FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a discussion about the Falcons' defense as well as grades from Week 2 in the NFL.
In front of the home crowd, Atlanta's offense came alive on Sunday to out-duel Carolina in a 31-24 victory. There's not much negative to discuss with the offense's performance on Sunday, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley found a few flaws in the defense to discuss in his recent column.
"Duke Riley, who figures to be the chief replacement for Jones, missed the tackle on Moore that became the 55-yard touchdown that galvanized Carolina's comeback," Bradley writes. "Damontae Kazee, seeing more snaps with Neal shelved, was ejected for unnecessary roughness after hitting the sliding Newton in the head and faces a certain fine and a possible suspension. For all the brave talk about the depth of this roster – and it is, we stipulate, an excellent roster – there's a reason your starters are starting. This defense won't be as stout without two All-Pros."
The Falcons surrendered 439 yards of offense to Cam Newton and the Panthers, including 318 passing yards. Safety Ricardo Allen did come up with an interception, but it wasn't the type of performance fans have become accustomed to seeing from this defense.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
CBS Sports: NFL Week 2 grades
Following the weekend of action, CBS Sports' John Breech graded each team's performance. There were some good showings, which obviously earned high marks, and there were some really poor performances, which didn't. The Falcons fall into the former category, earning a B+ for their win against the Panthers.
"After being mocked for his red zone calls in Week 1, Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian apparently took that personally, because the Falcons definitely looked better on Sunday," Breech writes. "In four trips to the red zone, the Falcons scored four touchdowns, and the most improbable part might be the fact that Matt Ryan rushed for two of those scores. Ryan had more rushing touchdowns against Carolina than he had in the past six years combined (1). With Devonta Freeman out, the Falcons also got a huge performance from Tevin Coleman, who rushed for 107 yards, the second highest total of his four-year career."
To read the rest of the NFL grades from over the weekend, click here.
NFL.com: DeSean on Fitzpatrick: 'You can't take the hot man out'
The Buccaneers have an interesting situation developing at quarterback right now. Incumbent starter Jameis Winston is set to return from a three-game suspension soon, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has played lights out at quarterback over the first two weeks. Tampa Bay receiver DeSean Jackson spoke on "NFL Total Access" and supported sticking with the hot hand.
"He's been on fire right now," Jackson said. "With the way the team is rallying behind him and just playing lights-out football, you have to kind of honor it. You can't take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now. It's like 'NBA Jam.' We used to play 'NBA Jam' -- whoever's got that hot fire shot, you got to keep shooting, man."
The Falcons will face the Buccaneers in Week 6, and as of right now, they could face either quarterback.
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."