The Atlanta Falcons continue to surge under interim coach Raheem Morris, making them a team to watch over the second half of the season despite their horrendous start.
Quarterback Matt Ryan finished 25-of-35 for 284 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as Atlanta beat the Denver Broncos 34-27. The Falcons (3-6) improved to 3-1 since parting ways with Dan Quinn and elevating Morris.
Ryan has lifted his play, completing at least 70% of his passes in each of the past four games while throwing eight touchdowns to two interceptions. His hot streak continued Sunday despite the absence of Calvin Ridley, who was sidelined with a foot injury. Second-year player Olamide Zaccheaus stepped into the starting role and posted four catches for 103 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown reception late in the first quarter that put Atlanta ahead 10-0 and in the driver's seat.
It was a similar story on defense. The Falcons were operating without starting defensive ends Dante Fowler Jr. and Takkarist McKinley, among others, but managed nine QB hits and a sack on Drew Lock, helping Atlanta to its first home win of the season.
The Falcons still have a big hole to climb out of after an 0-5 start. But following their Week 10 bye, they play two of their next three games against the rival New Orleans Saints, providing them a chance to make further inroads in their climb out of the NFC South basement.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: Ryan's TD pass to Zacchaeus had 56.68 yards of air distance, which is his longest on a touchdown pass in the last five seasons.
Promising trend: Atlanta was allowing 32 points per game during its 0-5 start. The defense has since tightened up, yielding just 23 points on average over the last four outings.
Buy a breakout performance: Zaccheaus showed good vertical speed -- he maxed out at 20 mph Sunday, per NextGen Stats -- and impressive concentration, as he was able to fight through pass interference by Davontae Harris to haul in the 51-yard touchdown. Even though his performance came against a banged-up Broncos secondary, Zaccheaus did enough to earn more targets, especially if Ridley misses more time.