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Article posted September 27, 2016 at 5:55 AM
By Bill Reiter The UFC president shows true leadership by bowing to Conor McGregor’s whims at UFC 205
Article posted September 27, 2016 at 5:09 AM
By Brad Gagnon
Just so we’re clear, the Atlanta Falcons aren’t a completely good football team. And the New Orleans Saints team they defeated 45-32 Monday night is far from good on the defense. In fact, that D might be the worst in football.
So by no means did the Falcons declare themselves Super Bowl contenders in Week 3. But Atlanta now has the league’s highest-scoring offense, the league’s highest-rated passer, and a one-two punch at running back that has Atlanta ranked fifth in football on the ground.
They’ve scored at least 24 points in all three games they’ve played. And as long as the offense can continue to click in that fashion, the NFC South-leading Falcons will have a chance to retain that title for a lot longer than most pundits expected.
Of course, we all knew prior to the season that quarterback Matt Ryan had the ability to light up defenses, especially bad ones. And there were indications last year that Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman could become a top-notch duo in the backfield. The Falcons ranked seventh in the league in total offense in 2015, with Ryan completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,591 yards and Freeman and Coleman combining for 1,448 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Throw in All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and you have yourself a high-powered attack.
But on Monday, the Falcons did something they failed to do in 12 of their 16 games last season—something they weren’t able to accomplish even once after Week 9 in 2015.
They put together a turnover-free performance. And it was actually the second time in three weeks to start the year.
Only four offenses turned the ball over more than the dangerous-but-sloppy Falcons last season, but three weeks into the 2016 campaign they’re one of just five teams with no more than a single turnover.
Early this season, a Falcons team that underachieved greatly the last two years hasn’t been beating itself. And while, again, the 0-3 Saints have a weak defense, it’s important to remember that Atlanta turned the ball over five times in a pair of losses to a Saints team that was historically bad on defense in 2015.
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t waiting for it. I won’t pretend I didn’t anticipate a classic second-half Falcons meltdown Monday night. Sure, they led by three scores when Coleman cashed in his third touchdown of the game early in the third quarter, but this is a team that committed 18 of its 30 turnovers last season in the second half. Eleven of those came in one-score games, and 10 of them came in the fourth quarter.
Of course, it feels odd having to applaud a team led by a 31-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback simply for taking care of the ball in crunch time, especially against mediocre defenses like Tampa Bay (Week 1), Oakland (Week 2) and New Orleans (Monday night).
But it does look as though Ryan and the Atlanta offense has taken a baby step in the right direction in that regard, which could ultimately be enough to turn an 8-8 team from last season into a playoff contender in 2016.
Ryan deserves credit, but it’s funny what a little balance can do. Atlanta’s 19th-ranked rushing offense averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last year, but Freeman and Coleman took a ton of pressure off the passing game by rushing for a combined 333 yards on 55 carries the last two weeks.
Unsurprisingly, the Falcons beat tough teams on the road in both of those games.
None of this is enough for us to anoint Dan Quinn’s team. The three squads they’ve faced are a combined 3-6, and they fooled a lot of us with a 5-0 start last year. During that stretch, the running game was productive and the Falcons turned the ball over just five times.
And then their season got away from them, partly because they became too unbalanced and too sloppy, but also because a defense with just 23 takeaways and a league-low 19 sacks lacked bite.
That D surrendered 32 points Monday night at the Superdome and has given up a league-high 12 touchdowns thus far. It is a problem. A pass rush that Pro Football Focus ranked 24th in football after two weeks has just three sacks and wasn’t able to pressure Saints quarterback Drew Brees much on Monday.
That’s why they continue to be something short of a completely good football team, which could cost them in upcoming matchups with contenders Carolina, Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Arizona and Kansas City. The schedule is daunting, and the sample we’re citing right now remains small.
But if you can score enough points and avoid killer mistakes, you can overcome almost any obstacle in this league—including a tough schedule and a bad defense.
The Atlanta Falcons aren’t completely good, but you’d be foolish to rule them out.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.
NFL news on BleacherReport.com
Article posted September 27, 2016 at 4:49 AM
It is currently unclear when he’ll return to the field.
Continue for updates.
Sanu Ruled Out for Remainder of Week 3
Monday, Sept. 26
Sanu suffered the shoulder injury in the first half, and Kelsey Conway of the team’s website note the Falcons ruled him out for the remainder of the game in the third quarter. The veteran caught three passes for 31 yards before exiting.
Sanu is coming off a disappointing 2015 season with the Cincinnati Bengals. He lost his starting job to Marvin Jones, which resulted in a significant drop in his production across the board. A year after catching 56 passes for 790 yards and five touchdowns, Sanu recorded 33 receptions and 394 yards. For the first time since entering the NFL in 2012, he failed to register a receiving touchdown.
The 27-year-old benefited from an extremely thin free-agent class. Despite his lackluster numbers, the Falcons still signed him for five years and $32.5 million, per Over the Cap. Pro Football Focus’ Ryan M. Smith wrote it was one of the riskiest moves in the offseason:
To remedy the hole at WR opposite Julio Jones, the Falcons signed [Sanu] to a five-year, $32.5 million contract shortly after the free-agency period began. Sanu, who has been a part of a prominent passing attack in Cincinnati since being drafted in 2012, earned just a 53.5 overall grade in 2015. It’s fair to wonder if Sanu is the compliment to [Julio] Jones the team has been seeking for the past few seasons—especially at this price.
Heading into Week 3, Sanu has hauled in eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown with the Falcons.
It would be a major stretch to say Atlanta’s playoff hopes rest solely on Sanu, but there’s no question finding some help for Jones in the passing game will go a long way toward getting the team back into the postseason.
In addition, the team doesn’t want to see Sanu failing to deliver already after giving him such a relatively big contract.
If Sanu misses time, quarterback NFL news on BleacherReport.com
Article posted September 27, 2016 at 4:38 AM
By Adam Silverstein McGregor will attempt to win the lightweight championship at Madison Square Garden
Article posted September 27, 2016 at 4:13 AM
By Sean Wagner-McGough The Saints couldn’t buy a stop and ended up falling 45-32 to the Falcons