Atlanta Falcons: Top 5 Performers of September

Justin BlanchardContributor IIOctober 3, 2012

Atlanta Falcons: Top 5 Performers of September

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    The Atlanta Falcons are 4-0 for the first time since 2004.

    Their hot start undoubtedly has taken a team effort, but some Falcons have played much bigger roles than others to help the team finish this first quarter of the season undefeated.

    Here are the Falcons' top five performers from the month of September.

5. William Moore

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    2012 widely was speculated to be William Moore's best season to date.

    Four games in, he looks well on his way.

    The Falcons starting safety is making plays left and right, roaming the defense in Mike Nolan's Amoeba scheme. Moore has recorded the second-most tackles on the team (25), one sack, four batted passes, two interceptions and one forced fumble on the season.

    And it's not all about the statistics for Moore, who continues to build his reputation as one of the league's hardest-hitting safeties with timely plays such as this one.

    As long as he can remain healthy, it wouldn't be surprising to see Moore back on this list soon.

4. Sam Baker

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    Sam Baker is in the background of this picture, but he is at the forefront of Atlanta's offensive dominance.

    Baker has gone from fan-favorite whipping boy to one of Atlanta's best pass protectors, neutralizing any threat to Matt Ryan's blind side—which includes Denver Broncos Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil.

    In four starts at left tackle this year, Baker has not committed a single penalty (false start, holding or otherwise) and allowed just 0.5 sacks, according to The Washington Post.

    Baker appears fully recovered from a back injury that has been nagging him for most of his career. And, at least for the first four games of the year, he has rewarded head coach Mike Smith's decision to stay committed to him in 2012.

3. John Abraham

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    John Abraham's 10 tackles don't give him the lead in the category among Falcons defensive linemen—that spot is reserved for Kroy Biermann with 14.

    But Abraham does lead the line—and the team as a whole—in one key stat: sacks.

    The Falcons' premier pass-rusher has three sacks on the season after bringing down Matt Cassel, Philip Rivers and Cam Newton one time each.

    All three sacks have been game-changing moments, too.

    Abraham caused a fumble that was recovered by teammate Stephen Nicholas on his first sack, resulting in a Falcons touchdown on the very next play and erasing any chances of a Kansas City comeback. His second kept the Chargers from throwing a Hail Mary pass just before halftime, while his third kept the Panthers from attempting the same at the end of the Week 4 nail-biter in the Georgia Dome.

    Not to be forgotten is Abraham's biggest play of the season thus far: He knocked the ball out of Newton's hands during a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-short, which resulted in a Carolina punt and the Falcons' ensuing game-winning drive.

2. Roddy White

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    Roddy White himself expected to play a smaller role in Atlanta's offense this season. Others thought the same, what with his old age, all those dropped passes in 2011 and the anticipated emergence of Julio Jones.

    So far, the opposite has proven true.

    Coming off his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, White is on pace for his best season ever with a team-leading 27 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns at this season's quarter mark.

    Meanwhile, Jones still lags behind with just 16 receptions.

    While most of White's targets have come in the short-to-mid range, the 30-year-old White showed on Sept. 30 that he still is a deep-ball threat with two monster grabs of 49 and 59 yards—both times out-jumping opposing defenders.

    It may only be a matter of time before Jones becomes the go-to guy, but that title still belongs to White for now.

1. Matt Ryan

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    Matt Ryan might not only be the top performer of the team but of the entire NFL as well. He has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions in the Falcons' four September victories. 

    With numbers like that, it's easy to see why media around the league have him leading the MVP race.

    Of course, it helps to have a supporting cast of Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. But Ryan himself has taken great strides to improve his level of play.

    It's seen in the precision of his passes, the poise with which he leads Dirk Koetter's no-huddle offense and the intensity he displayed at the end of Week 4's game against Carolina.

    Ryan is finally coming into his own in his fifth season as a pro. With (at least) 12 games remaining on this year's schedule, his best may be yet to come.