Falcons keep soaring, Texans in flux
ATLANTA (AP) Everyone in the Atlanta Falcons’ locker room seemed eager to praise a teammate.
A 48-21 blowout victory gave the Falcons four straight wins, and they’ll try to improve to 5-0 when they host Washington next week.
”It was a total team effort out there today,” Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones said. ”Each guy was doing for another guy. What’s great is we can only get better.”
For the Houston Texans, second-year coach Bill O’Brien was accepting all the blame.
A 42-0 deficit in the third quarter marked the biggest deficit in the team’s 14-year history.
The Texans must move their focus quickly with Indianapolis visiting in four days. At 1-3, O’Brien has a lot of mistakes to correct.
He called his performance and the team’s ”terrible.”
”It starts with me,” O’Brien said. ”To go out there and perform like that – that’s on the head coach, so I’m going to try and do a better job.”
Some things to know from the Falcons’ dominant win:
NOT NEARLY ENOUGH: Devonta Freeman and Leonard Hankerson made them pay with a combined 11 catches for 184 yards receiving, but Texans at least did what neither Philadelphia, Dallas or the New York Giants could.
They held Jones, who began the day leading the NFL with 440 yards from scrimmage, to 38 yards on four catches.
Houston’s strategy backfired.
”They were trying to bracket me early on and they were leaving gaping holes up front,” Jones said. ”The offensive line did a great job today. Hats off to those guys. J.J. Watt’s over there, Jadeveon Clowney, Vince Wilfork – they’ve got a great (defensive) line.”
FAMILIAR CAROUSEL: After the game, O’Brien wasn’t ready to say whether Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer will start against Indianapolis.
Mallett was benched after completing just 12 of 27 passes for 150 yards and an opening-possession interception that led to Atlanta’s first touchdown.
Hoyer, who began the season as the starter but lost the job after Week 1, came in and led three meaningless touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
Hoyer wouldn’t say who he thinks will start against the Colts.
”That’s the coach’s job to make that decision just like he did last time,” Hoyer said. ”We will be ready to go either way.”
RED ZONE READY: After scoring touchdowns on all four possessions inside Houston’s 20, the Falcons have converted 12 of 15 red zone chances this season. Freeman ran for two scores, Terron Ward ran for one and Hankerson caught a 3-yard pass.
Quarterback Matt Ryan credited part of Atlanta’s success to converting eight of 12 third-down chances in the first three quarters. The Falcons began the game ranked No. 2 in third-down efficiency.
”That was the key to our success,” Ryan said after passing for 256 yards and one TD. ”We were able to keep those drives going and then when we got the red zone we capitalized with touchdowns ”
TURNOVER SAVVY: Atlanta safety William Moore said there was no luck involved with the defense forcing three turnovers, including fumble recoveries that cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Nate Stupar returned for touchdowns.
”We utilize our vision in this defense, go off the quarterback and his intentions,” Moore said. ”We’ve got a bunch of guys that can fly around in this zone defense and at the same time we can match anybody man to man.”
Moore added to the Texans’ misery, knocking the ball away from tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in the second quarter. Trufant recovered that one, too, but the Falcons went three-and-out.
GOING WRONG WAY: Houston’s previous worst deficit in a single game was 35 points, against Cincinnati in 2002 and Indianapolis in 2004.
Arian Foster, returning from a groin injury that had sidelined him since early in training camp, didn’t want to talk about anything historically bad.
With over 8,000 yards from scrimmage and 65 combined touchdowns rushing in his career, Foster wasn’t in a chatty mood after gaining just 10 yards on eight carries and having teammate Derek Newton jar the ball loose from him on Trufant’s TD return.
”Life goes on, and we still have games to play,” Foster said. ”You have to get it out of your mind and go forward.”
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