ATLANTA, GA- Coming off a much needed BYE week the Atlanta Falcons will look to reinvent the team and prevent another catastrophic losing streak.
As coach Mike Smith referenced earlier this week, the Falcons have not been consistent from game to game. This goes in all aspects of the game: offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. Unfortunately, these questions were not answered last year or in the offseason when the team had the same problems but were on the luckier side of things as they continued to rack up wins instead of losses.
Back to basics
The team needs to find balance as they did during the game at Miami. Running the ball 30 times allows for Matt Ryan to work in some effective play action plays. If Ryan drops back in the shotgun formation over 20 times a game, the opponent’s defenses will pick apart the offensive line because they do not fear Ryan running the ball.
The game today has the most effective quarterback’s getting rid of the ball on most downs in less than three seconds. Falcon’s receivers need to stick one move and find an opening in opponent’s zone defenses on quick and simple routes. This will build trust and confidence between receivers and quarterback; also this puts pressure on the opponent’s defense to make open field tackles and provide much needed opportunities to get those coveted yards-after-catch.
From here on out if the team wants to win they’ll need the help of the intangibles. Fans only have to look towards the running back duo in Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. In the past three games Rodgers is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and minimal work in the passing game with only 78 yards. During the game against the New York Jets Rodgers and Snelling didn’t rack up a lot of total yards but they ran with some attitude; exactly what the Falcons need. With almost nothing left to lose on the offensive side of the ball, why not try to set Rodgers and Snelling loose until Steven Jackson gets back presumably during week eight.
Still on the issue of balance, the defense of the team either needs to adopt one of two mantras. Bend but don’t break, or play with reckless abandon. Keeping opposing teams out of the redzone in general has been difficult on this team. So the first option is null and void until either the coverage or pass rush improves. There are multiple rookies on the defensive side of the ball, their speed needs to be utilized to put consistent pressures on quarterbacks.
In my opinion the defensive schemes are not the problem. Atlanta has been getting their sacks, not due to the defensive tackles man-handling their opponents, but due to the blitz packages that the defensive coordinator draws up. When the Falcons rush four, it seems that opposing quarterbacks have at least six seconds to make a decision. That’s double the time they need to make a good decision, whether that’s a first down pass, escaping the pocket, or throwing the ball away. The Falcons don’t force any opposing quarterbacks to make bad decisions. That’s evident by every team posting at least 23 points on the Falcons. Even the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers can hold the New Orleans Saints and Jets under 20 points.
With starting veterans like Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent, and Sam Baker being injured, the team is exposed and takes on an entirely different look and feel. The injury laced Atlanta Falcons is a team of young inexperienced players that are now being offered the chance to shoulder the load in a relatively weak division in the NFC South this year.
What needs to change in the Falcon’s team or organization?