Patrick Smith - Getty Images
The Falcons did not play a very pretty brand of football on Sunday, but they played winning football and escaped Washington with a road victory.
52 is the number of passes attempted by Matt Ryan, which ties a career high for the Duece. 187 is the number of passing yards the Atlanta defense allowed across the board through four quarters on Sunday. Seven is the number of rushing yards Robert Griffin III managed to compile.
If you aren't witnessing a completely new brand of Falcons football under new coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan, I'm not so sure you have been watching these Sunday performances.
It's been just one year, and already this team has transformed itself from "pretty good also-ran" to "dominant and dangerous." Have the wins been blowouts? No. But the NFL is a league characterized by an "any team, any week" mentality, and its the truly good teams that find a way to win each week no matter what.
The Falcons certainly do that, and the team now sits at 5-0 for the first time in team history.
Matt Ryan stocks his fridge with Natty
There aren't many weeks I'll say that about a signal-caller after he turns the ball over twice, but that is simply the level of play Ryan has attained.
Despite some shaky accuracy, a continually collapsing pocket and an absolutely ridiculous pick-six play by Ryan Kerrigan in the first half, Ryan managed to stay poised and led the offense to score 17 fourth-quarter points.
via cdn2.sbnation.com "Wait wha- NO!" - this blogger. My neighbors can attest.
Even after that happened, Ryan was able to rally the troops to put some points up and escape D.C. with a win. He finished the day 34-of-52 passing for 345 yards (a season high) and two touchdowns and showed excellent rapport with Tony Gonzalez, who caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a score.
Ryan is now on pace to throw for 4822 yards, 42 touchdowns and three interceptions, all to the tune of a 68.3 completion percentage. Be impressed.
Whatever happens, happens
The Falcons secondary allowed a paltry 187 yards passing to both Redskins quarterbacks. I say both, of course, because often-hyped rookie Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game on this play:
via assets.sbnation.com (Can't wait until ESPN tries to vilify Weatherspoon)
Sean Weatherspoon's hit was legal, of course, but Griffin was concussed nonetheless and taken back to the locker room. Kirk Cousins would come into the ball game and go three-and-out on his first drive.
And then this happened:
via assets.sbnation.com Willy Mo was not quite ready here
Santana Moss of all players took a Cousins pass 77 yards to the house, completely untouched. Both William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have been great for the Falcons this season, which makes this blown coverage all the more mystifying.
Factor out that play, however, and the Falcons barely allowed 100 yards passing to Griffin and his backup. Two late interceptions by the unseasoned Cousins would seal Washington's fate, and boost Atlanta to 5-0.
People will naturally attribute the win to Griffin's injury and say things like "Atlanta didn't deserve this win." But injuries are an integral part of this game.
Brent Grimes has been missing since week one. Are these five wins suddenly that much more impressive? Maybe not, especially to your run-of-the-mill pundits. But this Falcons secondary's level of play has blown my expectations out of the water.
Moore and DeCoud are playing like Pro Bowlers, and Robert McClain has gone from surprise roster addition to more-than-capable nickelback, a much welcomed improvement over last year's Franks/Owens combo.
Mike Nolan is earning every dollar of his paycheck right now. Or at least fifty cents on the dollar. Why?
I knew a ground game, once...
I give credit where credit is due: Alfred Morris is a talented running back. How he slipped into the sixth round I'm not sure, but he looked much more like a Jamal Lewis as he ripped Atlanta's front seven for 115 yards on 18 carries.
The team impressively limited the always dangerous Griffin to just seven yards rushing, which is incredibly impressive, but Morris exposed Akeem Dent for the inexperienced linebacker that he is. A simple toss sweep play became the bane of Dent's existence.
The Falcons are currently allowing over 142 rushing yards per game. Most of this is attributable to the scheme change. Mike Nolan seems much more intent on employing complex coverages and preventing the pass.
I'm calling this now: at some point this season, an opposing team will get out to an early lead, and the Falcons will lose because they cannot stop the ground game. Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas have been impressive, especially in coverage, but right now Dent is not the answer at middle linebacker.
Atlanta is undefeated and stuff
This weekend was a miserable one for Atlanta sports fans. The Braves lost a controversial wild card game. UGA disappointed everyone as they were blown out by a ranked opponent in typical Mark Richt fashion.
Even Georgia Tech lost to this week's game, and my condolences go out to both Tech fans that are not yet in an Ambien-induced stupor.
But the Falcons failed to disappoint. Time and again, Mike Smith's teams win close games, win tough road games, and beat lesser opponents.
The Redskins are a solid football team. But if these Falcons can return to the form we all witnessed against the Chiefs one month ago, there is no stopping this team.