As the NFL reaches the quarter pole of the season the Atlanta Falcons are winners of three straight and sit atop the NFC South with a 3-1 record which includes a tiebreaker over the New Orleans Saints. If you asked most fans at the beginning of the season they'd have gladly taken a 3-1 record with wins over division rival New Orleans and hated rival San Francisco.
But as is the case with most things, expectations change.
Now, we hear how the Falcons should be 4-0 and how they should have beaten the 49ers by 85. Questions abound like, what is wrong with the offense? Why is our Special Teams not so special? Before we get carried away, let's review some of the amazing statistics the Falcons have put up during the first quarter of the season. Trust me, they are doing fine.
- The Falcons have started a season 3-1 only nine times in franchise history but four of those have come since 2004. Unfortunately, it hasn't always guaranteed success. In those nine seasons, the Falcons have finished with an average of only nine wins. Digger deeper, we find that only four times (2009, 2004, 1998, and 1995) have the Falcons finished a 3-1 season with a winning record. And only three of those seasons (2004, 1998, and 1995) were playoff seasons.
- Looking ahead, the Falcons have started a season 4-1 on five different occasions. The first time was in 1986 and again in 1995, 1998, 2004 and 2009. They started 5-1 in 2004, 1998 and 1986.
- The Falcons are averaging 23.3 points per game. That's on pace for the sixth-most in team history behind only the 1998, 1981, 1980, 2002 and 2008 seasons.
- The offense is averaging 378.3 yards per game. That pace would break the franchise record of 361.2 yards per game set in 2008.
- No other team in the NFL has run more offensive plays than the Falcons. Their 306 total plays are 19 better than the second-place Denver Broncos. Matt Ryan and friends have been on the field for an average of 76.5 plays per game - 14.3 plays more than the league average.
- The Falcons lead the league in first downs with 99 (24.8 per game).
- The tandem of Michael Turner and Jason Snelling have helped the Falcons lead the league in rushing attempts with 149 (37.3 per game). That's a full 10 rushing plays more, per game, than the league average. If they maintain that pace it would be the second-most rushing attempts the Falcons have averaged - second only to the 1977 team's 41.6 attempts.
- They are fourth in rushing yards (144.8 per game) and have rushed for more first downs than any other team in the league (38).
- The Falcons have earned 14 first downs due to opponents' penalties, second-best in the NFL.
- The Falcons have scored nine touchdowns and 10 field goals.
- Uncharacteristically, the Falcons have given up eight sacks through four games. They are on pace to allow the most sacks since the 2007 season.
- We know the Falcons offense leads the NFL in plays from scrimmage. By comparison, their defense has been on the field for only 220 plays (55 per game). This means the Falcons defense is resting for 21.5 plays per game MORE than their opponent.
- The defense has been even more impressive. Brian VanGorder's squad has given up and average of 15.0 points per game. That's third-best in the NFC and would be the best in Falcons' history next to the 1977 Grits Blitz squad that allowed an NFL-fewest 9.2 points per game.
- Their average margin of victory (8.3 points per game) is second to only the 1998 NFC Championship squad (9.6 points per game).
- The Falcons lead the NFL in interceptions with eight. They are on pace to snag 32 interceptions this year. Their team record is 26 set in 1977 and tied in 1980. They've only had more than 20 once in the past 15 years.
- Matt Ryan, after completing just 59.7% of his passes during his first two seasons, is connecting on 62.4% this season. The league average is 61.9%.
- Ryan is sixth in the NFL in pass completions, eighth in pass attempts, ninth in passing yards and tied for eighth in passing TDs.
- Matt Bryant leads the NFL in scoring with 39 points. Yes, that Matt Bryant. No other team has made more field goals than the 10 the Falcons have nailed. Bryant has hit 10 of 11, including 10 in a row after missing his first kick of the season.
- Michael Turner is averaging 18.5 carries per game, good for eighth in the NFL. He's on pace to finish with 296 carries - a full 80 carries less than his 2008 campaign.
- Roddy White is second in the NFL with 32 catches. At the current pace, he'll catch 128 passes breaking Terance Mathis' record of 111 set in 1994. It would also be the second-most ever in NFL history behind only Marvin Harrison's absurd 143 in 2002.
- White is sixth in receiving yards with 362. That pace would give him 1,448 yards and would break his own record of 1,382 set in 2008.
- Eric Weems is sixth in punt return average with 13.6.
- Only four players have more interceptions than William Moore (2).
- Matt Bryant is 11 FG attempts away from 200 for his career.
- Michael Turner is 144 carries away from 1,000 for his career. He had 228 in San Diego.
- Matt Ryan is 379 completions away from reaching 1,000.
- The 41 points scored by the Falcons in Week 2 is still the highest total this season. San Diego and New England tied it last week.
- No NFL team has been shutout yet this season.
- The Falcons Week 1 game against Pittsburgh was only the third time in NFL history a game ended in a 15-9 score. However, their 16-14 win last week was the fourth time that score has happened this season alone.