Falcons to keep it ‘low key’ during upcoming bye week

Todd Gurley let out what sounded like a sad sigh.

After the Falcons defeated the Broncos 34-27, the running back was asked what kind of plans he had for the upcoming bye week. In a normal year, he might take a trip to forget about football for a few days.

But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, players are unable to get away, unplug and relax at a faraway destination. Instead, Falcons players will be staying put in Georgia as they will still be required to be tested for the coronavirus on a daily basis.

Gurley first offered up no comment staying silent for a brief pause.

“But it’s going down,” Gurley deadpanned.

The bye will be unlike any other for these players in recent memory. But it still comes at a good time for the Falcons as they look to regroup and get some players back from injury. Unable to play for the Falcons on Sunday were defensive end Dante Fowler, who has a hamstring injury, and receiver Calvin Ridley, who is dealing with a foot ailment. Ridley was close to playing against the Broncos and was even asking interim coach Raheem Morris if he could give it a go.

Sensing that Ridley wasn’t quite healthy enough to be at his best capability, Morris decided to hold the third-year receiver out of the game.

Against Denver’s secondary, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was still able to account for 284 passing yards and three touchdowns. Second-year receiver Olamide Zaccheaus stepped up in Ridley’s absence and caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

“Calvin is always a fighter. Calvin was in my ear pregame,” Morris said. “We sat on the bench. I know a couple of you guys might have seen it. He always is going to want to play. He’s always going to want to go. Sometimes you’ve got to protect your guys versus themselves, and that’s what we did today.”

Falcons running back Todd Gurley (21) finds a hole on a four-yard touchdown run during the second half Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Falcons won 34-27. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

With the bye coming this week, the Falcons are hopeful they will have Ridley back for Week 11′s road game at New Orleans.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun, who finished Sunday’s win with 10 tackles, four quarterback hits and one sack, said he won’t be doing much outside of getting some extra sleep. After all, there isn’t a whole lot to do around town during the pandemic so he plans on keeping things quiet.

The same applies for Ryan, who plans to use the week off to spend some extra time with his family.

“During the pandemic, you’ve got to be low key,” Ryan said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure we’re all staying healthy. We’ll have a great time playing with the kids and just relaxing and getting some rest.”

The Falcons are entering the bye as winners of three of their past four games, with the team three kneel-downs and a field goal against the Detroit Lions away from being winners of all. But for the first time this season, the Falcons have won consecutive games, which has improved their overall record to 3-6.

After the game, Morris proclaimed that, “The Dirty Birds are back,” now that the Falcons got their first home win of the season. Entering the bye on a high note was important, Morris said, so that everyone involved can unwind on a high note.

“Relax, rest, get everybody back,” Morris said. “Get your coaches out of the building and get them a chance to go home and do some things for themselves. Get an early jump on the Saints and be ready to play when we get back. Watch everybody else be miserable next week while I sit on my couch and enjoy it.”

After a 0-5 start to the year that resulted in former coach Dan Quinn’s dismissal, the Falcons are feeling a bit better about themselves. While the playoffs remain a statistical longshot, they did move into third place in the NFL South with their win and the Panthers’ loss to Kansas City.

As things stand, the Falcons are 12th in the NFC standings for the postseason. While the Falcons have a considerable amount of ground to gain, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said no one has given up hope just yet.

“We have a huge chunk of the season left to play,” Jarrett said. “Everything we want is still ahead of us and we put ourselves in position to have success for this season still. We have not given up. We are not giving up. And we know we can be as good as we want to be.”