Early Bird Report: Thoughts on the Falcons' third-straight win

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The Falcons earned a nice victory Sunday against the Jaguars and have now won five of their last seven games since the bye week. Although Jacksonville is in the midst of its own down year, it was heartening to see Atlanta beat a team it was expected to.

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A pair of milestones were reached on Sunday. Matt Ryan has now thrown for 4,000 yards in nine-straight seasons, which is the longest active streak in the league and second-longest in NFL history, and Julio Jones reached 12,000 yards for his career faster than any receiver ever.

"The Falcons' season went wrong for a variety of reasons, but a drop-off from Julio Jones isn't one of them," ESPN's Michael DiRocco writes. "The ninth-year receiver had 10 catches for 166 yards on Sunday, giving him his 55th career game with at least 100 yards receiving. That's fourth-most all time and the most by any player in the NFL since Jones was drafted in 2011, per ESPN Stats & Information. It also made Jones the 27th player in NFL history with 12,000 career receiving yards -- and the fastest player to reach that total, too (125 games). Only two other active players have 12,000 or more receiving yards: Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten."

To read the rest of DiRocco's takeaways from the game, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

NFL.com: What we learned from Week 16

Atlanta jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter against Jacksonville, getting the fast start its been searching for much of the season. That proved to be more than enough to hold the Jaguars at bay, and, although the Falcons didn't play a perfect game, they showed enough balance to maintain their lead and earn their sixth win of the year.

"Two squads with 5-9 records, lame duck head coaches and unmet expectations faced off Sunday afternoon in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta," Andi Hagemann writes for NFL.com. "The Falcons got on the board early with a pair of touchdowns by Devonta Freeman in the first quarter. The Falcons offense efforted a well-balanced attack against the struggling Jaguars defense. Along with Freeman, Julio Jones had a big day with 166 yards on 10 receptions. Atlanta's offensive line, which has been a problem this year, blocked well, allowing Matt Ryan and Co. to move the ball around evenly. However, the Falcons (6-9) weren't error-free and had plenty of missed opportunities. It was exciting to see the offense finally click but time isn't on their side. Perhaps it will be just enough to prove there's plenty of good pieces on this Falcons roster."

To read the rest of Hagemann's takeaways, click here.

ESPN: The best teams and players of the decade

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.

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