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NFL morning after: Andrew Luck takes his star turn

Andrew Luck AP

You know that 13-play touchdown-scoring drive you saw at the end of the Colts’ win over the Packers on Sunday? That’s what a franchise quarterback is supposed to look like.

Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick who had the biggest pair of shoes to fill in the NFL when he took the place of Peyton Manning as the Colts’ quarterback, did every single thing you’d want a rookie quarterback to do if you’ve just put all of your faith in him as the man to lead your franchise for the next decade or so. He ran the no-huddle offense, he managed the clock, he checked down to tight end Coby Fleener when he needed to, threw deep to receiver Reggie Wayne when he needed to, even took off running and picked up a big first down on a third-and-7. Overall, Luck went 8-for-10 for 90 yards and a touchdown on the drive, which gave the Colts a 30-27 lead with 35 seconds to play.

This was a game in which the Colts, who were heavy underdogs, fell behind 21-3 at halftime. Coming after an impossibly difficult week in which they found out their coach, Chuck Pagano, was hospitalized with leukemia, it would have been easy for the Colts to go into the tank. But Luck wasn’t going to let that happen. He was simply great, completing 31 of 55 passes for 362 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and adding 24 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown.

Although Manning’s Broncos lost in New England on Sunday, he was outstanding again, with 345 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. And yet no matter how well Manning plays, I doubt there’s anyone in the Colts organization who would take back the decision to release Manning and draft Luck.

With 1,208 yards this season and a 2-2 record, Luck is the first rookie in NFL history to average more than 300 passing yards and lead his team to at least two wins in his first four games. Luck is doing things rookie quarterbacks have never done before. This is what NFL teams dream their rookie quarterback might be able to play like. Luck looks like a star.

Luck was the player who impressed me most on Sunday, but there were a lot of other things I liked, and a few things I didn’t:

The other rookie quarterbacks are pretty good, too. All five of the NFL’s rookie starting quarterbacks — Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden and Seattle’s Russell Wilson — have shown a lot of promise. Griffin was knocked out of the Redskins’ loss to the Falcons early on Sunday, but he’s coming off a September in which he was named the league’s offensive rookie of the month. Tannehill threw for 223 yards and had no turnovers as the Dolphins beat the Bengals. Weeden’s Browns are 0-5, but he’s on pace for 4,121 yards this season, which would break the rookie record of 4,051 that Cam Newton set last season. And Wilson is the one rookie quarterback whose team has a winning record, after the Seahawks improved to 3-2 with a win over the Panthers on Sunday.

I love the intentional safety. What a smart call by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, leading 16-10 and facing a fourth down on his own 18-yard line with a minute left in the game. Instead of punting, which would have given the Panthers the ball somewhere around midfield, Carroll called for an intentional safety, which allowed the Seahawks to take a little more time off the clock and then take a free kick from the 20-yard line. Whether the score was 16-10 or 16-12, Carroll knew that his defense just had to keep the Panthers out of the end zone to win the game. And taking a little more time off the clock and moving the Panthers back a little bit farther would make that a little bit tougher. A smart strategic decision by Carroll.

Let’s eliminate the term “mild concussion” from the NFL vocabulary. That’s how Redskins coach Mike Shanahan described the injury Griffin suffered on Sunday, and I know Shanahan was just trying to say that Griffin has a good chance of playing next week, but still: The NFL needs to make it clear that there are no “mild” concussions. It was also disconcerting that the Redskins at first only described Griffin as “shaken up” before later acknowledging that he had, in fact, suffered a concussion. The NFL is investigating whether the Redskins’ handling of Griffin followed league protocols for players who suffer head injuries. If nothing else, the Redskins would be wise to stop brushing off concussions as “mild,” or as just a player being “shaken up.”

Chris Johnson stinks. I don’t know what on earth is wrong with Johnson, the Titans running back who held out from training camp last year until the team gave him a $53.5 million contract, but the reality is he’s just not a good football player anymore. Yes, he still has speed and is capable of breaking long runs, but NFL teams need a running back who can gain yardage consistently, not just break long runs occasionally. And when Johnson gained just 24 yards on 15 carries on Sunday against the Vikings, it marked the fourth time in five games this season that Johnson was held under 25 yards. Johnson is averaging just 2.9 yards a carry, a number that gets usually gets NFL running backs cut. He’s terrible.

