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Five Things: Falcons Hopeful Jones Returns

1. Injury Updates: Falcons head coach Mike Smith addressed the media Monday, offering the latest injury updates, entering Week 16, beginning with news about cornerback Robert Alford.

"Robert Alford had a follow-up exam (wrist), and it is determined that he needs to have surgery and will be having surgery on his wrist today," Smith said. "He will be going on (the) reserved-injured (list)."

Smith was clear that while no decision has been made as to who will take Alford's spot on the roster, he expects a decision to be made within the next couple of days. Meanwhile, as for Julio Jones (hip), Smith admitted the star wide receiver was "darn close" to playing against the Steelers before later being ruled out based on the decision by the team's medical staff.

He's continuing to improve and the team anticipates he will be ready to go this week. Like Jones, William Moore (foot) also missed Sunday's game, and he will continue to get treatment this week. Also, Jon Asamoah left Sunday's game with back tightness and will be listed as day-to-day when the team returns to practice on Wednesday.

2. White's Historic Day: In the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, Roddy White caught a 4-yard score to become the Falcons all-time leader in touchdowns. White's 62-career scores top former Falcons running back Michael Turner, who totaled 61 touchdowns from 2008-2012.

White finished the game with seven receptions for 58 yards and the touchdown. The score was his fourth in the last five games, including touchdown catches in each of the last two contests. He leads the team with seven touchdowns this season, and 2014 marks the sixth time in his career that he's posted at least seven touchdowns.

3. Ryan in Elite Company: Matt Ryan threw for 310 yards on 26-of-37 passing with two touchdowns and one interception, equaling a 102.3 quarterback rating. He has thrown for 300-or-more yards five times this season, including each of the last three games.

Ryan eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for the fourth-straight season with 310 yards against the Steelers. He is one of four quarterbacks to post 4,000-plus yards in each of the last three seasons (2011-13), joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. Through Week 15, Ryan is the only quarterback to accomplish that feat in four-straight seasons. He has thrown at least one touchdown in 19-straight games and has thrown two-or-more touchdowns in each of the last four games. He has posted seven multi-touchdown games this season and 56 games with two-or-more touchdowns in his career.

4. Red Zone Efficiency: Despite being fifth in the league in red zone efficiency through 14 games this season, Smith admitted the team didn't play well in the red zone Sunday. He attributed some of the problems to execution and lack of consistency. "You have to score touchdowns in the red zone, and we didn't do that," Smith said. Falcons rookie tackle Jake Matthews echoed Smith's frustrations about having to settle for field goals instead of ending drives with touchdowns (converting 2 of 4 opportunities in Sunday's loss).

The Atlanta Falcons are in the final stretch of the regular season as they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Georgia Dome. Fans came out to have fun before the game. Here are pictures of gameday.

"That's one thing that's killing us for sure," Matthews said. "We talk about it all week that we know we can move the ball, but when we get in the red zone, we have to finish. I know we left some drives out there and settled for field goals, so if we could finish better, I think that game would've been different."

5. Stepping in for Julio: Harry Douglas stepped up in a big way for the team's offense, starting in replace of Jones (hip injury). Douglas caught 10 passes for 131 yards for his second-straight 100-yard game at home. He logged his sixth-career 100-yard game and posted his second game with 10-or-more catches.

Fellow wide receiver Devin Hester also played a big role Sunday, receiving and return-wise. Hester finished the contest with five receptions for 85 yards and one touchdown, catching his second score of the season, a 17-yard pass from Ryan in the back corner of the end zone. The NFL's all-time returns leader joins Houston Texans running back Alfred Blue as the only players to score touchdowns via rush, reception and return this season.

He finished the game with 173 combined yards, including 81 yards on three kickoff returns and one seven-yard punt return. Hester ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,693 combined yards and needs just 28 yards on kickoffs to eclipse 1,000 yards on returns. He would be the first Falcon to post 1,000 kickoff return yards since 2011 when wide receiver Eric Weems tallied 1,100 yards.


Falcons running back Steven Jackson surpassed running back John Riggins (11,352) for 16th on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 22 yards on the Falcons opening possession on Sunday. He finished the game with 46 yards on 11 carries, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Jackson is the NFL's leading-active rusher with 11,379-career rushing yards.

Falcons kicker Matt Bryant connected on both of his field goal attempts Sunday, hitting kicks of 22 and 28 yards. He has made 36-straight field goals from inside 50 yards, dating back to 2013. Bryant scored eight points in the Week 15 loss, giving him 652 points since joining the Falcons in 2009, which is the second-highest total in franchise history behind Morten Andersen (806).

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