Fal­cons fly into Cleve­land on hot streak

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NFL BLITZ - BY TOM WITHERS

CLEVE­LAND — Qui­etly, steadily and with lit­tle fan­fare, the At­lanta Fal­cons have got­ten off the ground.

They’re fly­ing again — un­der the radar.

De­spite nu­mer­ous in­juries at vi­tal po­si­tions, the Fal­cons have shaken off a 1-4 start and carry a three-game win­ning streak into to­day’s matchup at Cleve­land. The Browns (2-6-1) have dropped four in a row, fired head coach Hue Jack­son this month and are try­ing to avoid hav­ing an­other sea­son spi­ral com­pletely out of con­trol.

The Fal­cons (4-4) are coming off their best per­for­mance this sea­son, a well-rounded 38-14 thrash­ing of the Washington Red­skins that has pushed them back into con­tention in the NFC’s wild-card race.

“The main thing for us was the mes­sage to be real con­sis­tent, to stay the course,” At­lanta coach Dan Quinn said. “… There might be some new voices lead­ing the way. We just tried to stay con­sis­tent with the guys. Make sure that we knew what we were do­ing was right and we had to do what we did bet­ter.”

No­body’s do­ing it bet­ter than At­lanta’s Matt Ryan, who has stirred re­flec­tions of his 2016 MVP sea­son by com­plet­ing 71 per­cent of his passes with 19 touch­down throws and only three in­ter­cep­tions. The 33-year-old quar­ter­back’s per-game av­er­age of 335.6 pass­ing yards this sea­son leads the NFL, and he re­cently went 213 straight passes with­out be­ing picked off.

Last week, Ryan passed for 350 yards and four touch­downs — one to star re­ceiver Julio Jones, who ended a 12-game score­less drought and fin­ished with seven catches for 121 yards.

As for the run­ning game, with Devonta Free­man on in­jured re­serve for at least six more weeks, At­lanta’s dis­tri­bu­tion of car­ries has been un­ex­pect­edly balanced. Tevin Cole­man is the starter, but rookie Ito Smith’s role has grown. Proof came in last week’s win, when Cole­man had 13 car­ries for 88 yards and Smith added 10 for 60 and a touch­down.

“He’s got­ten bet­ter for us ev­ery week,” Ryan said of Smith. “I’ve been re­ally im­pressed with his growth from game to game. It’s re­ally cool to see that from young play­ers, par­tic­u­larly rook­ies.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.