Hobbled Browns brace for high-octane Falcons
Atlanta's 1-4 start is a distant memory thanks to a three-game winning streak and an offense that is clicking on all cylinders.
Cleveland's 2-2-1 start is also a distant memory. A four-game losing streak, dysfunction in the coaching ranks and injuries can quickly derail a season.
Sounds familiar on the shores of Lake Erie where the Falcons (4-4), looking to climb above .500 for the first time this season, play the Browns (2-6-1) on Sunday.
Head coach Dan Quinn and quarterback Matt Ryan have righted the ship after the disastrous start. The Falcons are scoring points in bunches, averaging 28.5 per game. Ryan leads the league's second-ranked passing attack, averaging 320.1 yards per outing.
Julio Jones remains one of the best wide receivers in the game (60 receptions, 933 yards), and he finally cracked the end zone last week for his first touchdown this year.
Calvin Ridley has had a breakout season. The former Alabama star has seven touchdowns but is questionable with a head injury.
Running back Tevin Coleman has scored in three straight games and in five of the past six road games.
And the maestro of it all, Ryan, is playing some of the best football of his 11-year career. He's completed 213 of 301 attempts for 2,685 yards, 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
"One of the things that I really admire about him is his consistency, and that is not a sexy word, because it isn't earned overnight and you have to put it in over and over again," Quinn told reporters. "I wish you guys could come to practice and see all the work he puts in on the practice field, all the way through to the games."
The Browns' defense Ryan will face on Sunday is in trouble having been decimated by injuries, a problem the Falcons have faced on their own defense.
Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines were placed on injured reserve Wednesday. The overall No. 4 pick in this year's draft, cornerback Denzel Ward (hip) also was injured and his status for Sunday's game remains in limbo.
Interim head coach Greg Williams won't be asking for any sympathy.
"Getting back to the basics on a few things, especially with a young team," Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Getting back to the basics and do not forget how important that is with guys that need as much time on task at this fast level of football with not a lot of experience."
There is help on the way with Pro Bowl linebacker Joe Schobert and free safety Damarious Randall being cleared after missing the past few games.
Help is on the way for Atlanta, as well, which has only 17 quarterback sacks this season. The Falcons signed linebacker Bruce Irvin, reuniting the former Seahawks and Raiders star with Quinn, his defensive coordinator in Seattle.
With the Raiders this season, he recorded three sacks.
"Man it's time! You can't put a price on the chance for me to play for my people and city! It's bigger than money!" the 31-year-old tweeted.
--Field Level Media
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)