- After falling to 1–4 this season, the Falcons are clawing back to relevancy as they win their third straight game against the Redskins and get their top player back in the scoring column.
The streak that the Falcons couldn’t wait to end finally died on Sunday.
For the first time in 90 receptions, Julio Jones made a touchdown catch. It came late in the fourth quarter of Atlanta’s 38–14 rout of Washington, and it staved off the embarrassing mark on which Jones was nearing: 1,000 receiving yards and zero touchdowns.
But more importantly than ending a long-running Twitter joke, the Falcons have evened their record at 4–4 heading into the second half of the season, all while losing six key starters to injured reserve through the first eight weeks of the year.
It’s OK if you wrote off the Falcons in Week 5 when they got rolled 41–17 in Pittsburgh. The team fell to 1–4 at that point, and their best player couldn’t buy a touchdown catch. But the schedule gods helped with consecutive home games against the struggling Buccaneers and Giants, which Atlanta won by a combined eight points.
After last week’s bye, the Falcons had to travel to Washington to face a ‘Skins team that had not trailed in any of its five victories. But Washington also had never led in its two losses. The Falcons scored on their first possession, then scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions and never relinquished the lead.
Major contributors to the 2018 Falcons have been falling off all season. Safety Ricardo Allen, the soul of the defense, landed on injured reserve with an Achilles. Joining him on the list is guard Andy Levitre (triceps), linebacker Deion Jones (foot), safety Keanu Neal (knee), guard Brandon Fusco (ankle) and top rusher Devonta Freeman (groin). Jones, by the way, can return from injured reserve as early as Week 11 and revive a middling defense.
All the while, Matt Ryan has been on pace for his first 5,000-yard season and a better year than his 2016 MVP season. He connected on 26 of his 38 passes Sunday for 350 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. At this rate, he’ll have a better completion rate (70.8%), more yards (5,370), fewer interceptions (six) and identical 38 passing touchdowns from 2016.
Not bad for a guy who couldn’t find the best player on the field in the end zone, huh?
The path to a third consecutive postseason for Atlanta is only conceivable with a wild-card spot in a stacked NFC at this point. The Saints are in control of the division with the early tiebreak over the Falcons, and ten wins will likely be necessary in order to secure a wild card, but the Falcons could well go 6–2 to close out the year. The Falcons have five of their last eight games on the road, and they should be favored in their next two games (at Cleveland and at home against Dallas) before traveling to New Orleans.
This is a resilient team on a three-game winning streak with a quarterback having a career year in one of football’s most competitive divisions.