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Early Bird Report: Calvin Ridley's record-setting pace; Falcons' need for positive momentum

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes thoughts on Calvin Ridley’s record setting pace and the need to build some positive momentum.

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Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley is on a record-setting pace, and he’s already accomplished something through the first four games that no rookie in NFL history has ever accomplished: Catch six touchdown passes. Is this pace too much to keep up, though?

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure pondered that question in a recent piece about the NFL’s leader in touchdown passes.

“Ridley is on pace for 24 touchdown receptions over the 16-game season, which would set an NFL record,” McClure writes. “Hall of Famer Randy Moss holds the mark with 23 in 2007. Moss also owns the rookie record with 17 in 1998.

“OK, maybe it's way too early to talk about shattering NFL records, but Ridley certainly should establish a new Falcons rookie high. Tight end Junior Miller owns it with nine touchdown receptions in 1980. Julio Jones has the team mark for a rookie wide receiver with eight in 2011.”

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: Falcons hope to get re-tooled defense up to speed quickly

Injuries have forced Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel to get creative with the Falcons’ defense. Against the Bengals, Brian Poole, the team’s primary nickel corner, played strong safety; Desmond Trufant slid inside to play nickel corner and Isaiah Oliver took Trufant’s spot on the outside in nickel packages.

The Bengals scored 37 points against that defensive approach, but only scored nine points in the second half. Perhaps something clicked after halftime, but as D. Orlando Ledbetter writes the Falcons are hoping to get the defense up to speed quickly.

“The biggest thing is that it’s still early in the season,” defensive end Takk McKinley told Ledbetter. “(Quinn) always preaches that there are four quarters to the season. We are 1-3 in the first quarter. The second quarter, we are 0-0. We have to move on from this quarter and go to the next.

AJC: Falcons head to Pittsburgh, their season on the brink

The aforementioned defensive injuries have put the Falcons early on in the season. In some ways, it’s forced the team to alter its identity on the fly. But a 1-3 start have left them in a precarious situation as they prepare to head up to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. It might be too early to say their season hangs in the balance, but Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, momentum is a tricky thing.

“The Falcons have lost three coin flips, and the narrow Carolina victory saw Cam Newton’s pass hit a Panther receiver’s hands in the end zone on the final play,” Bradley writes. “You can say that the Falcons have been ridiculously unlucky, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Still, luck rarely favors a team that can’t defend. If you get unlucky enough early enough, your season could be done before fortune can turn.” 

The Ringer: Week 4 NFL winners and losers

Although the Falcons’ defense has given up over 35 points in each of the last two games, it’s the offense that The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman names as a loser in his weekly NFL winners and losers piece from Week 4. Of course, Sherman’s reason for naming the Falcons’ offense as a loser is because they’ve been playing light’s over the past three weeks and are only 1-2 in that time.

“The Falcons might be the most fun team to watch, since every game is a thrilling shoot-out,” Sherman writes. “They might be the best fantasy bet in the league, with a whole squad of wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends all feeding out of a generous stats buffet. But playing offense for them has to be existentially dreadful—no matter how well they do, a loss is incoming.”

To read the rest of Sherman’s piece on NFL winners and losers, click here.

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