Taylor Gabriel-led Falcons explode en route to win

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Alford has experienced an up-and-down first four seasons but has proven a solid contributor in Dan Quinn’s scheme. He followed up a promising rookie campaign with a disastrous 2014, bounced back with stellar 2015 and is having a solid 2016 season. The corner has a tendency to get burned deep on occasion but also has come up with some big pass break ups. For his career, Alford has 47 passes defensed (12 this season) with nine interceptions.

Playing across from Desmond Trufant — selected in the first round of the same draft — Alford sees the more of targets come his way than other corners of his caliber. With Trufant on IR with a torn bicep, locking down Alford became a priority for Atlanta.

Atlanta, on the other hand, has progressed from a one-man gang to a full complement of weapons in the aerial attack. Gabriel, in particular, has been the impact waiver pickup of the season. The Falcons knew they needed speed opposite Julio Jones. Enter Gabriel, who played under offensive coordinator in Cleveland two years ago. He was electric after the catch on Sunday, using his high-end speed and lightning-quick cutting ability to dart through the Cardinals’ defense on magnificent touchdowns of 35 and 25 yards. Also a sneaky deep threat, Gabriel is averaging 80.5 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game over the past month. After exploding for 38 points against the NFL’s No. 1 team in total defense, the first-place Falcons are sitting pretty with three home games in the final five weeks of the regular season.jersey

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Whereas Ryan spent the second half of last season desperately auditioning understudies for a fading Roddy White, he now has a surfeit of weapons at his disposal. It’s telling that the Falcons scored 45 points on a night in which Jones contributed just one catch and Sanu lasted less than two quarters before leaving with a shoulder injury. It’s fair to note that Ryan has yet to face a stiff defensive test with the superpower trio of Carolina, Denver and cheap jerseys and Seattle on the horizon over the next three weeks. Still, this offense has all of the signs of a high-octane unit — barring a major injury to Jones, the engine that makes Ryan’s aerial attack go.

The Falcons are in desperate need of help at linebacker after losing Sean Weatherspoon for the season to a torn Achilles, and seeing three other linebackers — Paul Worrilow (groin) and rookies De’Vondre Campbell (ankle) and Deion Jones (calf; played Sunday) — suffer injuries. Special teamer LaRoy Reynolds — previously listed as third-string on the Falcons’ depth chart — was called into duty after Weatherspoon exited in Sunday’s win over the Panthers. The cupboard is bare in Atlanta, which helps explain the Falcons’ standing as the league’s 30th-best (or third-worst) defense.

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Hawk last played in 2015 with the , appearing in 16 games (starting 11) and recording 24 tackles with one sack. He worked out for the Miami Dolphins early in September, but left without a deal. He also made an appearance on Good Morning Football, and raved about how pretty brother-in-law Brady Quinn is.

“I’ve seen the relationship between and Thomas Dimitroff grow over the last two years and we’re seeing the fruits of their shared vision and plan coming together in our recent draft classes and free agent acquisitions,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. “My expectations remain very high. By extending Thomas, we expect to see their partnership continue to grow and deliver results for our team and our fans, on and off the field.”

In his nine years with the Falcons, Dimitroff — a two-time NFL Executive of the Year — has seen his teams post a combined 80-57 record, the eighth-best mark in the league during that stretch.

Receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel picked up the slack, but adding Jones to the mix only bolsters an attack that leads the NFL in scoring under the guidance of quarterback and MVP candidate Matt Ryan.

It’s unclear how much time Jones will see against Carolina — the game script will go a long way toward answering that question — but it’s a tremendous relief for the Falcons to have their best player back in the mix.