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What we learned about the Falcons through the first quarter of the NFL season

Posted Oct 3, 2017

What have we learned about the Falcons through the first quarter of the NFL season?

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are 3-1 heading into their bye week with a chance to get several key players back from injuries before heading into a three-game stretch against a trio of AFC East opponents, two of which are on the road: Miami Dolphins (home), New England Patriots (away) and New York Jets (away).

Atlanta then begins NFC South play with a road game against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 5.

So what have we learned about the Falcons through the first quarter of the season?

Run game proves to be the bright spot of Atlanta’s offense

Through four games, the Falcons have the No. 10 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 126.3 yards per game. With the duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combining for 468 yards on the ground, Atlanta’s run game has been the bright spot of the offense.

Freeman has a league-leading five rushing touchdowns and ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards with 285. Both of Atlanta’s running backs rank in the top 25 in rushing yards with Coleman’s 183 yards good for No. 23 in the league.

Turnover margin No. 1 issue to be solved moving forward

Improving in the turnover margin statistic is the No. 1 area head coach Dan Quinn wants to see his team focused on following the bye. The Falcons currently sit minus-4 which is 28th in the league. The Falcons have turned the ball over six times on offense (five interceptions and one fumble) and have forced only two turnovers on defense. Of Matt Ryan’s five interceptions, three have been off tipped passes.

“It’s the way we come off the ball, the way you finish plays, and then, of course, for me the ball,” Quinn said. “That really came from the last two games, for us to be at the best of ourselves, that part has to change.”

The Falcons finished plus-11 in the turnover ratio in the 2016 season.

Quinn impressed with coordinators’ ‘connection to the players, in-game strategy’

One of the main storylines surrounding the Falcons prior to the season was how would Atlanta’s offense and defense look under the new coordinators taking over – both of whom had never called plays in the NFL before.

And through four games, Quinn has been pleased with the jobs that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel have done.

Regarding Sarkisian, Quinn especially likes the way he is utilizing his players and his commitment to the run game.

“The part that I like is the ability to utilize guys in different ways,” Quinn said. “I’ve loved seeing the packages where we’ve featured both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman together, creating opportunities for guys in space to make plays. I’ve been encouraged that we’ve been a really committed running game.

On Manuel, Quinn has been impressed with his in-game decisions and his creativity in terms how he’s matching up guys.

“I’ve been impressed by him in game,” Quinn said. “He’s really clear-headed. The calls are in quickly, and here’s why I called it. Sometimes we’ll talk in between a series and he’s able to have good recall on what happened and here’s what I’d like to do based on that. I’ve been impressed by that so far. I’ve liked the versatility of using different guys in different roles and how to match up on certain players. Some guys have running backs and receivers and how do you utilize those guys. Our defending them has to take some creativity, and how do you use your players and staff in the best way. Through the first mark on both, I’ve been impressed by both their ability to communicate to the players, and their in-game strategy.”

After four games, the Falcons rank the following on offense and defense:

OFFENSE

Scoring: No. 6

Rushing: No. 10

Passing: No. 9

Points per game: No. 6

DEFENSE

Scoring defense: No. 19

Total defense: No. 13

Rushing: No. 12

Passing: No. 18

The Falcons are getting to the quarterback

Atlanta is third in the league in sacks with 12 on the year so far with defensive end Brooks Reed leading the team with three on the year. Vic Beasley suffered a hamstring injury in the Falcons’ Week 2 matchup against the Green Bay Packers and has missed two games.

Seven players have recorded a sack, here’s the full breakdown:

• Reed (3)

• Beasley (2)

Adrian Clayborn (2)

Deion Jones (1)

• De’Vondre Campbell (1)

Brian Poole (1)

Takkarist McKinley (1)

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