This past decade has undoubtedly been the most successful in Falcons history. Atlanta made the postseason five times, reached the NFC Championship game twice and the Super Bowl once. Matt Ryan earned the first NFL MVP Award in franchise history in 2016, and the Falcons earned three division titles.
Given the success the team has enjoyed over the last ten years, it's not surprising that they were represented on ESPN's story about some of the best teams and players of the decade. They weren't featured as prominently as one might expect, however, as the list was built heavily on Football Outsiders metrics like DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement).
The 2016 Atlanta Falcons were No. 10 on the list of best offenses, which is surprising given the level of efficiency that team had running and throwing the ball. Similarly, Ryan's 2016 season ranked 7th among all quarterbacks this decade.
"Ryan has been a consistently good quarterback in the NFL but his MVP season really stands out," Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz writes. "It's the only Ryan season that ranks in the top 30 for the decade. Ryan led the NFL with 8.25 net yards per attempt and had 38 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. With 4,944 yards, he finished just short of 5,000, and he completed 69.9% of passes. He did all this against the fourth-toughest schedule of opposing defenses. In the playoffs, Ryan averaged 338 yards per game, completing over 70% of his passes with nine touchdowns and no interceptions."
The highest-ranking Falcons player on this list was Tony Gonzalez, whose 2012 season ranked 4th among all tight ends this decade. Notably, Julio Jones did not have a season worthy of inclusion on this list, per Football Outsiders, despite leading the league in receiving yards twice and making two All-Pro teams.
To read the entire piece on ESPN, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
The Ringer: What the 2019 NFL All-Pro team should be
Julio Jones was recently named to his sixth-straight Pro Bowl, but there's an argument that he's deserving of even greater recognition. The Ringer's Robert Mays included him among his candidates for All-Pro consideration, which is fitting given the production he's had.
"You could essentially copy and paste the Hopkins section here and it would fit Julio's season just fine," Mays writes. "Jones is on pace for a ho-hum 95 catches, 1,326 yards, and seven scores. At age 30, he ranks fifth in the league at 2.4 yards per route run. He's still a centaur playing wide receiver, even after nearly a decade in the league."
That bit about the Hopkins section that Mays mentions? That's about the fact that Jones' production feels slightly lower than what people have become accustomed to, yet it's still among the very best in the league.
Week in and week out, Jones continues to have a massive impact on the game despite defenses specifically scheming to stop him from doing so.
To read the rest of Mays' list on potential All-Pro candidates, click here.
AJC: Campbell wreaking havoc on Falcons defense
Atlanta's defense has seen a resurgence since the bye week, stifling some of the league's top offenses in New Orleans and San Francisco. Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell deserves a share of the credit in helping that happen.
A physically diverse player, Campbell has the length and speed to keep up with most NFL tight ends as well as the ability to bring pressure off the edge. His role is an intricate one, but he's played it very well in recent weeks. Against the 49ers, Campbell forced and recovered a fumble that ended a San Francisco drive in Atlanta territory.
"He was just ready to answer every challenge thrown his away," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Campbell. "Another good thing for him is the production that he's had over the last few ball games. There have been sacks, there have been interceptions, forced fumbles. He's been one of the better ball-hawking players for us."
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about Campbell's improved play for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.
NFL.com: Senior Bowl rosters revealed
A majority of the rosters for the annual Senior Bowl were revealed Tuesday on the Move The Sticks podcast. This is an important part of the draft process for many teams, and it has been for the Falcons in recent years. First-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary both participated in the Senior Bowl last season, as did fourth-round pick John Cominsky.
In an article for NFL.com, Nick Shook detailed some of the highlights of this year's roster, which includes a number of tantalizing prospects.
To read Shook's article and see some of the players attending the Senior Bowl, click here.
Pro Football Focus: Team of the Week
Sunday's victory against the 49ers featured a pair of classic performances from some of Atlanta's best players. Julio Jones caught a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett generated consistent pressure and was stout against the run.
For their play against San Francisco, Jones and Jarrett were named to Pro Football Focus's Team of the Week for Week 16.
"Jarrett was a man possessed against the 49ers' ground attack," PFF writes. "He racked up four run stops, which is tied for the most of any interior defensive player this week. Jarrett added six hurries as a pass-rusher for a ridiculous all-around performance."
Jarrett earned a 90.8 grade from PFF for his performance, the highest among Falcons starters, while Jones received a 90.4 grade. Both grades fall under the site's elite range.
To see the rest of PFF's Team of the Week, click here.
