FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' intentions to get Julio Jones more involved and if there's a way back for Atlanta in 2018.
The Falcons undoubtedly have one of the best receivers in the NFL in Julio Jones, but he didn't catch his first pass until the fourth quarter in Atlanta's 41-17 loss to the Steelers.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn didn't plan on Jones' involvement unfolding that way, and he said after the game the team wants to get him as involved as possible.
"Yeah, definitely not by design," Quinn said of Jones' minimal involvement. "Just have to make sure he gets as many touches as we can in the game. He's one of our best and most explosive players so every game, we want him involved."
Jones, who entered the game as the NFL's leader in receiving yards, finished with 62 yards on five catches.
ESPN's Vaughn McClure wrote more about Jones' game on Sunday and the Falcons' plan to get him more involved moving forward, which you can read here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
AJC: After being routed, is there a way back for the Falcons?
Atlanta suffered its most lopsided defeat on Sunday, and it's now fallen to 1-4 on the season. The most recent loss, coupled with the number of impactful injuries the team has sustained, leads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley to ask if there is a way for the Falcons to get back on track in 2018?
"Apologies for belaboring the point, but the Falcons really are up against it," Bradley writes. "They're 1-4. No NFL team has a worse record. Once past the next two weeks – Tampa Bay on Sunday, then the Giants on Monday night – they'll have three home games remaining. It's no longer realistic to think in terms of 10-6, and finishing 9-7 would entail going 8-3 from here on. And the Falcons' performance here in what was essentially a must game for both was their worst of the season. This time both offense and defense – and special teams, too – were culpable. It was a total fizzle."
NFL.com: What we learned from Week 5
There's no question that Sunday was tough for the Falcons, who now have very little margin for error moving forward. Following the loss, NFL.com's Kevin Patra shared three things he learned from Atlanta's loss on the road.
"Matt Ryan missed the comfy confines of his home dome," Patra writes. "The Falcons QB was off-target all day on the road, unable to take advantage of a struggling Steelers secondary. Credit Pittsburgh's defense, which swarmed Ryan with an array of blitzes and pressures, sacking the quarterback six times (including four in the first half). Pittsburgh's pressure forced quick decisions from Ryan, and the quarterback looked discombobulated. Ryan was particularly off-target to Julio Jones early, throwing several balls behind the All-Pro receiver. Julio didn't record his first catch until 13:36 left in the game and the Falcons trailing by 17 points. On a day in which Ryan was battered, his sack fumble for a Pittsburgh touchdown was an emblematic end to the quarterback's forgettable day. In a pivotal game, Ryan's laid egg was reminiscent of his struggles in the season-opening road loss in Philly. With ATL trailing big most of the second half, Devonta Freeman's return from a knee injury was essentially nullified."