It still feels weird to say this, but it needs to be acknowledged even though it's only Week 9: Matt Ryan absolutely deserves to be in the MVP conversation -- right alongside Tom Brady. If you watched the Falcons' 43-28 win over the Buccaneers on Thursday night, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Ryan has now led his team to a 6-3 record and by beating the now 3-5 Buccaneers, the Falcons sit comfortably on top of the NFC South.

Ryan had his way with the Buccaneers all night long, throwing for 344 yards. He completed 74 percent of his passes. He averaged 10.1 yards per attempt. He tossed four touchdowns to four different receivers.

In Kyle Shanahan's offense, Ryan is unstoppable. He entered the game with a league-best 19 touchdown passes and he'll likely retain his spot atop the leaderboard by the time his counterparts wrap up the week.

Here are five more takeaways from Week 9 of "Thursday Night Football."

2. Falcons offense: Still explosive

The Falcons entered the game ranked first in yards and points per game. They didn't slow down against the Buccaneers.

After the Buccaneers marched directly down the field for a touchdown to open up the game, the Falcons quickly responded when Ryan hit Levine Toilolo for a 32-yard touchdown.

Yep, you just watched Ryan throwing on the run! Weird.

Shanahan was just getting started. He quickly found his rhythm as play caller. Their second touchdown came on a handoff to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, probably because Gabriel is super fast.


That touchdown, which capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive, gave the Falcons a six-point lead. They took that advantage into halftime.

Shanahan was just getting going. To begin the second half, the Falcons journeyed 86 yards on 11 plays. On four straight plays, Ryan hit Julio Jones for a total of 59 yards. But Ryan didn't find his favorite weapon to end the drive. He found his fullback, Patrick DiMarco, for a wide-open touchdown -- again, perfect play calling.

So, a quick recap: To that point the following players had scored touchdowns for the Falcons ...

  • Levine Toilolo
  • Taylor Gabriel
  • Patrick DiMarco

Don't ever say the Falcons rely too heavily on Jones. Fantasy owners of Jones probably began to panic -- prematurely, though, given the Falcons had plenty of time to get their star into the end zone.

They did exactly that. They put the game away with a fade to Jones, who made one of those catches that made me shout a word that I'm not allowed to write on this website.

The Falcons didn't stop there. In the final frame, Ryan hooked up with tight end Austin Hooper on third-and-goal for his fourth touchdown to really rub it in.

Of course, the flip side of all of this is that the Buccaneers' defense is truly awful. In addition to allowing Ryan to carve them up for 344 yards, they also got gutted by Devonta Freeman, who rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries.

3. Mike Evans almost stole the show

It took the Buccaneers one series to find the end zone. To no one's surprise, the touchdown came via the Jameis Winston to Mike Evans connection.

On second-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Winston dropped back to pass and looked for Evans on a slant pattern. Evans was covered well on the play, so Winston held the ball and drifted out of the pocket while Evans headed toward the back corner of the end zone.

That's where Winston found his favorite target.

That touchdown shouldn't have counted though because the Buccaneers had a lineman in the end zone. Take a look:

The officials did not throw a flag. And that's how the Buccaneers took an early 7-0 lead. After allowing 13 unanswered, they snatched back the lead midway through the second quarter. Again, it was Evans, who used his 6-foot-5 frame to pluck the jump ball out of the air.

There is no defense for this:

Evans wasn't done. In the second half -- just after Jones came down with that ridiculous toe-tapping touchdown -- Evans one-upped Jones by coming down with a one-handed catch while enduring a gnarly head shot.

In all, Evans caught 11 passes for 150 yards and that pair of touchdowns. The bad news: He left the game to be evaluated for a concussion.

4. Jameis Winston's bad day

Moments before Evans came down with that sideline grab, he sprinted free down the right sideline. With an accurate pass, Evans would've coasted into the end zone. Instead, Evans ended up leaping with one outstretched arm in an attempt to bring down Winston's wild pass.

That errant pass not only sums up Winston's performance Thursday night, but also his season and career to this point. He's capable of making every throw on the field, but he's also capable of wildly misfiring on sure things.

Against a bad Falcons defense, Winston went 23 of 37 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Those are fine numbers, but it's worth noting he racked up a decent chunk of his yards and one touchdown when the game was out of reach. When the game was still close in the second half, Winston and the Buccaneers' offense repeatedly stalled. Remember: At one point, the score was 40-14. You can pretty much ignore anything that happened after that point.

It's not all on him, of course. His offensive line still isn't great -- he was sacked three times -- and he also needs another reliable receiver to pair alongside Evans, who racked up 17 targets.

It didn't help that Winston tried to run in a garbage time two-point conversion late in the game and ended up taking a brutal hit, which he was slow to get up from. When the cameras panned to him on the sidelines, he was having difficulty walking and was receiving work from the team's training staff.

He didn't return to the game due a knee injury.

5. The sloppy Buccaneers

The Buccaneers tried to one-up the Raiders in terms of penalties, but ultimately fell short in that endeavor. Applaud them for the effort, though.

They were penalized 11 times for 85 yards.

6. What's next?

The Buccaneers will host the Bears two Sundays from now. On paper, that's a pretty awful game with two sub-.500 teams. But the Bears did upset the Vikings in their most recent game and have their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, back under center.

It won't be an easy win for the Buccaneers. Something to watch for: How Winston is feeling after that hit.

As for the Falcons, they'll travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles next weekend. With their tough defense (ranked first in DVOA) that'll be a tough matchup.

Something to watch for: the status of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who left in the first half with a shoulder injury and didn't return.