Devonta Does It Again: With Tevin Coleman sidelined for the second consecutive week, Devonta Freeman stepped up to give Atlanta a consistent, and oftentimes devastating, ground attack. The second-year back finished the day with 149 total yards and three touchdowns, making him the first Falcon to go back-to-back games with multiple rushing TDs since Michael Turner accomplished that feat in 2010.
"Opportunity is everything," he said. "They don't come around often, so you have to take advantage of them when you get them. I'm just blessed to have the opportunity to play in the NFL. I can always get better, I want to get better, I want to be better, but I'm really happy."
Ryan Stays Efficient: Matt Ryan turned in another impressive performance, this time completing 19 of 27 passes for 256 yards and a TD. Houston's talented front seven created a lot of pressure, and Ryan, who stood tall in the pocket and scrambled when necessary, did a great job firing quick throws to steadily move the ball downfield. He and the offense thrived when it mattered most: The Falcons converted nine of 16 third downs and found paydirt on all four trips to the red zone.
Trufant Gets Chance to Shine: Earlier this week, Desmond Trufant said he wanted to be tested more by opposing QBs, and on Sunday, he got his wish: Ryan Mallett struggled when targeting the 25-year-old CB, who also recovered two fumbles—the first of which resulted in a 24-yard touchdown run.
"They challenged (Trufant) a bit outside, and we expected that," Dan Quinn said. "We knew it was quiet for a little while, but that doesn't happen all the way throughout the season. He just answered the way he always does.
"I couldn't be more pleased with his game. He works at it extremely hard, and those are the things you don't see behind the scenes of why he is so good. He just relentlessly works at keep getting better."
Watt Kept in Check: JJ Watt deflected two passes and sacked Ryan once, but for the most part, Atlanta did a great job containing Houston's most dangerous asset. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder spent most of the day against Watt and kept the three-time Pro Bowler at bay more often than not. Quinn believes the communication of the OL was a big factor in slowing down Watt; Schraeder, now one of the more solid right tackles in football, credited Atlanta's balanced approach to helping him against the league's best defender.
"Running the ball, that's the best way to go against a guy like JJ Watt," he said. "If you're running the ball, he's going to get frustrated, because he wants to rush the passer on second downs, third and long. I feel like we did a pretty good job. I felt pretty good for the most part. He got one sack on me, but we'll watch the film and see what happened. I didn't feel too bad about it. Just have to keep getting better."
Julio Makes Impact Away from Ball: The Falcons offense proved it can be electric when Julio Jones doesn't dominate. The star WR hauled in four catches for 38 yards—a season-low—but opened up a lot of space for WR Leonard Hankerson, who tallied 103 receiving yards and a touchdown.
"With Julio just being out there, it helps out all of us," Hankerson said. "Just to be able to go out there and make some plays and help this team out—it feels good. You can't act like (Jones) isn't there. The defensive coordinators, they dream about him. So you have to call a defense that double-teams him, and that helps out everybody."