The Falcons throttled the Houston Texans, 48-21. Matt Ryan threw for 256 yards and a touchdown and spoke after the game. D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons pummeled the Houston Texans 48-21 to improve to 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Running back Devonta Freeman led the way with three touchdowns and 149 yards from scrimmage.
The Falcons are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2012. They also started the season of 4-0 in 1986 and 2004. The 2004 and 2012 teams reached the NFC championship game.
The Falcons jumped out to 42-0 lead before the reserves finished out the game.
Here are the grades from the win:
Game balls: Devonta Freeman rushed for his 149 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns in four games give him seven on the season. That leads the NFL heading into tonight’s Monday night game and also surpassed the team-high six rushing touchdowns scored by former Falcons running back Steven Jackson over 15 games during the 2014 season.
Quarterbacks, A-plus. With the Texans locked in on wide receiver Julio Jones, Matt Ryan moved the ball around to five other receivers. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown. He finished with a quarterback rating of 112.6. Sean Renfree finished out the game, but didn’t throw a pass.
Running backs, A-plus. Freeman only played three quarters and didn’t return after scoring his 6-yard touchdown to make it 35-0. He rushed 14 times for 68 yards and caught five passes for 81 yards. Backup up Terron Ward closed out the game and ran hard. He finished with 72 yards rushing on 19 carries. The Falcons rushed for 135 yards on 35 carries for an acceptable 3.9 yards per carry.
(VIDEO: Matt Ryan on Devonta Freeman, offensive line)
Wide receivers/tight ends, A-plus. The Texans bracketed Julio Jones with two players and cheated to his side of the field, which created room for Leonard Hankerson to do some damage. He caught six of his eight targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. With all of the extra attention, Jones was held to four catches for 38 yards. He entered the game with 34 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns. The Falcons didn’t have a catch from the tight end Levine Toilolo, but he helped out in the run game and with the blocking on J.J. Watt.
Offensive line, A-plus. Tackles Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews had their hands full with Houston’s three-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. “Hats off to the offensive line," Jones said. “J.J. Watt was over there. Jadeveon Clowney and all of those guys over there on that line. They’ve got a strong line with (Vince) Wilfork, too. They moved them around and opened up some holes.” Schraeder, who plays right tackle, had Watt for most of the game. He did give up one sack. On Sunday, Matthews, who’s in his second-year in the league, was able to contain Watt, too. “I had a couple of plays against him,” Matthews said. “He’s a really good player, but I think we game-planned well against him. We had a lot of success when we did.” Clowney, the former South Carolina standout, had just two tackles and a deflected pass.
(VIDEO: Babineaux: 'Sky is the limit for us')
Defensive line, A-plus. The Falcons held the Texans to 54 yards rushing on 17 attempts. Houston running back Arian Foster returned from groin surgery and Alfred Blue, who rushed for 139 yards in his previous game, was held to 17 yards rushing on six carries. Foster had eight rushes for 10 yards. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux started the rally with an interception of a tipped pass. Ra’Shede Hageman has his first sack of the season and the Falcons had four quarterback hits from Kroy Biermann, Hageman, Vic Beasley and Paul Soliai.
Linebackers, A-plus: Justin Durant, who entered the game as the team’s leading tackler with 27, left with an elbow strain. Strongside linebacker Brooks Reed made his debut and he had two tackles and one for a loss. Middle linebacker Paul Worrilow had four tackles and reserve linebacker Allen Bradford tied for the team lead with five tackles. The Falcons had their best tackling game of the season.
Defensive backs, A-plus. Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught nine passes for 157 yards, but that damage was mostly done at garbage time. The secondary had him on lock down for most of the day. The Falcons made Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett look rather pedestrian as he finished with a 46.8 passer rating. Robensen Therezie played well in his first NFL start. He tied for the team lead in tackles with five tackles and had one pass deflection.
Special teams, A-plus. Punter Matt Bosher continued to boom the ball. He averaged 47.7 yards on six punts and hit a long of 55 yards. He also had a punt downed inside the 5. Also, Eric Weems had a 29-yard kickoff return and an 18-yard punt return.
Coaching, A-plus. The Falcons put together three fine quarters of football and led 42-0 after the third quarter. Offensive line coach Chris Morgan’s group shined against a pretty stout defensive front. Bobby Turner’s running backs ran hard and with some authority. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t panic when the Texans bracketed and circled Julio Jones with defenders. Richard Smith's defensive unit shut down the rushing attack and dared Mallett to beat them. He couldn’t.
NEXT UP: The Washington Redskins (2-2) face the Falcons (4-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
(VIDEO: Falcons CB Desmond Trufant on stopping the explosive plays)
TEXANS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 48, Texans 21
COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 39, Cowboys 28
GIANTS GAME COVERAGE -- Falcons 24, Giants 20
EAGLES GAME COVERAGE -- FALCONS 26, EAGLES 24