The Falcons are back in black as they take on the San Francisco 49ers in front of a hometown crowd at the Georgia Dome. Here are photos from the game.
Fast Start Propels Falcons to Victory:
For the sixth time in club history, the Falcons scored 21 points in the opening quarter – giving them a comfortable lead they would not relinquish. Devonta Freeman broke the scoreless tie with a five-yard touchdown run; Matt Ryan then fired two touchdown passes – one to Taylor Gabriel, another to Austin Hooper – to earn a three-possession edge.
By putting up 40-plus points for the fifth time in 2016, Atlanta will enter Week 16 with 469 points on the year, a new single-season Falcons record and, since 1940, the 12th-most a team has posted in 14 games.
"The last two weeks, and specifically today – we've had different guys step up all year," Ryan said. "I've been a part of some good teams for sure, and some good offenses. All of them end up being a little different. I think we're different this year. We're very deep and we've got a good group of guys. So, ultimately, it doesn't matter how we compare to some of those other teams, we just have to do our job week in and week out. And we've been able to do that a number of times this year."
*Freeman Sets It Off: *Devonta Freeman turned in a stellar outing, rushing for 139 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries – a 6.95-yard average. This marks the third time in the last two years he's notched three rushing scores; no one else has more than one such performance in that span, per ESPN Stats and Information. Freeman now has 28 TDs since going pro, the most a Falcon has ever gained during his first three NFL seasons.
The lone blemish on his stat line was a red zone fumble that San Francisco recovered at its own one-yard line. He didn't let that mistake get him down, however; instead, he used it as motivation to close out the day on a strong note. And while he did a lot on his own – making defenders miss, fighting for the goal line, changing direction on outside runs – he was quick to give a lot of credit to his teammates.
"The offensive linemen, they did a good job blocking and creating lanes for us, and Patrick DiMarco," Freeman said. "When we play as a unit, I feel like we're unstoppable."
Ryan Carves Up SF Defense: Matt Ryan improved his case for Most Valuable Player by completing 17 of 23 attempts for 286 yards and three TDs. His QB rating of 144.5 is the fifth-best of his career and the best against a team other than the Buccaneers, per Falcons PR. What's more, he tied his own franchise mark for single-season touchdowns (32).
Robinson Has Career-Best Day: With Julio Jones sidelined, Aldrick Robinson stepped up at wide receiver, catching four passes for a career-high 111 yards. Quinn said the Falcons' WR corps is a competitive group, one that sets a high standard, and Robinson "did a good job demonstrating that today."
Ryan was also pleased with the way Robinson looked, saying a big performance "couldn't happen to a better guy."
"Aldrick, he's a baller, man," Gabriel added. "He comes to work every day and he's balling at practice, so as long as he stays focused, keeps doing the things he's doing, I think the sky's the limit for him. You saw today he had those opportunities and he made plays. So as long as we keep doing us, I feel like we'll be OK."
Rookie Defenders Shine: Deion Jones turned in a solid performance, earning eight tackles and playing a big role in Atlanta's run D. Quinn mentioned he's been impressed with the recent progress of Jones, who has "found his voice, so to speak" at middle linebacker.
Keanu Neal thrived, too, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles and giving the defense sound one-on-one coverage over the middle.
"The first thing with Keanu is the physicality that he showed," Quinn said. "That's really his style and his identity in that way has totally shown up for us. He's one of our better tacklers; he has a real clear understanding of strike zone hitting. We put him in a good bit of time today in man-to-man coverage against tight ends and wide receivers, and he answered those challenges."