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Tabeek: These are the Falcons we expected; will it last?

The Falcons not only jumped out to a big lead but this time they didn't let up until they picked up win No. 1 of the season


Speed, hard hits, turnovers and vintage Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones touchdowns. Oh, and a healthy dose of Todd Gurley mixed in.

That pretty much sums up the Falcons' performance against the Minnesota Vikings in their 40-23 win on Sunday. And if I'm being honest here, those are the Falcons I expected to see when the season started back on Sept. 13.

But for a myriad of reasons, the Falcons not only limped into Minneapolis with an 0-5 record but had an interim coach in Raheem Morris after the team parted ways with coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff last Sunday night.

It was a long, hard week for these Falcons players and coaches.

And the big question heading into this game was, could the Falcons channel all of those emotions the right way and be dialed in for the Vikings?

The Falcons answered that question at the opening bell.  

On the Vikings' very first play on the opening drive of the game, linebacker Deion Jones picked off Kirk Cousins and returned it to Minnesota's 29 yard-line. Five plays later, Ryan ended an 11-quarter skid without a touchdown pass and found Julio Jones for a 20-yard score, his first of the season.

The Falcons were off and running, and unlike moments in their previous five games this season, they didn't take their foot off the gas.

The Falcons defense picked off Cousins three times in the first half – the first time that had ever happened in the Vikings' quarterback's career – and cashed those in for 17 points. By halftime, Atlanta was up 20-0.

While it wasn't the first time the Falcons have enjoyed a 20-point lead this season, this one not only felt different but also had a much different outcome.

There was no premature celebrating. The Falcons stayed locked in and aggressive.

In the first half, the Falcons not only forced three turnovers, they dominated the time of possession 20:29 to 9:31, and a big reason why was because they were committed to the run and chewed up the clock. Atlanta ran the ball 19 times for 45 yards in the first half, with Todd Gurley leading the way with 12 rushes for 28 yards.

Not gaudy, but effective.

By game's end, the Falcons had run it 37 times for 99 yards. Ryan tossed 40 passes, connecting on 30 for 371 yards and four touchdowns. And Atlanta had more than doubled the Vikings in time of possession, 40:07 to 19:53.

Ryan and Jones connected eight times, in fact. The more memorable time coming on a fourth-and-3 scramble by Ryan who bought just enough time to drop a pass down the left sideline to Jones, who sprinted in for a 40-yard score in the third quarter.

But, really, the story of the game was the Falcons' much-maligned defense. That unit entered Sunday's game ranked 31st overall and was allowing an average of 32.2 points per game, third-most in the league.

Aside from forcing three turnovers, the Falcons allowed Minnesota to convert only three of 10 third-down attempts, sacked Cousins once and were credited with eight quarterback hits.

Atlanta's defense also shut down one of the league's best rushing attacks, holding the Vikings to 32 total yards rushing on 13 carries. Even though Minnesota was without Dalvin Cook, who entered the week with a league-best 489 on 92 carries with seven touchdowns, the Falcons completely shut down his replacement, Alexander Mattison, holding him to 10 runs for 26 yards.

So, yes, these are the Falcons we expected to see.

Julio Jones catching touchdowns. The defense – and rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell – picking off passes. Todd Gurley running for tough yards as the offense eats up the game clock and moves the chains.

The speed was there. So was the fire and emotion. They jumped out to a big lead and, this time, increased it.

Raheem Morris, who is the head coach of this team for at least the next 10 games, deserves a lot of credit, too.

Morris said before the game, "There's nothing that's going to stop us from trying to go 1-0."

The Falcons are 1-0, and it feels good for so many different reasons.  

Can they keep it going? We're about to find out.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings with top photos from inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 6.

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