Mike Zimmer brought Andre Patterson to the Vikings in part to change the philosophy of the team’s defensive line.
Hunter surged off the ball, aiming at Parnell’s outside shoulder. He swatted the tackle aside with two quick hands, churned forward and pulled Bortles down, pointing back to the sideline at Patterson. If the play was a display of the force Hunter brings to bear, it also was a testament to the teacher that head coach Mike Zimmer has been hiring for four decades.
The Saints and Panthers rank in the bottom four in passing yards allowed per game at 268.3 and 272.4 yards, respectively. Ryan already lit up the Panthers for a franchise-record 503 passing yards back in Week 4. He threw for 240 yards against the Saints in Week 3 as his running backs combined for 194 yards.
Facing a 49ers team on Sunday that surrenders a league-worst 170.8 rushing yards per game might entice Ryan to hand the ball off on every snap. But he’ll certainly take some shots with the 49ers also giving up 48 pass plays of 20-plus yards, tied for third-most in the league.
Of course, other factors could determine how many passing yards Ryan compiles over the last three games. The injury status of star receiver Julio Jones is one of them as Jones continues to recover from a toe injury. Ryan threw for a season-low 237 yards without Jones last Sunday, but the Falcons demolished the Los Angeles Rams 42-14. Ryan sat out the fourth quarter last Sunday, something that could happen again this week against the 1-12 49ers.
That’s not to say Ryan can’t go for 300 yards without Jones, especially with speedy Taylor Gabriel averaging 17.4 yards per catch. But, of course, Ryan would rather have Jones on the field.
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Falcons fans would love to see Ryan gift-wrap another 500-yard game against the Panthers on Christmas Eve, but that would be a much tougher task on the road.
And how about a Ryan-Brees aerial display in the last regular-season game at the Georgia Dome? Sounds fun.
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For the record, Ryan has five games of 300 yards or more this season, and the Falcons are 3-2 in those games. However, he hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in the last four games, and the Falcons are 2-2 in those games.