On September 14, the Atlanta Falcons, mostly, failed to have positive offensive production against a stiff Cincinnati Bengals defense. They lost the battle on the offensive and defensive fronts, couldn't take advantage of three missed field goals, couldn't protect Matt Ryan, were dominated by the Cincinnati running game, and allowed Andy Dalton to carve up the secondary without AJ Green on the field.
In just three days, the Atlanta Falcons found a way to turn all of that around.
Leading up to the Thursday night match-up against Tampa Bay, people continued to ask the question, "Who are the Atlanta Falcons?" In my opinion, the Falcons answered that question with the utmost authority; they also got rid of some demons too:
The Falcons defense recorded their first sacks of the 2014 season. For the first time since 2012, the Falcons had a pick-6 from a defensive back. For the first time since 1998, the Falcons scored at least 50 points. For the first time since 2010, the Falcons returned a punt for a touchdown.
Speaking of punt return, it was an undeniably special moment to have Devin Hester break Deion Sander's record for most return touchdowns with Sanders in the Georgia Dome.
The Atlanta Falcons made easy work of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta scored 35 points before Tampa Bay even recorded a first down. The score was 56-0 entering the 4th quarter. This showed that Atlanta has the ability to keep their foot on the gas pedal. (Back in 2011, Atlanta lead Tampa Bay 42-0 in the second quarter and then let their foot of off the pedal; they only scored 3 points in the second half en route to a 45-24 win). Going back to 2014, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones were simply playing catch totaling for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most impressively, the Falcons defense found a way to slow down their opponents running game. Just in case it went unnoticed, Roddy White didn't even play.
Despite the plethora of positives, there were a few negatives. There were a couple of special teams penalties that could have been avoided. There were a couple of fumbles. Plus, Devonta Freeman really has to work on his blocking skills because he was blown up on a play that led to a Tampa Bay sack.
I'm curious, though, as to how the Falcons move forward from here. They have an extended time period to prepare for the Minnesota Vikings. Will the Falcons stay focused? Can they put on this type of performance without being beaten badly the previous week?
Even though there are still questions to be answered, the answer to "Who are the 2014 Atlanta Falcons?" is becoming clear. They are a team with an explosive offense that will give defensive coordinators nightmares (as long as Matt Ryan is protected). They have the ability to run-up the score on opponents and can also prevent opponents from scoring, if focused and prepared.
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