FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons (3-1) lost their first game of the season Sunday, falling to the Buffalo Bills 23-17. Atlanta heads into its bye week looking to get healthy as it had five players inactive for the game due to injuries and then had receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and defensive lineman Jack Crawford suffer injuries of their own.
Today's Early Bird Report includes some grades from the Falcons' loss to the Bills as well as results from around the NFC South.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Falcons report card from Sunday
Atlanta didn't play close to its potential in its loss to Buffalo, but not all aspects of the game fared poorly. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC handed out grades for the Falcons' performance, and they reflect the struggles the team had on Sunday.
Ledbetter gave a "D" grade to the Falcons' pass offense, pass defense and coaching staff. The fourth-and-1 play is one that he mentions when discussion his grade for the coaches. Receiving a "C" grade were the run offense and the special teams. The run defense, which limited Buffalo's backs to 3.8 yards per carry, was given a "B-minus" grade.
Sports Illustrated: Three thoughts from Bills' win over Falcons
Before taking the opportunity to re-watch games and fully digest what happened, many sites give some version of brief takeaways – you can check ours out, here. *Sports Illustrated *is no exception, and the folks there usually do a good job of touching on the main points of each game. On Sunday, SI's Michael Beller provided three thoughts on the Bills' victory.
First, he notes that the Bills are contenders in the AFC. Beller then praises Buffalo's defense, which limited the Falcons' offense, albeit without Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu for the second half, and held Matt Ryan to his lowest yards per attempt total since 2014 (5.85). Finally, he expresses concern for the impact Jones' injury had on Atlanta's offense, saying: "the equation for this offense will change significantly if the hip injury forces Jones to miss time."
CBS Sports: Falcons receivers pay tribute to Ric Flair with custom cleats during warmups
Setting the game aside, both Jones and Sanu came out for warm-ups donning some truly impressive footwear. Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports was one of several people who wrote about the receivers' cleats that payed homage to "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
Flair visited the Falcons during training camp this year, and he clearly left an impression.
BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFC SOUTH
The Charlotte Observer: How did Carolina pull off that huge upset over New England?
Among the many scores from Sunday's games, one that was particularly eye-catching was Carolina's 33-30 victory over New England. A Panthers team that had scored just 22 points over the last two games put up 33 in the victory, and The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler helped explain the win.
Cam Newton had a much-needed performance, completing 16-of-17 passes at one point for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Kicker Graham Gano came through in the clutch with a 48-yard game-winning field goal in the final seconds, and 37-year-old Julius Peppers sacked Tom Brady twice, bringing his season total to 4.5.
ESPN.com: Saints suddenly dominant on defense?
Sunday started off with a big surprise, as the Saints shut out the Miami Dolphins 20-0 in London to begin the day of football. One week after holding the Carolina Panthers to just 13 points, the Saints gave up only 186 yards and no points. The Dolphins had a chance to score on their opening drive, but Saints cornerback Ken Crawley intercepted Jay Cutler in the end zone. Miami never crossed New Orleans' 40-yard line after that opening possession.
"It was a good one to get," coach Sean Payton said after the game, according to ESPN's Mike Triplett. "A long way to come get it -- but it was worth it."
Tampa Bay Times: Bucs edge Giants on Nick Folk's last-play field goal
The Panthers weren't the only NFC South team to win on a late field goal, as Tampa Bay came back to beat the New York Giants 25-23 on a 34-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
The Buccaneers built an early 13-0 lead, only to give up that lead in the third quarter. After going ahead 22-17 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bucs watched their lead disappear when Eli Manning hit tight end Rhett Ellison for a touchdown pass with 3:16 left on the clock. Tampa Bay took over at its own 25-yard line, and Jameis Winston helped guide his team to New York's 13-yard line before putting the game on the foot of Folk.
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