FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Behind a dominant defensive performance, that Falcons went into Los Angeles and upset the third-seeded Rams 26-13. Now, the Falcons will turn their attention to another road game against the NFC's No. 1 seed, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Today's Early Bird Report includes reasons Falcons coach Dan Quinn should be considered for the NFL Coach of the Year Award as well as Atlanta already making history against Philadelphia.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Sports Illustrated: After Falcons' win, consider Quinn for NFL Coach of the Year
The Falcons were the only NFC team from the 2016 playoff field to make the postseason this year, and they will be advancing past the first weekend after an upset victory on the road. For the work that he's done this season, *Sports Illustrated's *Conor Orr believes Quinn deserves every Coach of the Year vote he might get. But Orr adds, "he's not going to get nearly enough of them."
"Throughout the night Saturday, the Falcons tackled like a world-class rugby team," Orr writes. "Defensive backs were jumping routes quick enough to not only break up passes (six in total), but emphatically swat them to the ground. Gurley caught just four balls for 10 yards after a season where he averaged more than that per grab. This can all be traced back to the defensive minded head coach who, we conveniently forget, had an inconceivable weight on his shoulders to start the season.
"We can roll our eyes at Quinn's approach to rectifying the worst moment of his professional life, only if we realize that it paid off. After having his pride surgically removed on national television by the Patriots, he's working his way back for another chance."
NFL.com: Falcons 'right where we want to be' after beating Rams
The Falcons have taken a one-game-at-a-time approach all season long, and that won't change now that they're in the playoffs. After beating the third-seeded Rams, the Falcons are exactly where they want to be: one of four NFC teams still playing. As Michael Silver of NFL.com puts it, "The Falcons suddenly look quite capable of advancing to a second consecutive NFC Championship Game."
"The resiliency showed by this team is what's important," Quinn told Silver. "'Cause everyone wants you to get back to the Super Bowl and replay that, and you don't get to replay it. You learn from the scars, but you don't get to replay it.
"I knew going in this would be a challenging season, and that our division would be tough. You've heard me say, 'The only fight that matters is the one you're in.' So when people bring up the Super Bowl? F--- that. We're not looking ahead. We're not looking back. We're looking at what's right in front of us."
Here are some more stories on the Falcons:
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Philadelphia Eagles
ESPN: Eagles first top-seed 'dog in division round
The Eagles will enter Saturday's game against the Falcons as an underdog, according to ESPN's David Purdum, marking the first time in NFL history that a No. 1 seed has not been favored in the divisional round of the playoffs. Per Purdum, the Falcons will open as a 2.5-favorite on the road against the Eagles.
Purdum notes that the last time a No. 1 seed was less than a 3-point favorite in its first playoff game was in 2010, when the Falcons were only a 1-point favorite against the Packers. Green Bay won that game 48-21.
Here is some other news on the Eagles:
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
ESPN: Brees, Jordan make sure Saints don't squander playoff return
It's been four seasons since the Saints last made a postseason appearance. Drew Brees and Cam Jordan weren't going to let this rare opportunity go to waste. When the Panthers stifled the Saints' ground game, New Orleans turned to its Plan B – the most accurate quarterback in NFL history. Brees shined with 376 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Saints' 31-26 victory over the Panthers.
Defensively, it was Cam Jordan who slammed the door shut on the Panthers' comeback attempt. The star pass rusher turned the final minutes of the game by forcing Cam Newton into throwing a pass that got flagged for intentional grounding, moving Carolina back towards midfield and taking a precious 10 seconds off of the clock.
When things appeared to get a bit dicey for the Saints, they turned to two veteran playmakers to push them through to the divisional round.
*The Charlotte Observer: *10 men who mattered most in Panthers' loss
Sunday marked a disappointing end to an inconsistent season for the Panthers. In their final game, they put that inconsistency on display, hitting big plays one minute and making glaring mistakes the next. After the final whistle blew, Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer named the 10 players who he believed mattered the most on Sunday.
At the top of his list was Brees, who was flawless once again in the Superdome. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was mentioned just after Brees. Newton, for his part, played admirably, throwing for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He missed the mark just a bit too often, but his receivers didn't help him much. Speaking of the Panthers' receivers, here is what Fowler had to say of Kaelin Clay, who dropped a touchdown pass early in the game that would have given Carolina a lead:
"Newton threw an absolute dart into Clay's arms on Carolina's second possession on third-and-2 from the 7. Yes, a defender was applying pressure to Clay, but a good receiver holds onto that one and makes it 7-0. Instead, the young Panthers wide receiver dropped it, and it turned out Carolina never led."
Here are some more articles from around the division:
- *The Charlotte Observer: *Brees picks apart Panthers as Saints roll in win
- *USA TODAY: *Saints stave off Panthers' push in frantic wild-card finish
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