

“(The Packers run) some of the coverage principles, I think they do a good job,” Smith said. “They play different packages as well.”

8. Where to watch, listen and livestream Packers at Falcons: What you should know about Sunday’s home game the Green Bay Packers (1-0) and the Falcons (1-0), which is set for 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

TV: Fox 5 -- Play-by-Play: Kenny Albert Color Analysis: Jonathan Vilma Sideline: Shannon Spake

Local radio: 92.9 The Game. Play-by-play: Wes Durham. Analyst: Dave Archer. Executive producer: Beau Morgan. Engineer: Miller Pope. Pregame/Postgame show – Hosts: Chris Goforth and Mike Johnson. Dylan Matthews and Orin Romain (studio producers).

Satellite radio: SiriusXM NFL Radio. Falcons channel 229 or the App. Packers channel 384 or on the App. (Games are also available on the SiriusXM App. Fans can find their team’s channel under the “NFL Play-by-Play” tab or by searching their team’s name.)

Livestream: Streaming inside the Atlanta market: Fans in the Atlanta market can stream the game on the Atlanta Falcons app. NFL app (subscription required). Out of the country: GamePass International.

9. Depth chart: Here’s a look at the Falcons’ official depth chart for the Packers game:


WR Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge

TE Kyle Pitts, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick

LT Jake Matthews, Isaiah Prince

LG Matthew Bergeron, Jovaughn Gwyn

C Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil

RG Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton

RT Kaleb McGary, Isaiah Prince

TE Jonnu Smith

WR Drake London, Scotty Miller, Josh Ali

FB Keith Smith

RB Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier

J Cordarrelle Patterson

QB Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside


DL Grady Jarrett, Albert Huggins

DL David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham

DL Calais Campbell, Zach Harrison, Joe Gaziano

OLB Bud Dupree, Lorenzo Carter

ILB Kaden Elliss, Nate Landman

ILB Troy Andersen, Tae Davis

OLB Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone

CB A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes

S Jessie Bates, Jaylinn Hawkins

S Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams

NB Dee Alford, Clark Phillips III

CB Jeff Okudah, Tre Flowers


K Younghoe Koo

P Bradley Pinion

LS Liam McCullough

H Bradley Pinion

PR Dee Alford, Mike Hughes, Scotty Miller

KOR Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Hughes

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