Take a minute to appreciate Johnny Unitas. When Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass on Sunday night, making it the 48th consecutive game in which he had done so, he was breaking a record that Johnny Unitas set in 1960 — 1960! Think how different the NFL passing game was in 1960. In 1960, Unitas led the league with 25 touchdown passes. In 2011 there were nine different quarterbacks with more than 25 touchdown passes. The game has changed so much that it’s amazing any passing record could last for more than half a century, but Unitas’s record did. The Colts sure have had some great quarterbacks.

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Gus Bradley doesn’t think offense was too conservative

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley in the game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Jaguars lost 19-17 to the Ravens on Sunday, Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said he thought the team was too conservative after taking a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars got the ball twice in Baltimore territory following Joe Flacco interceptions and saw the drives end with a Blake Bortles interception and a blocked field goal. They ran twice for no gain before the interception and ran on first down on the second drive before a completed pass and sack of Bortles led to the field goal attempt.

On Monday, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he had no problem with how offensive coordinator Greg Olson called the plays.

“You look at the four-minute situation, there are a lot of time management discussions,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “They had three timeouts. We talked about that in OTAs and training camp: We’ve got to be able to run it when they know we’re going to run it. We didn’t get that done yesterday. You have to do [run it well] so they use their timeouts and we were looking to get a first down. That’s not to say you won’t throw it on third down, but we really wanted to strain our guys and [say], ‘This is a must time. You have to be able to run the ball here.'”

The Jaguars haven’t been able to run the ball when defenses don’t know they’re going to run it, so it’s no great shock that they failed to do it when the Ravens were waiting for Chris Ivory. The sack and interception make it clear that passing the ball wasn’t necessarily going to be a silver bullet for the Jaguars, but zigging when the Ravens were expecting a zag might have been a good way to go with a chance to take a commanding lead late in the game.

Losing close games leads to that kind of Monday morning quarterbacking and the Jags have done a fair amount of it under Bradley over the last three-plus years. The word from owner Shad Khan this offseason was that it was time for that to change, but the song has remained the same so far this season.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the Detroit Lions
at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills defense was more aggressive against the Cardinals.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said there may be lineup changes coming.

What did Patriots coach Bill Belichick see in DL John Hughes?

A look at why the Jets passed so much in the red zone.

Ravens G Alex Lewis is going through the concussion protocol.

LB Vontaze Burfict is back for the Bengals.

Browns WR Corey Coleman promises a full-speed return from his broken hand.

What will RB Le’Veon Bell’s return mean for the Steelers offense?

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said that his team has put last week’s loss behind them.

Rookie G Joe Haeg had a good showing for the Colts against the Chargers.

What’s the problem with the Jaguars running game?

The Titans hope WR Kendall Wright can get on the field this week.

QB Trevor Siemian continues to earn rave reviews from the Broncos.

RB Jamaal Charles‘ return still looms in the future for the Chiefs.

Nine rookies saw time for the Raiders in their Week Three win.

Said Chargers coach Mike McCoy of Achilles injuries suffered by his players, “We’re going to do all the research we can definitely to figure out, is there something we can do to help the players, but we do that every year.”

Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of QB Dak Prescott, “We haven’t just put the handcuffs on him, if you will. We let him play. He’s seen a lot of different fronts, a lot of different covers, a lot of different pressures.”

How will the Giants shuffle their running backs with Shane Vereen injured?

The Eagles will stick with RB Ryan Mathews as a starter when he’s healthy.

Coach Jay Gruden may have revived the Redskins again.

The Bears aren’t generating much pass rush.

The Lions waived LB Zaviar Gooden on Monday.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is pleased with how the season has opened for him.

Coach Mike Zimmer says that a strong Vikings defense is the product of a team effort.

S Keanu Neal had a good night in his Falcons debut.

Panthers CB James Bradberry isn’t going to make a lot of headlines talking about Julio Jones this week.

There don’t appear to be any easy answers for the Saints defense.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is talking about the need for a winning culture.

The Cardinals are trying to get back on track this week.

How did the Rams deal with Sunday’s extended weather delay?

Five takeaways from the 49ers’ loss in Week Three.

RB Christine Michael might have done enough to start for the Seahawks even if Thomas Rawls was healthy.

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Jets kicking the tires on C.J. Spiller today

Spiller Getty Images

The Jets are pushing all kinds of buttons at the moment, including taking a look at some veteran players who could help them now.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Jets are working out running back C.J. Spiller today.

The former Bills first-rounder has worked out for the Packers since being released by the Saints, so it’s unclear if teams think he’s physically ready to contribute.

The Jets have only been keeping two backs active on game days, with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell setting into their complementary roles.

