Atlanta Falcons: Run defense needs to improve quickly





Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan talks with the media about facing an Oakland Raiders team coming off a bye week. Ryan also comments on Tony Gonzalez and his team’s well balanced offense. FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith has sounded the five-alarm fire siren. His team’s run defense needs to step it up real fast.

“That’s something that we have to do,” safety William Moore said. “It’s not even an option.”

Everything from the scheme to the personnel is being re-evaluated by the coaching staff.

The defense has given up 142.8 yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. Denver’s Willis McGahee (113) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (115) rushed for more than 100 yards against the Falcons.

Despite a 5-0 record, the best record in the NFC, there is a sense of urgency about improving the run defense.

“To me personally, it’s embarrassing to be ranked where we are ranked because I know the type of guys that we have,” Moore said. “We have some tough running backs that we are going to be facing. It’s not being physical that’s the problem. …

“We have to figure it out, and it’s got to happen fast.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has three tenets to stopping the run: 1) Set the edge, 2) Create a wall and 3) Secure the cutback lane.

At different times, the defense hasn’t been able to accomplish those goals. Morris had success getting to the edge because the wall wasn’t created. There haven’t been many big cutback runs.

Nolan notes that the Falcons have played against five talented quarterbacks in Matt Cassel, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III and focused on stopping them, perhaps in lieu of their team’s rushing attacks.

Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris carries the ball away from Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud (28) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris carries the ball away from Atlanta Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud (28) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“I think just the difference of the guys and putting our emphasis on the quarterback, less on the run,” Nolan said. “At the same time, there is really no excuse. There are certain things we have done where we haven’t even fit right, [which are] the things we do in practice. … We have just got to shore that up because at some point that can cost you a game.”

Nolan expects the Raiders, who rank last in the NFL in rushing at 60.8 yards per game, to give it a hardy try against the Falcons.

“Run defense is an area we have to do a better job,” Nolan said. “Running the ball would be the obvious thing for them to do because, to this point, we need to do a better job on being consistent stopping it, and we haven’t been. I would think that’s what they would do.”

Safety Thomas DeCoud believes the defense simply needs to execute Nolan’s three rules much better.

“We just have to tune into that and make sure that we stay gap-sound up front,” DeCoud said. “In the secondary we have to come up and fill in where needed.”

The drop in production from last season is shocking.

With Curtis Lofton patrolling the middle, the defense finished ranked sixth in the NFL against the run (97 yards per game) last season. He was signed by New Orleans in free agency and has been replaced by second-year player Akeem Dent, but the team has used the nickel formation on a majority of their snaps.

The only other new starters on defense are cornerback Asante Samuel, who’s been strong in run support, and defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who’s starting in place of Corey Peters.

So, the issue may indeed be related to the schemes that Nolan has used to combat the top quarterbacks the Falcons have faced.

“There are certain plays that we haven’t been able to stop,” weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “We just have got to keep watching the tape and focus on the run game. We know what we have to do.”

The Falcons see stopping Oakland’s Darren McFadden as a major challenge, despite his average of only 3.4 yards per carry.

“We know what type of back that we have,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s an explosive back. He’s a guy that likes to get downhill on you; he’ll make one cut, and he’s a sprinter. We have our hands full this week.”

McFadden has 57 carries for 201 yards and one touchdown, a 64-yard scamper against Pittsburgh.

“He’s probably the best back that we’ve seen,” DeCoud said. “The most dynamic back because he can run the ball very well, hit the holes and get upfield. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s pretty much the most dynamic back that we’ve seen so far.”

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60 comments Add your comment

Birdbrain

October 12th, 2012
9:51 am

Go Falcons. Cant wait for the game this weekend!

Birdbrain

October 12th, 2012
9:54 am

Lets hope we can put the Raiders away and go into the bye week without any injuries. Give the team a nice break for a serious push towards the playoffs.

Ignition

October 12th, 2012
10:00 am

Enter your comments here

abby normal

October 12th, 2012
10:20 am

Last year Curtis Lofton lead the team in tackles from the MLB position. This year pretty much nothing from Dent. That’s one of the reasons our run defense is poor.

RiM

October 12th, 2012
10:31 am

They will get it done……I have faith in this new staff…..I like the way they are addressing it openly instead of hiding behind the obvious in years past……there are no more elephants in the room

Seen This B4

October 12th, 2012
10:43 am

SimpleDawg

October 12th, 2012
10:44 am

I would scheme to stop McFadden and make Carson Palmer beat us. Play man on the outside with a 2 deep zone.

Michael M.

October 12th, 2012
11:11 am

That ballgame will be over with after the 3rd quarter gets started………………Raiders wont know what hit them on the plane flight back home. Looking for some sacks, hurries, pick-offs and fumbles from our so-called smoke and mirrors defense………its going to be brutal for the Raiders !

