Injuries to Desmond Trufant and Calvin Ridley will provide opportunities for younger players on the Falcons' roster to see increased roles at the cornerback and wide receiver positions. Atlanta had already begun giving players like Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Olamide Zaccheaus additional playing time, and they've already made their presence felt.
Zaccheaus caught the first pass of his career against the Panthers, a 93-yard touchdown catch that was the third-longest pass play in franchise history. The Falcons had a number of competitive camp battles, including at wide receiver, and now several young players like Zaccheaus, Christian Blake and Jordan Miller will have three games to continue showing what they can do.
"He made the team right from the start," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "I think that shows the confidence that the staff had in him. He's a guy that's worked extremely hard and doesn't get that many opportunities because of the other guys that we have, but when he gets his number called, he's not scared. I admire that in him."
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote more about the Falcons' plan to move ahead without Trufant and Ridley for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: NFL Draft nuggets to know for all 32 teams
With just three games remaining in the season, we've already begun to get greater clarity on the upcoming NFL Draft. There's still plenty of football left to play, but it's not too early to understand the Falcons' needs and possible draft slot for April. ESPN's Vaughn McClure summarized Atlanta's current standing and how he thinks the team might proceed during draft season.
"The Falcons need to find pass-rush help immediately," McClure writes. "Their ugly cap situation for 2020 means they probably won't be able to lure a top-flight edge rusher in free agency. Although this draft class might lack dominant pass-rushers, the Falcons -- and whoever is calling the shots next season -- need to find a gem among the draftees. Vic Beasley Jr., the league leader in sacks in 2016, leads the team with six sacks, but he's unlikely to be back next season, given his inconsistency. Former first-round pick Takk McKinley still needs some work."
NFL.com: What we learned in Week 14
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.
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.