But between the “come-to-Jesus meeting” and claiming guys like Austin Seferian-Jenkins off waivers, it’s clear the Jets are feeling a bit of pressure already after a 1-2 start.

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Jets have a “come-to-Jesus meeting” on Monday

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets oversees warm ups before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s early enough in the season that we don’t quite know exactly what some teams will turn out to be come the final weeks of the year and the Jets have to hope that they wind up looking more like the team that won in Buffalo in Week Two than the one that lost in Kansas City in Week Three.

They don’t have much time to ruminate on the topic before the Seahawks are in town and then it is on to road games in Pittsburgh and Arizona with the 1-2 Jets’ margin for error slimmer after their eight-turnover disaster against the Chiefs. Of course, a margin for error won’t matter much at all if that outing turns out to be who the Jets are this season.

That wouldn’t be a good look for coach Todd Bowles, who started off this week with a speech to his team that tried to get them moving forward after a bad loss.

“Every time you lose like that, you have to have a come-to-Jesus meeting,” Bowles said in comments distributed by the team. “We talked about accountability and just understanding where we are in the season and who we are and what we need to be, pretty much. … Throughout the course of the season, there will be a bunch of turning points. It’s not going to be the last time we face adversity. There are going to be several times down the road where we face adversity. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”

Bowles didn’t delve into specifics about what the Jets might do differently moving forward, but the broad strokes are obvious enough for a team that has looked pretty good over the last two seasons when they aren’t handing the ball to the opposition.

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John Harbaugh likes Steve Smith’s fire, on and off the field

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) runs as Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Johnathan Cyprien (37) makes the tackle after a reception during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) AP

Not only was Ravens coach John Harbaugh caught in the middle of the conversation between Steve Smith and Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, it’s clear that’s where he wanted to be.

Harbaugh said he enjoyed seeing his veteran wide receiver send a little back Ramsey’s way in the post-game.

I got caught in the middle of that,” Harbaugh said, via Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun. “It was kind of fun, it was fun. I thought Steve Smith had a heck of a game. If that’s how he responds to whatever challenge put before him out there, I’m for it. I’m for that happening every week. I thought he responded quite well.”

Smith had just logged his best game of the year, with a team-high eight catches for 87 yards, so a little jawing back and forth (in person and on Twitter, where Smith eviscerated the kid) from a 37-year-old coming off a torn Achilles was a good sign.

“He’s looked good to me from Day 1,” Harbaugh said. “I saw a bunch of plays made yesterday, I saw a lot of competitive fire, and he was critical for us. He made some huge chunk plays when we needed him the most. So I haven’t had any concerns about Steve at all really, all year. I’m sure glad he’s on our side, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays this week.”

And he’s probably also looking forward to the next clash with some poor corner, which you know is inevitable.

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Drew Brees on 0-3 start: At some point it turns

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The Falcons won 45-32. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Saints kept Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in check on Monday night as Jones had just one catch for 16 yards.

There wasn’t much other good news for them to report, however. The Falcons ran wild on the ground, avoided turnovers and benefitted from three by the Saints in a 45-32 win that dropped the Saints to 0-3 on the season. The issues that plagued them in the Superdome on Monday were similar to the ones that dogged them in the first two weeks, but quarterback Drew Brees didn’t sound like he expects the same issues to plague the team all season.

“We’re not saying it’s easy, but at some point it turns,” Brees said after the game. “We don’t know when that’s going to be. Hope it’s this week. That’s why you go out and get the type of guys that we have in the locker room. You don’t get guys that are going to turn on one another or cash in if times get tough. You go out and get tough, competitive guys that love the game of football, love to compete, love to play for one another. Look at any team throughout the course of a year, any team that has gone on and done great things. There are moments of adversity. There are moments and times where it would have been easy to throw it in or not approach it in a positive way and I feel like we have the right type of guys to turn this thing around and when we do, look out.”

This is the fourth time that a Saints team with Brees at quarterback has started 0-3 and none of the previous teams have made the playoffs or finished with a winning record, so how much things will turn is a matter for some debate because they probably need to go at least 9-4 the rest of the way to advance to the postseason. The Saints team we’ve seen for the first three weeks hasn’t looked good enough to reel off that kind of record.

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La’el Collins has surgery on his big toe, but they think he can come back

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:   Ronald Leary #65 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 23, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys are going to have to get by without their Sgt. Hulka for the next few months but there’s a chance they could get him back.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Cowboys left guard La’El Collins is having surgery to repair the ligament damage to his right big toe suffered Monday. They’ve already placed him on injured reserve, but the team is holding out hope he can return later in the year.

