Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cover 9@9: Can Matt Schaub beat the Saints?

Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.

1. WHY NOT SIT RYAN?  Falcons coach Dan Quinn doesn’t plan to sit players in the regular season finale. With the rash of quarterback injuries, perhaps he should consider sitting Matt Ryan and let Matt Schaub win the Saints’ game.

Ryan, the most valuable player candidate, is the one player the Falcons can’t lose.

He's aware of the injuries suffered by Oakland's Derek Carr and Tennessee's Marcus Mariota last week.

“That’s disappointing," Ryan said on Tuesday during his weekly radio show on 680 The Fan. "You put in so much work, but injuries are disappointing regardless of the time of the year. You don’t like to see those happen especially this late in the year. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the deal. I just feel bad for those guys.”

Back in 2012, Falcons coach Mike Smith had the starters play in a meaningless regular-season finale and defensive end John Abraham suffered a high ankle sprain. He did nothing in the playoffs against Seattle and San Francisco and possibly cost the franchise a trip to its second Super Bowl.

2. MVP CHATTER. Ryan is a strong candidate for the league’s most valuable player award.

“It’s obviously nice to be mentioned in the mix because it’s something that’s a special award, a really nice recognition, but at the end of the day it’s about winning games,” Ryan said on Tuesday during his weekly radio spot on 680 The Fan. “That’s where my mindset has been all year. It’s about trying to do the best that I can week-in and week-out. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that this year.”

Ryan's main competition for the award are New England's Tom Brady, Oakland's Derek Carr, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and Arizona running back David Johnson.

“This time of year is when MVP conversations begin," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "I think it is also important to recognize when those conversations begin, there are a bunch of people involved that are playing really well. I think Matt would be the first to tell you how many guys on our team are playing really well. He’s kind of the conduit of that.

“Any MVP talk and I know it’s an individual award, generally there are a lot of people that are playing really well for that to happen.”

Ryan completed 346 of 498 passes for 4,613 yards, 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 115.5 leads the league.

Among quarterbacks who average 9-plus yards per passing attempt, Ryan’s 69.5 seasonal completion percentage is third all-time behind Slingin’ Sammy Baugh (1945) and Joe Montana (1989).

Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to 13 players this season, the most in a single season in NFL history. Backup tight ends Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea both caught career-first touchdown passes against the Panthers.

A nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who regularly cover the NFL will vote on the award. The ballots were sent out on Dec. 16 and are due back on Jan. 4 and will not be accepted before Jan. 2.

The list of the voters is released when the awards are announced on Feb. 4 at NFL Honors program the night before Super Bowl LI.

3. SHAHANAN PLAN. The NFL has rules for teams interviewing coaches in the playoffs. Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows the rules well. He was interviewed during the "open" period back in 2014 when he landed the Falcons head coaching post.  The team elected to wait for him to finish his duties with as Seattle's defensive coordinator.

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has the league's top-scoring offense, is set-up to be a hot head coaching candidate.  Quinn and Shanahan have talked about the offensive coordinator interviewing for a head coaching vacancy in the coming weeks. "It's not something we talk regularly about, but certainly something that we've discussed," Quinn said.

Sounds like they have a plan.

4. INJURY REPORT:  The Falcons are hoping to get tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (concussion) back from injury. Also, left guard Andy Levitire, who didn’t finish the Carolina game with a hip injury, is expected back.  All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones (toe) and cornerback Jalen Collins (knee) returned from injury against the Carolina.

5. REVIEW OF GAME ONE: The Falcons defeated the Saints 45-32 on Sept. 26, 2016 on Monday Night football. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones sealed the victory with a 90-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.

Running back Devonta Freeman ran for a season-high 152 yards on 14 carries as the Falcons amassed 217 yards rushing. He also led the Falcons with five receptions for 55 yards receiving.

Here's the REPORT CARD from the first meeting: Falcons earn high marks for drubbing Saints.

6.  COVER-TWO BEATER FOR $5,000 ALEX: Quinn offered up a scenario of how closely the quarterbacks work together and drill each other to get ready for games.

“You see it each week with Matt Schaub to Matt Ryan at the end of each week he’s like Alex Trebek with all of the quizzes and tests that he fires at him," Quinn said. "Those small interactions that happen, teammate-to-teammate, are really strong.”

7. SERIES RECORD: This will be the 95th meeting between the Falcons and the Saints. The Falcons lead the series, 49-45.

8. TALE OF THE TAPE: 2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings:

9. DEPTH CHART: Here's the Falcons' official injury report for the Saints game.

(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)


WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 15 Nick Williams, 14 Eric Weems

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland

RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 19 Aldrick Robinson

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney

DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman

LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler

LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 52 Josh Keyes

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 38 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB 32 Jalen Collins, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman

S 22 Keanu Neal, 38 Dashon Goldson


K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy

PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

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The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov chat about Julio Jones’ situation for week 17, Matt Ryan’s MVP candidacy, and why it’s beneficial for the Falcons to host the Saints on Sunday.

GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons win over the Panthers

NFL playoffs: Falcons clinch NFC South title

Third-and-21, no problem for Coleman

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Panthers

GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the 49ers

What Matt Ryan had to say about the win over the 49ers

PHOTOS: Falcons win over the 49ers

GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14

REPORT CARD: Falcons handled their business against woeful Rams

GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Chiefs

Falcons still control their playoff destiny

PHOTOS: Falcons have a bad day at the office

Matt Ryan tormented by Berry's big interceptions

Beasley becomes a double-digit sacker

GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Cardinals

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go

Julio Jones gets calls this time

Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals

Coleman scores TD in return from injury

Falcons' offensive line 'stepped up to the task'

GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Eagles

Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl

Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty

Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage

Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons' biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)

Falcons go into bye week wrong way -- beat up by Eagles

What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles

PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles

5 things we learned from the Falcons' rout of the Bucs

GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Chargers

Dan Quinn's gamble with house-money backfires

6 penalties 'unacceptable' for Falcons offensive line

Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: 'He picked us apart'

Matt Ryan's late-game interception leads to overtime loss

PHOTOS: Chargers rally to beat Falcons

GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn't win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan's turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons' running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: 'It was just a missed call'

What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Richard Sherman non-commital on pass interference non-call

PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle

GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies

What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver

Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles

What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos

Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos

GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 48-33 win over the Panthers

Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons

Falcons' rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen

What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

Alford battled; Collins to return

Early view in NFC South isn't what most expected; Falcons on top

GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

5 things we learned from the Falcons' 45-32 win over the Saints

Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game

REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons

Falcons' Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home

AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons' win over the Raiders

Trufant's heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons' loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the "no-huddle" blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can't 'gift' opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC'S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case


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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.