Falcon4life

October 12th, 2012
11:13 am

Abby…we mostly run the nickle now so the middle linebacker maybe sees the field 10-15 snaps a game. Totally different defense this year. No comparison.

falCANS

October 12th, 2012
11:28 am

Dent played nearly th ENTIRE game against washington. RG3 threw maybe 20 times MAX. Dent dropped a egg. Period start MikeP!! & Grimes absence is a major problem. He allowed Daunte to come off da edge or set the edge on run D

The Real Falcon

October 12th, 2012
11:41 am

Dent is not the answer. Also stats from the Redskins game show he wa in on tha majority of plays for that game.

The Real Falcon

October 12th, 2012
11:43 am

Thamk you falCANS. Time people started seeing the truth about Dent, and saying it.

lowdownjj

October 12th, 2012
11:50 am

A win is a win is a win… with that said, I wanna see the Coons put this one away EARLY. Only lack of focus on the Falcons part stands in the way of 6-0. Hope Nolan and Smitty don’t tweak the scheme too much and hinder our pass D. We’ve seen how we fare with a top 10 run D and a bottom 10 pass D

Terrell

October 12th, 2012
11:50 am

I know stopping the run is important, but the reason teams want to run the ball is to control the clock correct? The Falcons have controlled the ball in most of the games they have played. Just like a team can have empty yards in the passing game they can also in the running game. Morris had over 100 yards rushing but how many came on third downs to sustain drives? How many rushing TDs did he get? I agree we need to stop the run but the thing is we have stopped the run when it has mattered the most.

In regards to Dent wasn’t he also playing out of position most of the time he was in? How many TDs did the Redskins score because of his “poor” play? The only one they got on the defense was because of a blown coverage in the secondary.

SirReal

October 12th, 2012
11:52 am

I think our base nickel alignment is also a factor. Yeah Dent hasnt shined at all. Makes me partially think of what could have been with Tatupu. If we think about it, he’s really still a rookie though so I’m gonna give him a pass. We didnt like Jerry’s production either and now he’s finally come into his own as well. If we can shore up this run game issue…we’ll be scary down the stretch bc we all know in Dec. and Jan. you run and stop the run if you wanna go after a title.

Falcon James

October 12th, 2012
12:09 pm

Let’s just hope the Raider don’t improve in the rankings against us. The Raider better be worried about what Ryan is going to do to them.

BIRDSFLYHIGH

October 12th, 2012
12:28 pm

1-4 @ Seen This B4 is still here. Hmmmmmmm!

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Answer This

October 12th, 2012
12:38 pm

Get back under your rock stb4….you come out when the aints get another gift!? Coward! Lets go birds got to shore up the run D!

Esquire

October 12th, 2012
1:11 pm

abby normal
October 12th, 2012
10:20 am

Last year Curtis Lofton lead the team in tackles from the MLB position. This year pretty much nothing from Dent. That’s one of the reasons our run defense is poor.

***************************************************

Lofton ain’t exactly burnin’ it up down there in Nawlins………………

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Seen This B4

October 12th, 2012
1:25 pm

@Birdsflyhigh: I never left.

@ Answer This: Your falcan’ts aren’t as good as you think they are.

@Michael M.: There are two teams that I have an allegiance to in the NFL. By far, the Saints have my greatest allegiance. The only other team that I will cheer for is the team that is playing the falcan’ts. Thinking that a game will be done by the third quarter is hubris that your team can’t afford.

Bruce Raglin in HI.

October 12th, 2012
1:34 pm

look just keep winning, we can stop the run love the new cordinators the offense needs to keep attacking. wow 5 and 0 go falcons make this season one to remember keep it going no letdowns

Bruce Raglin in HI.

October 12th, 2012
1:35 pm

u r what your record says u r

Bruce Raglin in HI.

October 12th, 2012
1:37 pm

u are what your record says you are

SirReal

October 12th, 2012
1:57 pm

SO funny how lames still wanna patrol a blog about a team they dont even like….lol The Aints arent donig anything this year but getting a high first rd draft pick.

April Wright

October 12th, 2012
1:58 pm

How can u say Dent is not the answer after one game that he has really seen action in. You have to give him time to adjust.People are so cruel I just don’t understand he played maybe 46% of this game.The most he has played in the first 5 games and when SN went out they shift him to outside so he was playing out of position. Know your facts before you judge. And the redskins did not score because of his poor play. And some of the plays when they ran your MLB wasn’t even in the game.Im just saying get your facts together before you have a comment

Seen This B4

October 12th, 2012
2:00 pm

As opposed to going 1 and done, again.

ronhen24

October 12th, 2012
2:18 pm

Seen This B4 have no choice but to come back to our website, because the Saints are getting their Aints pushed in these days. Hey the swamp miss you, so get lost and find your paper bag that you so desperately need.

DR. FALCON

October 12th, 2012
2:21 pm

THAT’S WHY WE DRAFTED PERIA JERRY’S SORRY ASS IN THE 1ST RD., IN 2009! HE IS 2YRS, REMOVED FROM HIS KNEE INJURY! NO EXCUSE! BABINEAUX, NEEDS HELP! GET WELL, COREY PETERS!

observer

October 12th, 2012
2:21 pm

If you have watched the games and have a clue about what is happening you realize that Dent is not a starting MLB in the NFL. His reactions are slow, he is easily blocked by centers and guards, and is always late to the ball. I still don’t understand how Smith and TD thought they could get by this year with Dent and Peterson.

