It's hard to imagine there isn't a good amount of overlap between fans of the Georgia Bulldogs and the Atlanta Falcons, and those fans are very aware of what D'Andre Swift is capable of.
Considered by some to be the top running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, Swift had a true breakout game in Week 6 for the Detroit Lions. He carried the ball 14 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns in Detroit's 34-16 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and only continues to improve as his rookie season rolls along.
"Swift has been unbelievable since Day 1 that we got him," Lions coach Matt Patricia told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Very consistent guy. Very steady. Even-keeled type of guy, which is great for us because we can just. … We've seen his improvement every single day that he's been in the building. He's obviously a very talented player. A tremendous person. Very humble. He just works extremely hard."
So far this season, Swift has gained 289 yards from scrimmage and scored four touchdowns. Used primarily as a receiving back, his performance against Jacksonville was by far the best of the year for Swift. Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about what the Falcons can expect from Swift on Sunday.
QB rankings through Week 6
As we saw in Week 6, Matt Ryan is still capable of putting up big numbers and leading his team to a victory. He completed 30 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
Despite his efforts against the Vikings, Ryan still dropped one spot in Sam Monson's quarterback rankings for Pro Football Focus from where he was entering the season. Ryan currently sits at No. 9 for Monson, suggesting he's still among the league's top-tier passers.
"It would be easy to dismiss Ryan as washed up and a symptom of the decay of the Atlanta Falcons team that was so close to Super Bowl glory just a few seasons ago, but while he hasn't been good, his play has been far from the biggest problem with the team," Monson writes. "This past week, we saw that he can still perform at a high level when he has his weapons available. When kept clean from pressure this season, Ryan has a PFF grade of 88.6, an adjusted completion rate of over 80% and a passer rating of 103.0."
Morris taking opportunity seriously
After earning the Falcons' interim head coach label, Raheem Morris told the media that he wasn't thinking too much about the "interim" part of his title and that his job was to go 1-0 for the next 11 weeks.
Following an impressive victory against Minnesota, Morris now has 10 weeks remaining to accomplish that goal. With previous head coaching experience in this league, Morris has learned plenty of lessons along the way that have put him in this current position. Courtney Cronin wrote about the opportunity ahead for Morris in a piece for ESPN.com.
"Since 1960, the win-loss record for interim head coaches in their first game was 31-60-1. Morris bucked that trend, too, and looked impressive on the way to victory. Sure, the Vikings are in the midst of a lost season and put together a disastrous performance, but the Falcons managed to dismantle Minnesota in a way that reflects well on Morris. And unlike in previous weeks when the Falcons jumped out to a strong start, they didn't give away the lead on the way to a 40-23 victory."
Falcons have been nearly perfect on fourth down lately
The Falcons have been on a fourth-down tear of late. After an 0-for-4 start to the season on fourth down, Atlanta has converted 8-of-10 fourth-down attempts in its previous five games.
Just as Atlanta's failure to pick up a fourth down in its season opener wasn't indicative of what the team's performance on that down would become, its recent success isn't guaranteed to continue. A fact that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter knows well.
"You gotta let it play out," Koetter said. "When you go for 3-for-3, it looks good, and when you go 0-for-3 in a game, it doesn't look good. That's going to average out over the course of the year."
Jason Butt took a deeper look at Atlanta’s fourth downs of late in a piece for The Atlanta Journal-Constituion, explaining why they were particularly effective in the Falcons' first win of the season against the Vikings.
NFL power rankings after Week 6
Atlanta's performance in Week 6 was certainly refreshing and the type of game this team was always capable of putting together. But does it signal a true change for the Falcons' season?
Only time will provide the answer to that question, but Atlanta played up to its potential while earning its first win of the year. The Falcons are no longer among the winless teams in the NFL, and The Ringer's Danny Kelly believes, at the very least, they will be a tough out for the remaining opponents on the schedule.
"It's getting harder and harder to find nice things to say about the teams in this part of the rankings, but the Week 6 slate did offer some slight optimism for the Falcons, who finally got into the win column with a 40-23 blowout of the Vikings," Kelly writes. "With Raheem Morris as their new interim head coach, Atlanta picked off Kirk Cousins three times and rediscovered their mojo on offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan seemed happy to get a healthy Julio Jones back into action, too, and found the veteran pass catcher for touchdowns twice. It's tough to say whether Atlanta turned the proverbial corner under Morris or simply beat up on a bad team in Minnesota, but this was definitely the type of offensive performance that could make the Falcons a tough out for opponents the rest of the year."
More headlines for Falcons fans
- AtlantaFalcons.com: Behind Enemy Lines: Ryan key vs. Lions
- AtlantaFalcons.com: Gurley ready for showdown with Swift
- AtlantaFalcons.com: Beek’s Bits: Is Falcons defense for real?
- AtlantaFalcons.com: Everything to know about Lions
- ESPN.com: Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford’s friendship
- ESPN.com: Barnwell ranks the NFL’s contender busts
- NFL.com: Week 7 NFL picks
- CBSSports.com: 2021 NFL mock draft
- PFF.com: Falcons-Vikings ReFocused
- AJC.com: A.J. Terrell has impressive rookie start
- AJC.com: Gurley keeps consistent approach
- AJC.com: Morris ready for second shot