Early Bird Report: What we learned from Falcons' first win

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The Atlanta Falcons earned their first victory of the season on Sunday, beating the Minnesota Vikings 40-23 in Raheem Morris's first game as interim head coach.

It was an inspiring performance for Atlanta, which looked explosive on offense and stingy on defense. For a defense that has been the subject of much scrutiny for the first five weeks, Sunday was noteworthy. In his recap of the game, Nick Shook made a point to discuss the improvements on defense.

"Raheem Morris took over for the fired Dan Quinn as interim head coach, and his defense responded emphatically," Shook writes. "Atlanta forced three turnovers -- all on interceptions of Kirk Cousins -- helping the Falcons build an early lead and undercut any offensive momentum the Vikings were attempting to build. Their greatest display of pure effort and desire came with the Falcons owning a 10-0 lead but backed up on their goal line early in the second quarter. Atlanta promptly denied Minnesota on four attempts to reach the end zone, with Foye Oluokun stuffing Alexander Mattison for a loss of one on first and goal from Atlanta's 2, Deion Jones diving to knock a would-be reception out of Irv Smith hands two plays later, and Atlanta combining to stonewall Mike Boone on fourth down from a yard out. The unit played inspired ball all afternoon and complemented Atlanta's offense for the first time in 2020, producing the win."

NFL Week 6 takeaways

While many expect changes to come in the future for Atlanta, Sunday showed a glimpse of what this team can be in 2020. The Falcons are in a deep hole at 1-5, but they showed plenty of resilience against the Vikings and have the talent on hand to give plenty of teams a fight. That was the key takeaway for ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

"The firing of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff initiated an organizational overhaul focused on the long-term future," Seifert writes. "But Sunday's victory -- albeit over the 1-5 Vikings -- suggested the Falcons might still be competitive in 2020. We knew the Falcons' offense could score, especially after the return of wide receiver Julio Jones. But the Falcons' defense was strong in the debut of interim coach Raheem Morris, and its three first-half interceptions of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins set the tone for the entire game."

NFL Week 6 grades

It's been a tough start to the season for Atlanta, which has not led to any favorable grades from CBSSports.com's John Breech, but that all changed this weekend. After their showing on Sunday, the Falcons earned the highest possible grade from Breech, an "A+," and plenty of praise.

"Getting rid of Dan Quinn appeared to work wonders for the Falcons because they came through with their most impressive performance of the season," Breech writes. "The Falcons came up with big plays in all three phases of the game. Defensively, the Falcons were able to hold on to an early 10-0 lead after pulling off a goal-line stand in the second quarter where they stopped Minnesota two times from the one-yard line. Offensively, Matt Ryan caught fire, throwing for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris had a strong debut and proved that things are going to be run differently now that he's in charge. Not only did he have the Falcons go for it three times on fourth down, but they converted all three times and the crazy part is that two of those conversions went for long touchdowns (40-yard pass to Julio Jones on fourth-and-3 and 35-yard pass to Hayden Hurst on fourth-and-1)."

Falcons – Team Raheem – get dominant first win

On paper, the Falcons always appeared to have the personnel in place to produce a result like the one on Sunday. Everything finally clicked against the Vikings, giving Atlanta a dominant victory. In his review of the game, Steve Hummer reflected on the Falcons’ performance after a trying week for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"The past week was a hectic one for the Falcons," Hummer writes. "They purged leadership. Shuffled staff. Shut down their practice facility for a day while dealing with a small COVID bloom. And sometime, without announcing the experimental procedure to anyone, underwent a full personality transplant.

"Who were those guys in Minneapolis Sunday? Souped-up in all three phases. Taking a lead and holding on to it like a stray dog would a soup bone. Daring on offense, damaging on defense. Playing as if utterly uninterested in drafting Trevor Lawrence. And, yes, winning."

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