Wednesday, the media kept giving the Atlanta Falcons their credit, their compliments and heaped praise for the impressive displays of offense these past three weeks. It has culminated with Julio Jones being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, quarterback Matt Ryan being praised for his arm strength and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan actually being praised for his play calling, play design and route combinations. Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn knew it was time to turn the page and focus on the Denver Broncos, Atlanta’s next opponent.
“What we do try to look at is like, here’s where we were, we’re trying to improve each week so where we were we at offensively, defensively, and teams and then we just try to solely find out the things that we can do better,” Quinn said while responding to how he’s preparing for last year’s Super Bowl champions. “We thought offensively, defensively, and on teams there were things here’s the corrections. We can do that better and now that’s the challenge from Wednesday to Thursday to Friday, but we don’t try to say that’s a barometer. Man, how much better can we get this week? That’s really where our focus lies.”
The Broncos have notched a league-leading 17 sacks, give up the 4th fewest yards per game (283.3) and give up 16 points per game, the 5th fewest in the National Football League. Ryan knows preparing for the Broncos begins with focusing on Von Miller. The Super Bowl MVP has 5.5 sacks through 4 games.
“He’s a great player; there’s no getting around that,” Ryan said of Miller. “You certainly have to account for where he’s at. But that’s what we work on all week, to try and [build a] game plan so that we can fit the things that we do well to go against what they do well and their personnel.”
Meanwhile, Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak has been very complimentary of the Falcons offense and knows Matt Ryan presents plenty of problems on film.
“His ratings have to be pretty good against everything the way that he’s playing right now,” said Kubiak. “He’s a special player; Kyle has done a great job with him. They’re spreading the ball around. Last week, Julio has 300 yards. The week before against New Orleans, they scored 40 or something and he had one catch in that game. That tells you that they have a lot of guys catching the ball, a lot of guys making plays and they’re running the ball extremely well, too. Just very potent right now and obviously Matt is playing, really, really well. We’re a man coverage football team. That’s what we’ve been so I think you hold true to what you do and what you do best, but we understand the challenge that’s ahead of us.”
Quarterback Trevor Siemian was held out of practice Wednesday and rookie Paxton Lynch received all of the reps. Kubiak said that decision was made because Lynch needed all the work he can get. Kubiak wouldn’t decide who will start Sunday; however Siemian and Lynch would be evaluated rigorously throughout the week.
Star cornerback Aqib Talib has entered his foxhole and isn’t coming out of it until 2:00PM Sunday afternoon. He acknowledged to the media he’s read all the press clippings about the Atlanta Falcons offense, most notably, Julio Jones and remained mum about reports indicating the NFL will discipline him because he shot himself in the leg during the offseason. He was ornery whilst talking to the media.
“[Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] always surprises us with some stuff and some little kinks in our defense,” said Talib. “From what we did today, I think that we have a good plan so far … I’m worried about Julio Jones and Matt Ryan and this number 24 [Devonta Freeman], this young boy. Besides that, I’m not ready to worry about anything except for Atlanta right now.
“When I heard the report yesterday, I immediately got on my iPad and started watching Julio Jones. I can’t really worry about it. I have my hands full with enough already. Like I said, it’s still under review; I’m not really going to talk about it right now. You see an explosive offense that blew apart our preparation. We don’t want to be the team on the other side of a 500-yard game by Matt Ryan so it just motivates us to prepare even harder.”
TRANSACTIONS: The Falcons signed linebacker A.J. Hawk to the active roster and punter Michael Palardy to the practice squad. Falcons released linebacker O’Brien Schofield and waived linebacker Davis Tull off the practice squad. Also, the Falcons have placed linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on injured reserve (achillies).
Thursday morning, the NFL announced the Falcons will forfeit its first three days of Organized Team Activities in 2017 for violating NFL-NFLPA work rules that prohibit excessive contact in all offseason workouts. According to a statement released by the NFL, the violation came from a May 2016 session in which the club permitted players to engage in excessive levels of on-field physical contact which is expressly prohibited under the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. This was the Falcons’ first violation of the rule.
In response, the Falcons issued a statement:
“We take player safety very seriously and work hard to ensure that we are in compliance with league rules. Although we are disappointed in the penalty, we respect the league’s decision and will make the necessary adjustments moving forward.”
The Atlanta Falcons play the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field in Mile High Stadium this Sunday at 4:00PM (2:00PM MDT). Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will provide play-by-play and commentary for FOX and Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines. Terry McAulay’s crew will officiate the game.