FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons are back at practice on Thursday preparing for an important three-game road stretch. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Wednesday he wants to see optimal effort and consistency from his players during games, which will surely be needed in the coming weeks.
Today's Early Bird Report includes some information about the owners meeting with the players about protests and a look at the Patriots' pass defense.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*Sports Illustrated: *Anthem meeting yields 'productive' dialogue between owners, players
Eleven NFL owners and 13 players met at the NFL office in New York on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the anthem protests that have been at the forefront of the league for several weeks. SI's Peter King spoke with several owners afterwards about the meeting, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
"I told [commissioner] Roger Goodell this, and I said it to all the owners this afternoon — I thought this was one of the most open and productive meetings I've been in, maybe ever, in any business I've been involved with. And I'm 75 years old," Blank told King. "The players we met with today were deeply emotional and knowledgeable about the issues they're passionate about. The owners listened, and I thought the owners responded with the same kind of passion."
The owners stated at the meeting that no league-wide policy about the anthem would be set, and Blank indicated to King that the owners need to show long-term support of the players and their causes.
CBS Sports: Super Bowl hangover proving to be real for struggling Falcons
There is a lot of negativity in the media surrounding the Falcons at this point in their 2017 season, especially with a big showdown against the New England Patriots coming up. Through just five games, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora is ready to call it curtains on any hopes Atlanta may have of returning to the Super Bowl.
La Canfora mentions the loss of former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as having a major impact on the offense so far this season and the slow start Matt Ryan and the passing game have had. He ends his portion on the Falcons by saying this:
"Could they reverse some of this? Sure. And getting Vic Beasley back on defense to lead the pass rush should certainly help. Perhaps, a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots Sunday night will get them going, and if they can't put up 30 on that atrocious defense they've really got issues. But then again, they play four of their next five on the road (Patriots, Jets, Panthers, Seahawks), and their December schedule looks daunting, too. Regardless, it's not too soon to worry about this team, and where it's going, especially in light of what went down in Houston in February."
NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: New England Patriots
The Ringer: The Patriots pass defense is bad at everything
New England has a notable flaw so far this season: Its pass defense. According to Rodger Sherman of The Ringer, it "hasn't just been bad; it's been horrendous." In each of the past two seasons, the Patriots have allowed just four quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards against them. So far this season, all six quarterbacks they've faced have reached that mark.
Sherman had a hard time pinpointing the exact reason the Patriots' defense has struggled so mightily – they are last in a number of categories and near the bottom in many more – but he couldn't identify a few issues. Instead, he pulled six clips that give readers an idea of just how porous New England's pass defense has been.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
ESPN.com: Panthers WR Benjamin leaves practice with knee issue
Carolina is already dealing with an injury to starting linebacker Luke Kuechly, and it may have another injury to worry about. According to ESPN's David Newton, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin left Wednesday's practice early and was listed as a non-participant with a knee injury. Benjamin tweaked his knee in the Panthers' loss to the New Orleans Saints and missed the remainder of that game. He has played in the past three games for Carolina, however.
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