Around the NFL  

 

Fortune favors Bolts in overtime thriller over Atlanta

Print

Falcons coach Dan Quinn's fourth-down gamble backfired, shifting the San Diego Chargers' 2016 fortunes with a 33-30 overtime victory over Atlanta in Week 7. Here's what we learned:

1. Don't count Mike McCoy's squad out of the AFC West race after a calamitous start to the 2016 season. For once, it was the Bolts on the right side of a late-game comeback. Julio Jones was the victim of an obvious missed pass interference for the second straight game, leading to a 58-yard Matt Bryant field-goal attempt that grazed off the upright as the regulation clock expired. Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman stuffed Devonta Freeman on fourth-and-1 near midfield on the first possession of overtime, setting Philip Rivers up with prime field position -- and ultimately making Quinn pay for his risky decision.

2. Matt Ryan broke an NFL record by throwing for 200 or more yards in 46 consecutive games. Buoyed by Jones and speedy tailback Tevin Coleman, the Falcons exploded for three touchdowns in one quarter for the second consecutive week. Although Atlanta's offensive firepower has been unmatched to date, the ability to take advantage of mismatches took a hit with Coleman's second-half hamstring injury. The league's most lethal big-play threat out of the backfield this season, Coleman would be a major loss if he can't suit up for the next two games versus the Packers and Buccaneers.

3. This matchup featured four of the top half-dozen candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year in Chargers disruptive duo Joey Bosa and Jatavis Brown to go with Atlanta's playmaking partners Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. As well as Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey has played this season, it's going to be hard to hold off Bosa. Much like Odell Beckham's Offensive Rookie of the Year onslaught two years ago, Bosa is coming like a freight train after missing the first four weeks of the season. Three games into his NFL career, Bosa is already one of the most terrorizing defensive end-outside linebacker hybrids in the league. He picked up two more QB takedowns on Sunday, giving him a pair of multi-sack performances in his first three starts. Along with Perryman, Brown and injured cornerback Jason Verrett, he leads the nucleus of a promising young Bolts defense.

4. Further reason to believe that running-back touchdowns are unpredictable from year to year: Melvin Gordon failed to reach paydirt while averaging 3.48 yards on 184 carries as a rookie last season. Operating in a more efficient offense this year, he leads the NFL with 10 touchdowns while averaging 3.34 yards on 138 carries. Gordon tallied three more scores on Sunday despite a long rush of just 13 yards.

5. Rivers deserves credit for erasing a 17-point deficit with 12- and 15-play scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Even with the season-ending injuries to No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen, veteran slot receiver Stevie Johnson and backfield sidecar Danny Woodhead, Rivers has plenty of passing-game talent in Gordon, second-year wideout Tyrell Williams, speedy underneath target Travis Benjamin and the tight-end duo of Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. The Falcons and Chargers are the only two teams to exceed 200 points this season, evidence that this roster is strong enough to overcome a disastrous September and make a postseason run.

6. Quinn's defense has allowed 26 or more points in six of seven games this season. If the Falcons want to be viewed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they will have to follow the 2009 Saints blueprint, complementing an explosive offense with an opportunistic defense. The DNA might just be there, as Atlanta's three defensive touchdowns are tied with Buffalo for the league lead. The pass rush is also coming alive, with 11 sacks in the last three weeks. The next step is to buckle down in the red zone and keep opposing offenses under 25 points.

Print