7 things wrong with the Falcons
Sporting Atlanta's version of the cheese heads, the ice heads Chris Elliott, Brian Sutton and Danny Boswell (left to right) cheer for Falcons quarterback Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan as he takes the field to play the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. Curtis Compton / email@example.com
FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons (2-3) will try to circle the wagons against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (1-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
The one thing that sticks out from our chats with Falcons coach Mike Smith this week is notion that the coaches and players have to work together to right their ship.
“It starts with the coaching staff and the players,” Smith said. “We’re only going to fix this together. We’re not going to fix this individually. It’s not one person, it’s not one thing.”
Man, it sure isn’t one thing. Here’s my little list of 7 things that need some fixing.
- Penalties. They have 32 penalties through five games after being the least penalized team in the league last season with 58 penalties. Tyson Clabo’s holding made sense under the “you can’t let the quarterback get killed” doctrine. Roddy White’s penalty made sense, too. He was complaining about the late hit – that wasn’t called – when Ryan took a pop while sliding. The illegal substitution and illegal formation penalties are pee wee football penalties. Those are the ones that must be eliminated.
Matt Ryan calls an audible at the line of scrimmage during 1st half action against the Packers. Curtis Compton / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Where’s the Ice Man? Quarterback Matt Ryan is not playing well (seven touchdowns, six interceptions). He had his fourth-lowest passer rating (53.6) in four seasons against the Packers. He had a 49.3 on Dec. 28, 2008 in a season-finale 31-27 win over St. Louis, a 46.6 against New Orleans in a 35-27 loss on Nov. 2, 2009, and 29.3 in the second game of his career, a 24-9 loss to Tampa Bay. The Falcons are 16-0 when he has a passer rating of 100 or more. They need the razor-sharp 100-point man going forward.
- Pass defense. The secondary is still hemorrhaging yards. They are giving up 294.2 yards per game which ranks 28th in the league. Chicago’s Jay Cutler (312), Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson (319) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (396) have all passed for more than 300 yards against the Falcons. (If Jermichael Finley doesn’t have two drops, Rodgers would have passed for more than 400 yards.)
- Pass rush. Defensive end Ray Edwards, signed to help the pass rush, only has one sack and John Abraham is battling another groin injury. Edwards acknowledged that he has been slowed by knee surgery that he had during the lockout. “It’s getting better and better each week, and it’s starting to show in my play,” Edwards said. Also, Edwards, who was signed to a six-year, $30 million contract, eased into a new role. With Minnesota he rushed solely from left end. The Falcons flip-flop their ends depending on the matchups, so he’s played some left and right end. “I’ve adjusted,” Edwards said. “Actually, my first sack came from the right side. I definitely have adjusted to it.” Perhaps the Falcons need to drop the whole notion of harassing the quarterback and actually getting them on the ground.
Packers kicker Matt Crosby nails a long field goal over the reach of Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards. Curtis Compton / email@example.com
Protect the Ice Man. The offensive line, with one new starter, has given up 14 sacks and 35 quarterback hits. However, they have given up only one sack in the last two games.
- Run game: Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards against Chicago and 114 against Philadelphia. The “Ground and Pound” attack has sprung Turner for 20 yards against Tampa Bay, 70 against Tampa Bay and 56 against Green Bay.
- Third down woes. The Falcons are allowing the opposition to convert on 46.3 percent of their third downs, which is 30th in the league. Curtis Lofton has a plan. “Put pressure on the quarterback,” Lofton said. “Get sacks. Sacks equal great coverage and great coverage equals sacks. We have to just keep working together and playing together as a team.” Ask if he could pinpoint the issue, Lofton said, “It’s a combination of different things.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog
Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.