ESPN: Week 15 takeaways
The Falcons needed Jones to play like a superstar on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, and he rose to that challenge superbly. In Atlanta's stunning 29-22 victory against a team that entered the game slotted in as the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff picture, Jones caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with two seconds remaining.
It was a game highlighted by two tremendous receiving performances. 49ers tight end George Kittle matched Jones' reception and yardage totals, but, crucially, was held out of the end zone. After a touchdown drought of his own this season, Jones reminded the NFL why he commands respect as one of the best receivers in league history.
"The Falcons did the right thing in relying on their best player against arguably the NFC's top team as Julio Jones scored two touchdowns in the Falcons' upset of the 49ers," Vaughn McClure writes for ESPN's weekend takeaways recap. "Jones caught 13 passes for 134 yards on a season-high 20 targets, including six receptions for 59 yards and the game winner on eight fourth-quarter targets. If this game shifted owner Arthur Blank's thinking on Dan Quinn's job status for the 5-9 Falcons, Quinn will have Jones to thank for it. Quinn and the Falcons now have beaten arguably the NFC's top two teams -- the 49ers and the Saints -- both on the road. But Quinn can't afford for his team to have a letdown next week at home against Jacksonville.
To read the rest of ESPN's takeaways from Week 15 in the NFL, click here.
NFL.com: What we learned in Week 15
Given the way the game ended, it's easy to see why a lot of the reaction to the game centers around Jones' last-second heroics, and that's the topic Adam Maya led off with in his three takeaways from the Falcons' win for NFL.com.
"Julio Jones broke the plane and the 49ers' hearts," Maya writes. "With two seconds remaining, Matt Ryan hit Jones over the middle at the goal line for the game-winning score. The Falcons wideout was initially ruled down at the 1, where time would have run out, but the call was overturned. It came one play after Ryan seemingly hit Austin Hooper for the go-ahead TD, only the tight end pressed the ball against the ground before appearing to make an acrobatic catch. The wild sequence was capped off by Atlanta picking up a fumbled lateral in the end zone on the ensuing kickoff to score its second touchdown in the final five seconds. The Falcons scored on their final two possessions to rally from a 19-10 deficit in the final 10 minutes. It continues a late-season surge under embattled coach Dan Quinn, who's relinquished some defensive responsibilities to his staff while guiding Atlanta to four wins in its past six games. You have to think Quinn's familiarity with former OC Kyle Shanahan had a lot to do with how Sunday played out.
To read the rest of Maya's thoughts on the game, click here.
AJC: Falcons offer glimpse of what could have been
The Falcons are 4-2 since their Week 9 bye, and that record appears to be a true reflection of improved play during that time. With wins against the Saints and 49ers, as well as two decisive victories against the Panthers, the Falcons have looked like the team many expected them to be entering the season. Michael Cunningham, a columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also noticed another change in the team of late. Costly mistakes and the inability to rebound from them played a big role in some early-season losses for Atlanta, but that hasn't been the case recently.
"Every disappointing NFL team can tell a story in which they aren't as bad as they seem and the standings might show it with better luck," Cunningham writes. "For the Falcons that narrative includes Matt Bryant's missed extra point to tie in Arizona, Devonta Freeman's goal-line fumble against Seattle and the three-sack surrender after the Saints tried to gift them a victory in Atlanta.
"I was adding Kenjon Barner's fumbled punt return to the what-if file on Sunday when the Falcons suddenly flipped the script. They would not squander a good effort with fatal miscues. Instead, the Falcons overcame their errors with a furious rally to score the decisive points in the final seconds--twice."
To read the rest of Cunningham's column, click here.
The Ringer: Winners and losers from Week 15
Despite the disappointing overall record this season, something remarkable is happening with the Falcons. Kicker Younghoe Koo has emerged as an "onside kick god," as The Ringer's Rodger Sherman puts it. Atlanta attempted and recovered yet another onside kick at the start of the second half against San Francisco, only to have it wiped away due to a penalty. Koo has now successfully kicked four onside kicks this season; just two of them have counted, but that doesn't wipe away the impressiveness of the feat.
Even more impressive is that the Falcons recovered the kick despite having only 10 men on the field, which is what led to the illegal formation penalty in the first place. Sherman isn't happy about the rule, but his confidence in Koo is through the roof.
"The NFL should change this rule immediately," he writes. "I need to see Koo go out on the field with exactly one other teammate, just to see if he can still connect on an onside kick. I bet he can do it."
To read the rest of Sherman's piece for The Ringer, click here.