(This is also where not putting Tony Romo on IR helps them, since you can only bring back one player per year from that list).

While an injury to any starter is bad, the Cowboys are covered at this spot.

Guard Ronald Leary will take over at left guard, returning to the spot he started ever game in 2013 and 2014. He asked to be traded this offseason, but the Cowboys refused to give him away, and are now glad they didn’t.

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Greg Hardy caught with cocaine, claims it’s not his

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 15: Greg Hardy #76 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Cowboys and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested on Sunday after police found cocaine during a traffic stop.

Hardy was pulled over for failing to use a turn signal, police asked to search him, and he agreed, police say. When they looked in his wallet, they found 0.7 grams of cocaine.

The police report says that Hardy told the officer that he didn’t know what the substance was. Hardy said that the night before, he had passed his wallet around a party because he was paying for everyone, and someone must have put the cocaine in his wallet at the time.

Hardy was booked into jail in Richardson, Texas, and released on $5,000 bond.

Once among the best pass rushers in the NFL, Hardy was benched for 15 games by the Panthers in 2014 as a result of a domestic violence accusation. Although charges were later dropped, the NFL suspended Hardy for the start of the 2015 season. He finished 2015 playing for the Cowboys but has generated no interest as a free agent this year. His career is now likely over.

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Tom Brady: No football benefit to missing time, but Italy was nice

New England Patriots fans cheer about a sign referring to quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, neither of who were dressed for the game against the Houston Texans, during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) AP

The Patriots are 3-0 without Tom Brady, and with a week to go before he comes back, he’s already trying to manage expectations — lest people expect him to be Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, for heaven’s sake.

I don’t think there is any benefit to watching the team play these games from a football standpoint, because it takes time to get the timing and the practice reps,” Brady said during his weekly interview on Westwood One Radio (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).  “I’m trying to do the best I can to stay in shape and to keep the timing, and to really stay football ready. I’m hoping our team has a great week of preparation and can get to 4-0, and then I’ll have an opportunity to be back next Monday, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be ready to go for that week.

“It’s a big week for me, and it’s a big week for our team. Every week is a big week in the NFL, but not having been out there for four weeks, there is a lot of makeup time I’m going to need and the chance to be on the field with my teammates to see what kind of rhythm I can find in a short week of practice.”

Of course, we think having 16 years of experience will somehow allow him to manage a month off, but Brady said he’s not the kind of player who can roll out of bed and be back to form.

“I don’t think you can,” he said. “I do admire some guys, like [Patriots receiver] Danny Amendola. He didn’t practice at all in training camp and he goes out there and the first week of the year [and] has a great game. The second week of the year, he has two touchdown catches. I’ve played with a lot of teammates who have been off for extended periods of time and it looks like they’re flipping the switch, but I think for me, that’s not the way I really prepare. I like to take every rep in practice. I like to practice every day.

“I’ve been able to be very healthy over the course of my career, and I think that has really helped me, and I’m going to need to find that rhythm back. It’s going to take some work and some time. Like I said before, that’s some uncharted territory, too.”

Brady said he was “in a good place,” and last week that was Italy, on a vacation with his wife, Gisele Bundchen.

“I’ve never had an opportunity in September,” he said. “Hopefully I don’t have one for a very, very long time.”

While it’s Brady, and of course he’ll start, the sterling play of his backup and their ability to win with a third string likely makes him a little more eager to get back, and show people what they’ve missed.

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Jaguars get early London game, just as they wanted

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars claps during the second half of the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field on August 28, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars play the Colts in London on Sunday. It’s the earliest England trip for the Jaguars in their four years of playing a home game overseas, and that’s exactly what they wanted.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Jaguars requested to play in the earliest London game this year because they traditionally have performed better after playing there.

In 2013, the Jaguars started 0-8, capped with a 42-10 loss to the 49ers at Wembley Stadium. After London and the ensuing bye, the Jags went 4-1.

The next year, the Jaguars went 1-9 through England (capped by a 31-17 loss to the Cowboys), and 2-3 after that.

In 2015, the Jaguars went 1-5 before going to London, finally won there (34-31 over the Bills), and then went 3-3 after returning.

This year, the Jaguars are 0-3 as they prepare to face the 1-2 Colts. After the bye, Jacksonville has three potentially winnable games at Chicago, vs. the Raiders, and at Tennessee. The schedule after that includes two games against the Texans and back-to-back home games against the Broncos and Vikings.

Coach Gus Bradley arguably needs that annual London lift more than ever, given the team’s overall record during his tenure (12-39) and multiple comments from owner Shad Khan indicating that more is expected in 2016.

