Where have these Falcons been all season?

Looking like a playoff contender, the Falcons throttled the upstart Las Vegas Raiders 43-6 before 9,124 fans on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Without two key cogs on offense, the Falcons’ defense created five turnovers that led to 23 points, including a 67-yard interception return by Deion Jones. The Falcons were coming off a horrible loss to the Saints, while the Raiders went toe-to-toe with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs last week.

“As a defense, as a team, we put it all together,” Jones said. “We played well together. We finally put one on film. We’ve got one to look at to grow from.”

But the AFC playoff contender was no match for the Falcons, who were playing without wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Todd Gurley.

It was the Falcons’ first win over a team with a winning record this season.

“That was the story of the day,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I thought our defense played extremely well. Gave us a lot of short field opportunities. All in all, it was a great team effort.”

The Falcons improved to 4-7, while the Raiders, who were favored to win, dropped to 6-5.

Here are five things we learned from the victory:

1. Quick start: On their second and third possessions of the game, Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo made field goals of 38 and 39 yards to take a 6-0 lead.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun added his fourth forced fumble of the season when he knocked the ball off Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. It was recovered by defensive lineman Jacob Tuioti-Mariner.

After an exchange of punts, the Raiders appeared set to score the game’s first touchdown. After a battle of rookies, Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs beat Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell on fourth-and-3 from the 39-yard line for a 36-yard gain.

From the 3-yard line the Raiders committed two penalties, a holding on left tackle Kolton Miller and an illegal hands to the face call on right tackle Brandon Parker. The Raiders settled for a Daniel Carlson 29-yard field goal to make it 6-3.

After an exchange of punts, the Falcons cobbled together a 13-play touchdown drive, which was aided by two more penalties by the Raiders.

The Raiders had the drive stopped with an interception, but cornerback Nevin Lawson was called for a face mask penalty that gave the Falcons a first down.

The Falcons stalled and Koo came on to attempt a 40-yard field goal. Koo missed, but the Raiders’ Dallin Leavitt was called for roughing the kicker and the Falcons got a first-and-10 at the 11. On fourth-and-3 from the 4, Ryan found Calvin Ridley in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

“I thought it was huge and a great call by (interim head coach) Raheem (Morris), an aggressive call to go for it in that situation,” Ryan said. “You’re going to leave them backed up if you don’t get it. We felt like we had a good play called there.

“It took a little time to develop. Great body control by Calvin in the back of the end zone to kind of stop before he was going to get hit. It was an awesome play by him.”

Falcons defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti-Mariner strip sacks Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and recovers the fumble during the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

2. Falcons find a pass rush. The Falcons kept after Carr and finished with five sacks and five quarterback hits. It was the first time the Falcons had five sacks and five takeaways in the same game since Week 12 of the 2002 season.

Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett forced a holding call on Miller with his penetration.

The Falcons, blitzing at times, kept harassing Carr and in the second quarter Tuioti-Mariner got a sack, forced fumble and recovery that led to a field goal right before the half.

The Falcons added a 30-yard field to take a 16-3 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, with defensive tackle John Cominsky in his face, Carr threw an interception to Jones, whose return for a touchdown made it 23-3.

“We had a great rush which made him throw a bad ball,” Jones said. “It was behind the running back. I secured it. Once I got in the clear and put the ball up, I knew it was going home.”

Jones now has five career pick-sixes, the most by a defensive player since entering NFL in 2016 and most by a linebacker since 2006.

Oluokun, Tuioti-Mariner, Cominsky and Steven Means had one sack each. Also, safety Jaylinn Hawkins and Tyeler Davison had a half sack.

“I just tried to stay as consistent as I could today,” Tuioti-Mariner said.

3. Stopping the run. Raiders came into the game averaging 134.2 yards rushing per game, which ranked seventh in the league. The Falcons held them to 39 yards on 25 carries.

Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs was held to 27 yards on seven carries.

“We got some big bodies in there today and they were able to use their hands, shed blocks, come off and make tackles,” Morris said. “That running back, Jacobs is very tough to tackle.”

The Falcons were flowing well to the ball and gang-tackling.

“We were able to get there in bunches,” Morris said. “(We had) a bunch of people at the spot to make sure that we could get him on the ground. He’s going to run through arm tackles. We were not doing that. We were putting our chest on him. It was a physical, hard fought game.”

Falcons wide receiver Brandon Powell catches a touchdown pass in the end zone past Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nevin Lawson during the third quarter Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

4. Receivers give group effort. With Julio Jones out with a hamstring injury, Ridley led the way with six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Four other receivers also caught passes and Brandon Powell caught a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who nearly caught a touchdown pass, left the game with a foot injury and did not return.

5. Turnovers city. The Falcons won the turnover battle 5 to 1 and converted those turnovers into three field goals and two touchdowns.

“That was just us hunting the ball,” Deion Jones said. “We hadn’t had a ball in a couple of weeks. Guys were hungry for it this week. We talked about it and it came to life.”

In the third quarter with the Falcons up 30-6, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds snatched the ball off Jacobs. Falcons safety Keanu Neal recovered at the Raiders’ 27-yard line. The Falcons added another Koo field goal to make it 33-6.

Reynolds recovered another fumble in the fourth quarter after Means forced Carr to fumble.

Following the last turnover, running back Ito Smith added an 8-yard touchdown run.

“I just thought it was the guys’ ball mindset,” Morris said. “They really had a ball mind-set today to go after it. They really had the ball mind-set every opportunity that they had to get it. The hustle, the turn and run, all of those things just kicked in today.”

Falcons’ next four games

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Falcons at Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13

Buccaneers at Falcons at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20

Falcons at Chiefs at 1 p.m., Dec. 27

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