Early Bird Report: Falcons are confident their run game will improve

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Today’s Early Bird Report includes a dive into the Falcons’ run game and why the team is confident things will get cranked up moving forward.

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Atlanta’s passing attack was rolling against the Philadelphia Eagles, with both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley gaining more than 100 yards, but the ground game has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. Through their first two games, the Falcons are averaging 65 rushing yards, which ranks 28th in the NFL.

Despite the lower numbers, the Falcons aren’t worried. As offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter explained this week, Atlanta want’s to be a run-first team.

“I thought we were really close to having some breakouts in the run game, but we were a little bit off,” Koetter said. “Maybe a small assignment or an execution mistake here and there. That’s something we’ll continue to work on.”

D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about the Falcons’ rushing attack in 2019 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.

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

ESPN: Inside Julio Jones’s first-ever NFL touchdown

With the Indianapolis Colts up next on the schedule, it’s the perfect time to relive an important moment in Falcons history. In Week 9 of the 2011 season, Julio Jones, then a rookie, caught his first NFL touchdown pass.

He’s gone on to catch 53 more touchdown passes throughout his career, including the game-winner on Sunday night against the Eagles, but that first one was something special. ESPN reporters Vaughn McClure and Mike Wells took a look back at that first touchdown pass and spoke with those involved.

"That was probably one of the best catches I've ever seen,” Former Falcons receiver Roddy White told McClure. “Julio caught the ball in between three people off the ground. You know how hard that is to do?"

Jones finished that game with three catches for 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yard score on a slant route.

To read the rest of the piece, click here.

Week 3 NFL power rankings

The Falcons came through with a big victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in their home opener, and although there were plenty of mistakes in the process, a win is still a win.

That win was reflected in this week’s batch of power rankings, as the Falcons made small jumps in several of them. NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus moved the Falcons up two spots to No. 21 in his latest power ranking, while Atlanta bumped up three spots to No. 16 in ESPN’s rankings.

“It was a thing of beauty. On fourth-and-3 and staring down the very real possibility of 0-2, Matt Ryan checked into a screen pass to Julio Jones and, moments later, the Falcons were ahead of the Eagles for good,” Hanzus writes. “Ryan was at his field-general best, Jones showed the playmaking ability that will put him in Canton one day, and Jake Matthews delivered the pancake block to spring Jones that left tackles dream about. It was the best play of an otherwise-sloppy night for Ryan, who missed open receivers and threw three interceptions. His final pass wiped away all sins. We'd be remiss not to bring attention to cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who saved the game in the final minute with a textbook tackle of Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz on fourth down. If Ertz gets an extra half yard, the Eagles have first-and-goal. Instead, Oliver sent the Falcons' offense back on the field in victory formation.”

AJC: The NFC South is up for grabs, can Matt Ryan deliver?

Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their most prosperous run since his arrival in 2008. He turned the ball over three times on Sunday night against the Eagles and now has five interceptions this season after throwing just seven all of last year. Ryan has earned every benefit of the doubt, and he should settle in as the season continues on. As Mark Bradley notes in his column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, the NFC South is now wide open after Drew Brees’ injury and Ryan needs to deliver to help the Falcons take advantage of it.

“This organization has again done everything in its power to make him happy,” Bradley writes. “He has Koetter, an offensive coordinator he liked the first time around. He has the best receivers this side of Alabama. (Two of these are Bama alums.) The NFC South is there for the taking. Matt Ryan has built his career on delivering the goods. This would be a fine time for him to stop delivering to the wrong address.”

To read the rest of Bradley’s column on Ryan and the NFC South, click here.

CBS Sports: Week 2 NFL grades

An ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day of the week. And while there were plenty of reasons to praise the Falcons for their performance against the Eagles, there are some areas to clean up moving forward. Nobody is more aware of that than the Falcons coaches and players, and the best teams continue to improve as the season rolls along. Given their performance on Sunday night had some sloppy moments, however, it’s not shocking that CBS Sports’ John Beech gave the Falcons a “B” for the game.

“There's a reason the Falcons gave Julio Jones the largest receiving contract in NFL history, and he showed off that reason in this game,” Beech writes. “Jones caught five passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, including a 54-yard TD catch with just 2:10 left to play that ended up being the game-winner. The play of Jones helped the Falcons overcome a disastrous night by Matt Ryan, who threw three interceptions. Defensively, the biggest performance came from Desmond Trufant, who picked off Wentz twice.”

To see the rest of Beech’s grades from Week 2, click here.

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