IN THE AIR ON THE WAY TO HARTSFIELD-JACKSON — It seems like there is never a good time for the bye week.
But the fourth week of the season is too early.
The Falcons get to stew for two weeks before heading out to San Francisco to face the upstart 49ers.
Here are five things the Falcons need to fix over the bye week. (We’ll get the official list when Coach Mike Smith speaks later today. But for now, we can start with my list!)
1. Find the running game: Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner has rushed for 65, 105 and 56 yards. Miami
and Carolina targeted Turner, but New England did a good job of playing keep-away in the third quarter. When the Falcons did get the ball for a second time in the second half, they were down two scores and needed to pass. Don’t know if the holes are not there or if “The Burner” is not hitting the holes fast enough. But that’s something the Falcons need to sync up quickly.
2. Solidify the run defense: After the bye, the Falcons will see Frank Gore, Matt Forte, Felix Jones and Marion Barber over the next three games. They will need to get much stiffer against the run. Trey Lewis had a rough day in his first action since suffering a knee injury in 2007. On Fred Taylor’s 8-yard touchdown run, Lewis didn’t hold the point of attack and was pushed back several yards by New England center Dan Koppen and guard Stephen Neal.
3. Get the pass rush cranked back up: The defensive line has been shut out in the sack department over the last two games. They need to dial it back up. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann had two sacks in the opener. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas has the only other sack. If they find out the line can’t get home, then blitz more. Safeties Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud had good blitzes in each of the last two games. Nicholas can get home, too. Corners would be left in coverage more, but at least they’d be taking the fight to the opposition. .
4. Find out if Tye Hill can help: By the time the Falcons play again, it will have been five weeks since the trade with St. Louis for Tye Hill. That’s plenty of time for him to get acclimated in the “system.” Doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. Although, Chris Houston, Brian Williams and Brent Grimes have been solid, it’s time to find out if Hill can help. If he can cover man-to-man, then the Falcons would be able to unleash more blitzes.
5. Get Roddy White the ball down the field: The Falcons have to take more shots down the field. White has been regulated to underneath possession receiver through three games. A few more shots will get folks out of the box, too. If White and Michael Jenkins are streaking up the sidelines and Tony Gonzalez roaring down the middle seam, one of them will be open. White has seen 26 passes come his way. He’s caught 15 for 119 yards (7.9 yards per catch). His longest catch of the year went for 17 yards.
Got any more fixes?