These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Cowboys game column, which can be found here. The Falcons won 39-28. They’re 3-0.
1. The weekly Julio Jones observation takes a statistical turn. With 34, Jones has — per Elias — set an NFL mark for receptions in a season’s first three games. But that’s kind of an arcane achievement. (Who holds the record for yards rushing in a season’s first three games? Who has the most yards passing in Weeks 11-14?) What’s jaw-dropping is this: At his current rate of 11.3 catches per game, he would break Marvin Harrison’s record for catches in a season by 38. At his rate of 146.7 yards per game, Jones would break Calvin Johnson’s record for yards receiving in a season by 383. And this latest big game — 12 catches, 164 yards — came on a day when, as Matt Ryan said, the opponent did “some things to scheme toward Julio.” Imagine if the Cowboys hadn’t. How many yards would he have had then? Three hundred?
2. Ryan told his teammates at halftime that they were going to win. Ordinarily I don’t make much of this sort of thing — Ryan conceded that he has never once said, “Guys, we’re going to lose” — but the Falcons were clearly not rattled at being down 28-17 on the road against a good opponent. (Albeit one missing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.) These Falcons have now trailed in the fourth quarter of all three games, and they haven’t lost yet. Were Dan Quinn scripting the kind of start he’d want for his first team, I can’t imagine it would be much different from the one his first team is writing.
3. For the first time in his professional life, Devonta Freeman made a difference. It wasn’t just that he had a career-best 141 yards rushing, though that was no small deal. Even more impressive was the way he knocked people backward while running inside, which change-of-pace backs aren’t supposed to do. And let’s not forget that cobbled-together offensive line, which blocked like thunder against the NFL defense ranked No. 1 against the rush. This was big-boy football, and the Falcons proved bigger than the ‘Boys.