Sunday: Noon at U.S. Bank Stadium (Ch. 9, 100.3-FM, 1130-AM)
ABOUT THE FALCONS
• The Falcons, two years removed from a stunning Super Bowl loss, dropped five straight games in November and December, finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs last season. Three starting defenders spent time on injured reserve; that 28th-ranked defense is now healthy.
• The Falcons overhauled the offensive line this offseason by signing free-agent guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown and drafting first-round guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary.
• The Falcons are banking on a healthy RB Devonta Freeman, who played just two games before undergoing season-ending groin surgery last year. Freeman, a two-time Pro Bowler, is expected to carry the load for a backfield that lost Tevin Coleman in free agency.
• Atlanta tried to move on from 44-year-old kicker Matt Bryant, releasing him in February before he re-signed Aug. 31 after preseason struggles by Giorgio Tavecchio and Blair Walsh.
PLAYER SPEAK | QB Matt Ryan
• Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, enters his 12th season with the second-longest active regular season starting streak at his position at 147, trailing only the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (208).
• Despite being sacked 42 times last season, the second-highest total of his career, Ryan threw for 4,924 yards and 35 TDs but his defense allowed 26.4 points per game.
• Falcons coach Dan Quinn on how the run game can better help Ryan: “Less throws could be more, because that’s when the play-pass stuff comes alive more. We’ve had games where the numbers in the run game may not have been high, but we’ve been able to throw it because of the threat of the run.”
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Ryan: “He’s got a great arm. He’s really accurate, really smart and a really good competitor. The other part: He moves pretty well. I wouldn’t call him an elusive runner, but he moves well in the pocket.”
COACH SPEAK | Dan Quinn
• Quinn, 48, enters his fifth season as Falcons head coach with a 39-30 record.
• Quinn parted ways with defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel this offseason and assumed the role himself.
• On how Quinn plans to manage games while focusing more on defense: “I wanted to make sure we surrounded ourselves from a game-management standpoint to give me assistance, so [offensive coordinator] Dirk Koetter, [tight ends coach] Mike Mularkey and [senior assistant] Bob Sutton have been a real influence on me.”
• On trying out former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh: “In the workout he had, he went all the way back to 56 [yards]. He could crush it on the touchbacks if we wanted it. You felt the competitiveness. The hunger was high. You felt how badly he wants to get going and being out was hard on him.”