5 Things: Focusing on Ryan's Historic Passing Day

1. No News on Injuries: Less than 24 hours after his team defeated the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Falcons head coach Mike Smith addressed the media discussing the Week 16 win and promising to release any new injury updates when news become available.

Smith said Steven Jackson (quad), William Moore (shoulder) and Josh Wilson (hamstring) all had further tests done Monday. Smith later mentioned that despite right guard Jon Asamoah (back) "working like crazy" to return to game action, he was kept out for his own best interest and is expected to be limited at practice  Wednesday.

2. Ryan's Record-Breaking Day: Sunday was the biggest stage for his team all season, and Matt Ryan delivered by outdueling Saints quarterback Drew Brees, completing 30-of-40 pass attempts (75 percent) with one touchdown and a 106.5 passer rating. It's the second-straight week Ryan delivered with such precision, completing 70 percent of his passes for the 31st time in his career, including no interceptions.

Our friends at NFLAM recognized Ryan's effort, pointing out his 32nd-straight road game totaling more than 200 passing yards, topping the 31-straight games by Brees and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Ryan's 322 passing yards on Sunday moved him to 27,906 for his career, the second-highest total number of passing yards by any quarterback in his first seven NFL seasons, behind only Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (29,442).

3. Welcome Back, Julio: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones didn't practice at all last week before going out on Sunday and recording his third-straight 100-yard game. Jones has posted 100-plus receiving yards seven times this season, and his seven receptions in Week 16 gave him 100 catches for the season.

He is the fourth Falcon to record 100 catches in a season, joining WR Roddy White (twice), Terance Mathis and Eric Metcalf. Despite missing Atlanta's Week 15 game against Pittsburgh with a hip injury, Jones still leads the NFC in receiving yards (1,535) and receptions (100) in 2014.

4. Outstanding OL Play: The Falcons posted 403 yards of total offense in Sunday's win, logging their second-straight game with more than 400 total yards. A big reason why the Falcons kept the chain gang burning calories up and down the sidelines is their offensive line.

Once again on Sunday, Mike Tice's crew needed to rely on depth, replacing Asamoah with Gabe Carimi, who joined his four fellow linemen to keep Ryan clean all game long. The offensive line allowed just three quarterback hurries and two tackles for loss.

The Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints go head to head on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Check out these pictures of gameday.

5. Timely Forced Turnovers: The Falcons defense forced four turnovers in the win, including interceptions by Desmond Trufant and Robert McClain and a forced fumble by Kemal Ishmael.

McClain's interception set up an insurance score in the fourth quarter by Matt Bryant's 32-yard field goal. Ishmael's forced fumble, recovery and 18-yard return against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter prevented a possible Saints' touchdown. Ishmael leads the team with five forced turnovers, including four interceptions and one forced fumble.

Kroy Biermann sealed the productive defensive effort Sunday with a sack and forced fumble against Brees at the Atlanta 11-yard line. Osi Umenyiora recovered and returned the fumble for an 86-yard touchdown as time expired. The return score was the 18th time the Falcons have posted a defensive score under Smith, owning a 14-4 record in those games.


Sack Attack: Atlanta's defense notched a season-high five sacks against New Orleans, including three sacks in the first half. Jonathan Babineaux, rookie Ra'Shede Hageman and Dwight Lowery each dropped Brees for a loss in the first half, while Corey Peters and Biermann each earned a sack in the second half.

More Defensive Numbers:Atlanta's defense held the Saints to 57 rushing yards on 18 carries (3.2 yards per carry), marking the second-straight game the Falcons have limited their opponents to less than 60 rushing yards. The Falcons defense held the Saints to 78 total yards in the first half, while Brees completed just seven of 13 passes for 74 yards with one interception and a 38.6 passer rating.

One Hot Kicker: Matt Bryant connected on all three of his field goal attempts (32, 44, and 50 yards) in the win. The 39-year-old kicker was under the weather during Sunday's game but didn't show any signs of it, splitting the uprights for 12 points on the day. This season, Bryant leads the NFL with seven field goals of 50-or-more yards.

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