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Vernon Butler to miss several weeks with high-ankle sprain

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 20:  Vernon Butler #92 of the Carolina Panthers is blocked by Jeremiah Poutasi #73 of the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler will miss time after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Sunday’s 22-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, Butler had a cast on his injured right foot in the team’s locker room on Monday. Butler was injured when linebacker Thomas Davis fell into Butler’s leg while making a tackle on Vikings’ running back Jerick McKinnon.

The injury is expected to keep Butler out for several weeks.

Butler had played on 44 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps over the first two games while serving in a reserve role. He had just 10 snaps against Minnesota before leaving with an injury. Butler has recorded three tackles, a sack and a pass defended through three games.

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Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi could make debut this week

Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi speaks to the media following rookie mini-camp practice on May 6, 2016. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / ProFootballTalk.com)

A high-ankle sprain has forced Seahawks first-round pick Germain Ifedi to miss Seattle’s first three games against the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.

But Ifedi could finally make his regular season debut this Sunday against the New York Jets.

“He’s doing quite well,” head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. “He’s really excited about coming back. He was really close last week, you wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with him at this point.”

Ifedi returned to limited participation in practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury in the Wednesday practice before the season opener with Miami. J’Marcus Webb has started the first three games of the season in Ifedi’s place at right guard. Carroll said that once Ifedi is ready to go, he’ll jump right back in the starting lineup.

“He worked really hard today and he’ll take a light day tomorrow, then he’ll get after it and practice with us on Wednesday,” Carroll said. “I think that gives him a chance to get right back in there, if he can put together a day after today. It’s really a day-to-day thing and see how he responds to the work. Today was a really big indicator that he’s in good shape and ready to go.”

Ifedi’s return would be welcomed by Seattle, but it also would create some question marks. The Seahawks have to face one of the best defensive lines in the league in the Jets and they have a quarterback in Russell Wilson with a sprained right ankle and sprained MCL in his left knee. Jets head coach Todd Bowles loves to bring pressure as well. Seattle feels strongly about Ifedi’s potential, but it wouldn’t be the easiest first test this weekend.

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Freeman, Coleman run wild as Falcons overwhelm Saints

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, not pictured, and returns it for a touchdown, in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Falcons scored touchdowns on five straight possessions, then turned to their defense to seal a wild, 45-32 win over the Saints Monday night.

Tevin Coleman ran for three touchdowns and rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as the Falcons blew it open.

For as good as Coleman was it was his Falcons backfield mate, Devonta Freeman who led everyone with 152 rushing yards. Freeman also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass, and Coleman produced 47 receiving yards and 42 rushing yards.

The Falcons move to 2-1 and are alone atop the NFC South. The Saints fall to 0-3.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Coby Fleener scored his first Saints touchdown and had seven catches for 109 yards, but a depleted Saints defense just couldn’t get off the field and couldn’t get Freeman down.

The Falcons racked up 217 rushing yards and didn’t commit a turnover.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones had one catch, but Ryan and the Falcons were in charge of the game with the exception of the first 10 minutes.

The Saints moved the ball all night and outgained the Falcons but never seemed to recover from an early misplayed punt by R.J. Harris that turned into Coleman’s first touchdown and, even after rallying, couldn’t recover from the interception return by Jones that made it a 20-point game.

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Rookie linebacker returns interception for touchdown, puts Falcons up by 20

Drew Brees AP

Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, squashing a Saints rally and putting the Falcons up, 45-25.

Drew Brees had been moving the Saints, who’d finally kept the Falcons out of the end zone and were driving to make it a one-score game.

Jones is a New Orleans native, making his touchdown extra sweet.

On the ESPN broadcast, analyst Jon Gruden said Brees was fooled by the coverage, thought he was seeing man-to-man coverage and ended up chasing Jones to no avail. Brees was intercepted for the first time in 305 passes.

Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns for the Falcons, who have been dominant when they’ve had the ball.

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Coleman, Falcons running Saints off the field

Tevin Coleman,Brennen Beyer AP

Falcons running back Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns and the Falcons are routing the defenseless Saints, 35-17, in the third quarter.

Coleman had two career rushing touchdowns before tonight’s game.

The Falcons have scored on five straight possessions. It was 14-14 in the second quarter.

Drew Brees has two touchdown passes for the Saints, who have only scored via a 57-yard Wil Lutz field goal since early in the second quarter.

Julio Jones doesn’t have a catch but the Falcons still have an 18-point lead.

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