FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes reactions to the Falcons' win over the Panthers as well as praise for offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
The Falcons' offense came alive in their 31-24 victory over the Panthers, providing a bit of optimism for the fanbase as another tough division game against the New Orleans Saints quickly approaches.
USA Today's Dan Wolken was impressed with the Falcons' execution on offense against the Panthers, which included a perfect 4-of-4 performance inside of the red zone.
"Sarkisian is in a tough spot," Wolken writes. "Because he took over an offense that set all kinds of records in 2016, any regression like the Falcons experienced in 2017 was going to be pinned on him. It doesn't help that he came from the college game with little NFL pedigree. And there's no doubt some of his play calling, particularly in the red zone, has given the skeptics good material.
"But the NFL is also a game of execution, and the Falcons simply executed better in a 31-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Matt Ryan, who was oddly inaccurate against the Eagles, bounced back with a strong game, completing 23 of 28 passes for 272 yards against a young Panthers secondary. He also had two rushing touchdowns for the first time in his career."
Wolken was also impressed by Calvin Ridley's performance, who caught four passes for 64 yards and his first career touchdown.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
NFL.com: What we learned from Sunday's Week 2 games
As part of the early round of reactions from Week 2, NFL.com's Kevin Patra wrote about the Falcons' victory over the Panthers, sharing three things he learned from the win. His first two points covered each team's offensive performance, but his third point covered a specific pair of Falcons players.
"No Devonta Freeman. No problem for Atlanta," Patra writes. "Tevin Coleman gashed a good Carolina defense with a bevy of stretch runs and pitches. The back galloped for 107 yards on 16 attempts, including big gains of 36 and 19 yards. Elusive in space, Coleman can squeeze between blockers, run through arm tackles, and outrun linebackers on the second-level. Rookie running back Ito Smith also impressed when giving Coleman a breather, including back-to-back gashes of 13 and 18 yarders on the Falcons third TD drive. With Freeman expected to miss a couple weeks, it's comforting for Atlanta coaches to know they have a duo capable of carrying the load."
To read more of the reactions from Week 2, click here.
ESPN: Julio: We don't need Matt Ryan to be Superman, but he was Sunday
Now in his 11th year with the Falcons, Matt Ryan is still managing to accomplish career firsts. Sunday's win over the Panthers marked the first time in which Ryan ran for two touchdowns in a single game. On one such touchdown, Ryan leapt into the air to reach over a gathering of Panthers defender, invoking a super-heroic image.
"In my eyes, Matt always plays good to me," Jones told ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "People always look at Matt and sometimes he's getting pressure or whatever have you. But all of us are going to have games here and there where it looks bad, but it's not bad.
"As long as Matt gives us his all, that's all I want from him. I don't need him to go out there and be Superman. But he did on that touchdown run."
AJC: At a needed time, the Falcons – and Sarkisian – have a big day
Sentiments can flip week-to-week in the NFL, based on the performance in the latest game. One week after ripping into Falcons offense coordinator Steve Sarkisian, critics are praising him for his play-calling against the Panthers. Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is among those who liked what he saw from both Sarkisian and the entire Falcons team.
"Steve Sarkisian will never be Kyle Shananan, but it's days like these when he reminds us he's not Elmer Fudd," Bradley writes. "The man who replaced Shanahan as the Falcons' offensive coordinator had another in a series of underwhelming showings in the opener at Philadelphia. Ten days later, Sark was a veritable shark. Almost every play he called Sunday had, ahem, bite.
"The Falcons stacked 442 yards against a Carolina defense that's supposed to be stout. Matters got close at the end, but even had the Panthers' D.J. Moore held the pass that smacked off his hands in the end zone at 0:00 – DeVondre Campbell and Robert Alford executed a double-team but somehow neglected to play the ball – it would've been hard to see the visitors leaving with an overtime victory. The Falcons were thoroughly the better side. This 31-24 victory marked a get-well day."
To read the rest of Bradley's column on the Falcons' win, click here.