Domination would probably be the first term that comes to mind when discussing the Atlanta Falcons 27-3 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Week 3. Mike Smith’s squad was well-prepared for their West Coast road trip, and it showed on Sunday.
The Falcons move to 3-0 on the year for the first time since 2004. As one of just three teams left in the NFL with an undefeated record, it’s clear this group is playing like one of the elite teams in the league.
Matt Ryan moved the ball well, the defense didn’t allow a single touchdown and the entire contest was a lopsided demolition by Atlanta. Let’s take a look at what we learned from Week 3.
1) The Falcons are one of the best: Critics are finally starting to give them the respect they deserve. Sure, you’ll still hear the argument that they’ve only played AFC West teams, but there’s no denying how impressive the Falcons have played through three weeks in 2012. With the way the rest of the NFC South is panning out, Atlanta already looks like a clear-cut favorite to win the division.
2) Matt Ryan looks like an MVP candidate: His passer rating for the year sits at 114.0, and aside from one bad pass against the Chargers, he’s been right on point in all three games. Ryan is tied for first in the league in touchdown passes (8) and leads all quarterbacks in completion percentage (72.0). There’s more to being an MVP than throwing for 300+ yards every game. No. 2 is the leader of this offense, and he’s been outstanding in that role so far.
3) Michael Turner can make an impact: Maybe it was the fact that he was playing his former team, but Turner looked like The Burner we used to know on Sunday. He carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards and one explosive touchdown in the red zone. San Diego dominated Darren McFadden in Week 1 and Chris Johnson in Week 2 (but let’s face it, who hasn’t done that?) on the ground, so seeing Turner elevate his game against a quality run defense is a promising sign.
4) How do you start Ryan’s weapons?: Honestly, is there a way to shut down Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez when they’re all playing together healthy? Gonzalez proved has hasn’t lost a step, leading the team in receiving with nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Jones and White combined for 10 catches for 122 and another touchdown. The Chargers had no answer for the Falcons three-headed monster of an arsenal, and we can likely assume most teams won’t.
5) The offensive line/Pat Hill deserves more credit: Either the Falcons front five found some secret key to success this offseason, or Hill is a magician. It could be a combination. Pass protection is exceeding far beyond the likes of what we witnessed in 2011, which is clearly a reason for Ryan’s improvement as well. The Chargers brought a little more pressure than their two opponents prior, but Ryan had plenty of time to throw often.
6) Pass rush needs to capitalize: It wasn’t an issue penetrating the backfield against the Chargers and wreaking havoc on Philip Rivers. However, he was only brought down once by John Abraham despite constant pressure all around him. The aggressive nature of the defense looks great, they just need to create a few more sacks.
7) Thomas DeCoud and William Moore are emerging as one of the best safety tandems in the league: Mike Nolan is getting the most out of his two young safeties. DeCoud picked off two passes from Rivers, and they weren’t your ordinary fall-right-into-your-lap interceptions. Both are playing with confidence, and it’s resonating to the rest with the rest of the secondary.