Short week does’t bother Falcons

Jimmy Cribb/

It was a quick turnaround for the Falcons, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in town for a Thursday night in the Dome after Atlanta had just gotten back from Cincinnati four days ago. The home team didn’t really seem too bothered with the short rest, coming away with a 56-14 win to move to 2-1 on the year.

To pile on the good news from Thursday night, the Falcons got record-breaking performances by the team, quarterback Matt Ryan and veteran wide receiver/return man Devin Hester.

The team scored 21 points in the first quarter to tie a franchise record for scoring in the opening 15 minutes of the game. Matt Ryan completed 87.5 percent of his passes on the night to set a new franchise record of completion percentage in a single game. Plus, Hester returned his 20th career touchdown on a 62-yard punt return in the second quarter. That touchdown puts him past Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for the most in NFL history.

The defense also picked up three sacks and six tackles for a loss in the win. Not to mention they also held Tampa’s offense to 217 total yards and didn’t allow them to reach the end zone until the fourth quarter on a Vincent Jackson three-yard touchdown catch. By that time, many of the starters on defense had gone to the sidelines.

That’s where the keeping it simple part comes in.

The Falcons had only three full days to prepare for the Buccaneers. They were also coming off giving up 472 yards in a 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Defensive end Corey Peters had a great night in the Dome, with one sack, four tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries. He says the key for their success on defense tonight was that the game plan was pretty simple.

“We didn’t have time to do a whole lot so we just kind of got back to the fundamentals and turned it loose,” Peters said. “Once we got the lead, it’s a lot easier to not worry about anything and just go.”

Falcons safety William Moore was a huge fan of the simple game plan for the defense on Thursday night.

“We didn’t game plan beyond, we put the most simple defense in,” Moore said. “We went out there and played fast. I think that’s what this defense needed. We’re a young defense and I think going out there playing fast, not having much to think about helped us.”

This wasn’t just the case for the defense on Thursday night. A couple of players on the offensive end also say they benefitted from the short week. Rookie left tackle Jake Matthews was back on the field, after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury. He liked the plan that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter put together. But, maybe was just as thrilled to be back on the field.

“I was excited to practice and that was the focus I took into the game,” Matthews said. “We executed and did a lot of good things. But I know personally there’s a lot of stuff I need to get better at.”

The running game was much improved for the Falcons, with Steven Jackson putting up 54 yards rushing with a touchdown. Plus, the fans in the Dome got to see Antone Smith break another huge run for 38 yards to put up one of eight touchdowns on the board for the night. The Falcons ended up with 144 total rushing yards.

As mentioned earlier in the story, the main story of the night was the record-breaking punt return for Hester. He was happy enough to break Sanders’ record. To do it with Deion in the building working for NFL Network? Hester had a nice little talk with ‘Prime Time.’

“He was just so happy,” Hester said. “You know he said he almost pulled a hamstring sprinting toward the end zone with me. I love that guy, man. He is very emotional about the situation, too.”

If you noticed during the punt return, Hester did the Deion high step into the end zone. It ended up getting him a 15-yard taunting penalty, but he says it was planned.

“I told him I was going to do it,” Hester said. “I told him I was going to give him the ball too, but the ball is on the way to Canton, Ohio. It is probably on a flight now. They hurried up and took the ball from me. When I get it back, you know I am going to give him the ball.”

So, the night ends on a very high note with the Falcons getting their second win of the season. The other great part for them, is that they get a couple extra days to prepare for a road game with the Minnesota Vikings. The rest might be nice but as we saw on Thursday night, maybe shorter time between games isn’t the worst thing for them.


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