By Matthew Asher
With their 19-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta is now 8-0 and remains the only undefeated team left in this year’s NFL season. But in these last four games have the Falcons improved upon any facet of the game? Or is there something they’re doing worse now? Comparisons to the first four games and the season as a whole will be taken into consideration.
Atlanta’s passing offense gets an A. The Falcons are still in the top eight regarding passing yards per game with 278.1. While Matt Ryan is currently on pace to throw for more than 4,700 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a QB rating of 103.0. While Ryan threw for about 100 more yards in these last four games compared to the first four of the season, he’s thrown for less touchdowns and more interceptions in the same time frame.
Still, if Ryan continued at this pace he would still set new career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns. Just like the first four games, Ryan has been distributing the ball evenly among his receivers completing at least one pass to eleven different receivers and at least one touchdown pass to seven different receivers.
Atlanta’s big three receivers are still the main aerial weapons. Roddy, Julio and Tony have caught 97 of Ryan’s 209 completions this season for 1,382 of Ryan’s 2,360 yards and 13 of Matty’s Ice’s 17 touchdowns..
Atlanta’s defensive unit gets a B+. As far as limiting overall yardage, the Falcons’ defense could use some improvement. Their 228.8 yards each game is the 13th least but they aren’t allowing that yardage to be converted into points very often. Atlanta gives up just the fifth most points per game with less than 18 each time.
WIth a Mike Nolan defenses you expect two things: sacks and takeaways. Just like the first four games, Atlanta has continued to shine here. Atlanta’s 20 sacks is the 13th most in the league along with the fourth most interceptions with 10 and and plus-nine turnover ratio.
Atlanta’s rushing attack gets a C-. It’s one of those chicken and egg situations here: Is Atlanta’s 98.5 yards on the ground each game the eighth least in the league because the passing attack so productive or is the passing attack productive simply because the running game has been so terrible? Since Atlanta has yet to lose a game this season that question is somewhat of a moot point. While it’s a little worrisome, until it actually costs the Falcons a win, you can’t argue with the results.
Atlanta’s field goal kicking gets a C-. Matt Bryant has made 20 field goals so far, second only to the New York Giants 26. The problem with this is his accuracy in these last four games. In the first four games of the season Bryant was a perfect 9-9. In the past four games Bryant is 11-14 with missed within kicks of 40 yards. While the 87 percent kicking rate is a great average, Bryant has just been on the decline the second quarter of the season.
Overall the Falcons have continued to play at a high level. While some statistics may not be as high through eight games as they were through four, Atlanta still is in the top ten of most important statistics. Their ninth game of the season comes against the Saints in New Orleans at 1 p.m. EST.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.