Early Bird Report: Falcons earn praise after dominant win

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The Atlanta Falcons earned their fourth win of the season on Sunday and completed their season sweep of the Carolina Panthers in decisive fashion with a 40-20 victory. There were plenty of positives for Atlanta in the win, including a defense that recorded five sacks and three turnovers and an offense that churned out a season-high 159 rushing yards.

NFL.com writer Jelani Scott touched on many of those points in his recap of Sunday's action, but he led off with the defensive performance, which deserves a lot of praise.

"Dating back to Week 8, the Falcons defense has been playing some pretty solid football," Scott writes. "Their best performance in that span came on the road against the Panthers in Week 10 when they prevented a TD, held Christian McCaffrey to 70 rush yards and registered four picks and five sacks on Kyle Allen. In Week 14, Atlanta tried their best to outdo their performance from a few weeks ago, and they came very close to doing so. Save for a pair of TD drives -- one in the first half, the other in garbage time -- and FGs that came a quarter and a half a part, the Falcons defense rarely slipped up. Linebacker Takkarist McKinley recorded a season-high two sacks while fellow LB Vic Beasley terrorized Allen on two strip-sacks; one was recovered by Atlanta and eventually led to a TD. Safety Damontae Kazee also came walked into one of his best outings of 2019, snagging a pick off a bobbled catch by Panthers TE Ian Thomas, and then adding another on a poorly thrown deep ball. As a whole, Atlanta also added six passes defensed, and limited McCaffrey to 53 rush yards. Winning division games always bring the added element of bragging rights and, for Atlanta to both sweep the season series and officially eliminate Carolina from playoff contention at the same time, made this one that much sweeter."

To read the rest of Scott's takeaways from Sunday's game, click here.

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

ESPN: Takeaways from Week 14

ESPN's Vaughn McClure had his own thoughts on the Falcons' win, particularly the performance of the offensive line. Atlanta got first-round pick Chris Lindstrom back for the game, and he played a big role in helping the Falcons look more consistent up front in both the run game and in protecting Matt Ryan.

"The Falcons looked better along the offensive line with rookie Chris Lindstrom back in the lineup for the first time since breaking his right foot in the season opener," McClure writes. "Lindstrom started at right guard and was in a rotation with another young, inexperienced player in Matt Gono. But when Lindstrom drove Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler to the ground, it showed how much the Falcons had missed his play. Atlanta ran the ball better, with a season-high 159 rushing yards and Devonta Freeman's first rushing touchdown since December 2017. Plus, quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked one time on a day when he surpassed 50,000 passing yards for his career."

To read the rest of ESPN's takeaways from Week 14, click here.

AJC: Falcons show they really are better

The Falcons are 3-2 after their bye week, and their three wins have come in decisive fashion. Even their Thanksgiving-night loss to the Saints was fairly competitive. To Michael Cunningham, Sunday's win was yet another indication that the Falcons are a better team of late. The AJC columnist praised Atlanta for its performance on Sunday and the team's overall competitiveness at a time when things seemed to be spiraling.

"The Falcons have improved," Cunningham writes. "That's not enough to salvage their season and probably won't be enough to save coach Dan Quinn's job, but it means something. Save the jokes about it meaning worse draft position for the Falcons. This wasn't the day for that.

"The Falcons (4-9) are playing to win and, for the third time in five weeks, played an impressive game. The 40-20 victory against the Panthers may not have been as satisfying for the Falcons as blowing out the Saints in New Orleans. But it was their most complete effort of the season."

To read the rest of Cunningham's column, click here.

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