FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley has awarded himself an upgrade on his Twitter bio.
The Falcons may soon deserve a similar rewrite on reviews of their once-dismal defense as they prepare to play Tampa Bay.
Before McKinley got his long-awaited first sack of the season in Sunday’s 29-3 win at Carolina, his Twitter bio read “A DE who almost gets sacks.” Following the game, his revision read “A DE who got a sack.”
McKinley delivered one of Atlanta’s five sacks against Kyle Allen, giving the Falcons an improbable total of 11 in back-to-back road wins over New Orleans and Carolina. Before the shocking outburst of pass-rush production, the Falcons (3-7) had a league-worst seven sacks.
Atlanta’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in 10 consecutive quarters, a streak that began in the second half of a loss to Seattle. Before the dramatic about-face for Atlanta’s defense, the Falcons ranked last in takeaways and sacks and third worst in points allowed.
The Falcons’ first surprise following their bye week was a 26-9 win at New Orleans. Then came another dominant defensive effort at Carolina.
But is it a turnaround? Coach Dan Quinn said it may be too soon for such conclusions.
Quinn had a long pause on Monday before he acknowledged he couldn’t recall a team having a similar about face in the middle of a season. He then said “It's two games. I don't know if it even qualifies as a streak.”
“We're just starting to get rolling,” Quinn said. “That would be an awesome Christmas question. I'd be more than glad to answer it at that time. Is that fair? Or at least give us until Thanksgiving.”
That’s only fair, as it’s probably also too soon for Falcons owner Arthur Blank to make any lasting conclusions about Quinn’s future with the team.
The Falcons had four interceptions, providing more proof of improved communication on defense. Quinn, who began the season as the defensive coordinator, shook up the coaching staff during the bye week. He already had given assistants more responsibility to call plays on defense. Since the bye, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and secondary coach Raheem Morris are splitting the duties.
WHAT'S NEEDS HELP
Matt Ryan was sacked three times in his second game back after missing one game with a sprained right ankle. He suffered the injury in a loss to the Rams on Oct. 20, when he was sacked five times. Overall, Ryan has been sacked 23 times this season, and any hopes for a continued recovery for the team could rest on better protection for the quarterback.
With Austin Hooper held out with a sprained knee, Jaeden Graham and Luke Stocker combined to hold down the tight end position. Graham, who had only two career catches entering the game, caught two passes for 23 yards.
The running attack suffered as Devonta Freeman (toe) missed the game. Brian Hill had an 11-yard run but managed only 19 yards on his other 14 carries. Overall, the Falcons were held to 54 yards rushing on 26 carries. If Freeman misses more time, Kenjon Barner could see more carries. He had a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown and had two carries for 15 yards in his limited time on offense.
The Falcons may face another week without Hooper and Freeman. The status of safety Kemal Ishmael (concussion) is uncertain. McKinley hurt his shoulder on his sack but returned to the game. Quinn said McKinley will not need further tests on the shoulder.
8: Calvin Ridley had eight catches, matching his season high, for 143 yards and a touchdown. Ridley’s big-play production is especially important following Mohamed Sanu’s trade to New England on Oct. 22. Julio Jones, who had six catches for 91 yards, has a better chance of seeing more man coverages if defenses have to respect more than one big-play threat at receiver.
After proving they can win on the road, the Falcons now face three straight home games. Following Sunday’s visit from Tampa Bay, the Falcons play the Saints on Thanksgiving night.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL