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Early Bird Report 10/30: Grades from Falcons' victory; Panthers defense is for real

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As a torrential downpour assaulted MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the Falcons (4-3) overcame some of their early mistakes and made enough big plays down the stretch to snap their three-game losing streak and beat the New York Jets 25-20. Next up for Atlanta is its first divisional matchup of the season, as the Falcons travel to face the Carolina Panthers (5-3).

Today's Early Bird Report includes reactions from the Falcons' victory as well as recaps of what happened elsewhere inside of the division.



*Sports Illustrated: *Falcons finally catch a break

In his column for *Sports Illustrated's *The MMQB, Gary Gramling touched upon many of the events that took place Sunday, including the Falcons’ win over the Jets. He concluded that Atlanta didn't play it's best game, but played well enough – and had a few breaks – to emerge with a victory on the road.

"Can a Couple Breaks Get the Falcons Back on Track: They were lucky to escape East Rutherford with a sloppy, mistake-filled win sealed by a couple of special teams plays," Gramling writes. "Their offense showed signs of life; a little more involvement from the tight ends early, and if you take away a couple of wet-weather drops this would have been a much more comfortable win. The problems were more execution than scheme, and they still had nearly 400 yards in a road game. The Falcons still have plenty of rough edges to smooth out, but getting a win when you're not at your best helps." Falcons beat Jets, break three-game losing streak

Dan Hanzus of had four thoughts from the Falcons’ 25-20 victory over the Jets on Sunday. He begins by noting that although Atlanta won the game, it was far from perfect. Among the mistakes Hanzus mentions are the failed center-quarterback exchanges and the penalty that negated Andre Roberts' long punt return. Hanzus also gives credit to Jets' cornerback Morris Claiborne for his performance against Julio Jones, but Claiborne then left the contest due to an injury and Jones made a big 54-yard catch. Finally, Hanzus says the game ultimately turned on the muffed punt by Jets returner Jeremy Kerley after a superb kick by Falcons punter Matt Bosher.

*Atlanta Journal-Constitution: *Falcons' report card from win against Jets

As he does after every game, the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter assigned grades to each unit for their performance in the Falcons’ victory. There were two bright spots, according to Ledbetter: The run defense, which allowed just 43 yards on 22 carries, earned an "A" for their effort, while the play of Matt Bosher and Matt Bryant helped the special teams unit earn a "B-plus." Outside of those two areas, Lebetter gave out a variety of "C" grades. The run game, pass game and coaching were all given a "C-plus," while the pass defense earned the lowest mark of the day, a "C-minus"

NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, offense a work in progress, but Panthers' D is for real

While the Falcons are gearing up for their first matchup within the division, the Panthers (5-3) are coming off of a big 17-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In recapping the game, ESPN's David Newton wrote that the defense shined in the victory. The Panthers allowed just 279 total yards of offense against the Bucs and registered three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. While starting quarterback Cam Newton and the offense continue to get into form, the defense has carried the Panthers.


*The Times-Picayune: *Overlooked no more, rookie Marshon Lattimore shuts down Bears

In his first NFL season, rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has become a star for the New Orleans Saints. Lattimore has forced three turnovers so far this season, including the game-winning interception in the Saints' 20-12 win over the Chicago Bears. New Orleans' defense has been the story for this team in the first half of the season, and Lattimore's play is a part of the reason for that.

"Sometimes we want the game on our back," Lattimore told *The Times-Picayune*’s Josh Katzenstein after the game. "We want to be out there and seal the game, and we just have that mentality to go out there and make it happen."

*Tampa Bay Times: *Bucs are the biggest underachieving team in the NFL

Entering the year, many believed the NFC South would come down to a battle between the Falcons and the Buccaneers. While Atlanta remains within striking distance, Tampa Bay dropped its fifth game of the season on Sunday to fall to 2-5. *Tampa Bay Times *columnist Tom Jones believes the Buccaneers are the most underachieving team in the NFL. Here's what he had to say of the team's 17-3 loss to the Panthers:

"All that talent and you can only produce three more points than a pee-wee team could have scored? It's inexcusable and the biggest reason why the Bucs find themselves with one foot in the grave and another standing on a banana peel."


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