FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons remain undefeated after taking down down another NFC North foe in the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
So what did we learn from Atlanta's thrilling 30-26 win as the team now prepares for a home game against the Buffalo Bills (2-1) before their bye week?
Run game hitting its stride
In the past two games, Atlanta's offense has rushed for more than 100 yards on the ground: Detroit – 151 yards, Green Bay – 141 yards. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman appear to be in mid-season form, and when they are clicking, the Falcons have had no issues moving the ball down the field.
Something to note: The Falcons were able to rush for 151 yards against the Lions without starting right tackle, Ryan Schraeder, and with Wes Schweitzer continuing to get comfortable at right guard.
With the production of the run game over the past two weeks in comparison to Week 1, it's clear why head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian have stressed the importance of Atlanta's ground game and the balance they want on offense.
"I thought offensive line wise we moved the ball, especially in the run game, better than we have and to see that part, I kind of said I thought it would come, and over the last two weeks I've seen improvement in that area for sure," Quinn said. "So I think we were able to run the ball close to around 150 yards. That was a really good day."
After three games, the Falcons have the fourth-ranked scoring offense, in large part due to the production of the running game.
Falcons red zone defense makes a statement
Heading into the Week 3 matchup, the Lions had the No. 1 red zone offense, scoring on four of their four trips to the red zone.
Quinn expected this to be a factor in the final outcome of the game and he was right. Atlanta's defense held Detroit to 1-of-3 in the red zone on Sunday.
A stat that excites Quinn.
"I was really pumped to see the guys stand up, especially in the red zone," Quinn said. "We've put a lot of work into that part of our game from this offseason into training camp and now into the season. What you emphasize a lot of times is what comes through, and we've really emphasized our situational football, and we've still got a ways to go. We feel we still want to improve upon third down offensively, but the red zone work that we've put in is paying dividends for us."
Gabriel shows he's back in full force
After missing all of the offseason and a significant portion of training camp with a lower leg injury, wider receiver Taylor Gabriel had a quiet first two games.
Quinn and Sarkisian both complimented the way Gabriel had practiced in the recent weeks, and on one screen pass from Matt Ryan, the receiver was off to the races.
Gabriel's 40-yard touchdown gave the Falcons the lead at the top of the fourth quarter.
"Coming off an injury for the offseason, that's the play that signified to me that he looks back to full speed," Quinn said. "I saw some glimpses of it practice [last] week, but it was that play that I thought, 'Man, that looks like Gab.' The best version of him is back."
Sambrailo proving to be capable reserve
Filling in for Ryan Schraeder at right tackle is no easy task. But Ty Sambrailo, who the Falcons acquired via trade with the Denver Broncos, has proven he's capable of filling in when needed.
Coach Quinn was especially pleased with Sambrailo's performance in the run game.
"I liked that there was urgency in the way that he would cut," Quinn said of Sambrailo. "I thought that he improved from the performance before, and I think the issues that came up on the sacks are things that we can clean up on, where we can get our hands tighter and get a better punch. But I thought in the run game, I really felt his presence, and that was a real factor in this game."
Although Quinn is optimistic about Schraeder's return for this weekend, having a solid backup with experience is certainly a positive.