Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 14d

Matt Ryan yet to regain MVP form as Falcons look to rebound in second half

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Atlanta Falcons and a preview of what to expect in the second half:

First-half snapshot: The Falcons had high standards coming off the Super Bowl and managed to start 3-0 before losing three in row. However, a team that led the league at 33.8 points per game last season isn't even close to that number so far this season (21.3 PPG). Injuries and adjusting to first-time coordinators on both sides of the football haven't helped the Falcons' cause, but neither have turnovers on offense (10) and fundamental breakdowns on defense.

Grade: Average

Midseason MVP: It's a tough call here, but wide receiver Julio Jones is the most dynamic player on the team, and he makes an impact even when not catching passes. Opposing defenses have to game plan around Jones, which opens opportunities for others to make plays. There was no better example of this than when Jones drew the safety over in the season opener at Chicago, which allowed Matt Ryan to step up and find wide-open tight end Austin Hooper for an 88-yard touchdown. It looks like plays to Jones down the field will pick up, based on his 53-yard reception in a Week 8 win over the Jets and some early completions against Carolina. Jones leads the Falcons with 43 catches for 658 yards, although he has just one touchdown.

Best moment: The Falcons might have lost in Detroit had nickelback Brian Poole not stepped up and helped keep Lions wide receiver Golden Tate out of the end zone in the final seconds. Remember, the play initially was called a 1-yard touchdown for a Lions walk-off win, but an official review determined that Tate was down before scoring, which resulted in a 10-second runoff and 30-26 Falcons' win. However, the Falcons couldn't maintain the momentum off the 3-0 start, as they then lost three in a row against the AFC East.

Worst moment: It was a very uncharacteristic play, but Jones' dropped touchdown in a 20-17 loss to the Panthers epitomized the first half of the season and the Falcons' many missed opportunities. Arguably the best receiver in the game was wide open for what would have been a 39-yard score and just simply didn't secure the ball. The image of Jones sprawled across the end zone with his hands covering his head might stick for a little bit, but Jones probably will catch the next 100 balls. His teammates had his back and know they can't win without his dynamic ability.

Second-half outlook: In a Week 8 win over the Jets, the Falcons had two explosive plays, a 53-yard hookup between Ryan and Jones and a 52-yard run by Tevin Coleman. In the same game, Ryan lost two fumbles. Coach Dan Quinn said during a radio interview how explosive plays and turnovers will have a major role for his team moving forward. Ryan, who threw seven interceptions through the first eight games along with three lost fumbles, has to regain his MVP form, although he'll face four top-10 scoring defenses (Seattle, Minnesota, New Orleans and Carolina) in the second half of the season. The Falcons can't neglect Jones' dynamic ability at receiver or ignore the potent two-back combo in Devonta Freeman and Coleman. The defense has to stop the run first, something that was re-emphasized after the team surrendered 100-plus rushing yards to the Bills, Dolphins and Patriots -- all in consecutive losses. But the defense didn't quite get the hint when it surrendered a season-high 201 rushing yards to Carolina, a huge chunk coming on designed runs for quarterback Cam Newton.

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