DR. FALCON

October 12th, 2012
2:24 pm

HEY SEENTHISB4, YOUR SAINTS HAVE TO PLAY THE RAIDERS IN OAKLAND, LATER IN THE YEAR! BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR! CARSON PALMER, MIGHT THROW FOR 400YDS., AGAINST YOUR SHABBY DEFENSE! CHEATERS NEVER WIN! LOL!!!

DR. FALCON

October 12th, 2012
2:27 pm

HEY OBSERVER, LEAVE AKEEM DENT ALONE! HE’S STILL LEARNING! DAMN! AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE ARE STILL 5-0! LETS START FOCUSING ON PERIA JERRY’S PLAY, A FORMER 1ST ROUNDER!

awright

October 12th, 2012
2:36 pm

That’s the problem you all feel like people don’t suppose to every struggle. Was spoon good his first year no he had some bumps in the road also. Get out of here with the negative talk. Mr. Observer how about u get out there and do what these guys are doing. On the other hand just keep being someone who post on blogs. You probably never played football or you was water Boy but has a lot to say. So which one where lol get a life

jay

October 12th, 2012
2:37 pm

The main reason for the change is the team is more focused on getting teams in 3rd down situations and actually making stops on the third. Yeah we finished 6th in rushing last year, but it didn’t matter because we’d let them convert on 3rd and 4, 10, 15, 20 etc.

garcia

October 12th, 2012
2:46 pm

Our entire defense will improve, once we get a healthy Corey Peters back. In my opinion, he is our best DT. I know that Babs has been our best for many seasons, but I think that Peters played better last year. I don’t know where Peters is in his convalescence, but I am anxious to see him in the rotation.

We line up in a nickel set more than any other set. For that reason, we need to have a DT that can rush the passer and stack up against the run. Peters handles those duties very well. If Peters returns in good shape, Nolan will be able to move Babs out and have a DL that can start to dominate the LOS.

The Real Falcon

October 12th, 2012
3:02 pm

AlanFalcon

October 12th, 2012
3:07 pm

Could the failure here be related to Akeem Dent, he really looks lost when he is out on the field ?

awright

October 12th, 2012
3:13 pm

Maybe, Maybe not I’m just saying give the kid a chance that’s all.

Th

October 12th, 2012
3:43 pm

I read that Real Falcon and wondered what took so long for people to notice. Biermann started coming in on passing downs for Edwards around game 11 or 12 last year. Nolan kept the same rotation this year until the 2nd quarter of the Washington game when he had seen enough. Edwards couldn’t hold his position when he was double teamed and we were giving up big yards on the ground. Biermann must weigh 30 pounds less than Edwards but did a much better job not getting pushed off his spot.

If Edwards would do his job on run plays, we could give Abe more rest. TD needs to do a better job on who he brings in here.

Answer This

October 12th, 2012
4:11 pm

O you left STB4…….the only reason you back becasue you got a win. BTW they dont have to be as good as I think they are, they are as good as advertise…..5-0! So what now!?
And you still talking about the old playoff news OK let me help!
1. We have stunk in the playoffs.
2. We have not won a game with Ryan as our QB
3. It was all in the past
4. This is a new year.
5. Playoff sure looking pretty good for us right now so we get another shoot!
(Catch the theme of going positive after I got your negative old new out the way)
6. Aints 1-4……….how those playoff chances looking? Curious!
7. Aints still got to play us twice (drop two more L’s in that column!)
8. Aints not going anywhere this year!
9. Please enough of the past! We sick of talking about the past, lets talk about your record today. Or can you only hold on to the past?
10. Did I mention we 5-0 with a 4 game lead on your AINTS in the NFC South……if I didnt I just did…….RISE UP CHUMP! The nest is open to the NATION on Sunday!

Seen This B4

October 12th, 2012
5:19 pm

@Answer This: Well, I see that you have convinced yourself of your team’s preeminence…but,….not me. And no, I haven’t left. Been here the entire time, just haven’t said anything. But, I’ve seen everybody from Ledbetter himself to Michele M. trying to bait me, and of course the always ubiquitous imposters posing as me.

I will concede, your team has posted a solid early record. I remember the 2009 Giants started out 5-0. Don’t think they made the playoffs that year. Imagine that!

Go Raiders!

stei

October 12th, 2012
5:33 pm

Falcons are underestimating Raiders. This will come to bite them big time.

Raiders 27 Failcons 24

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 12th, 2012
5:53 pm

AlanFalcon — He’s only playing about 20 percent of the snaps. It’s not him.

eric

October 12th, 2012
7:14 pm

@Seen – One and done is a lot better than none and done…

Michael M.

October 12th, 2012
8:10 pm

Nobody trying to bait you STB4…………you think I care if you come on here ? Get a life and pick a real team to get behind, your Caints just plain out stink and only an idiot would stand behind them after Bountygate and their losing 2012 Season………………………………………………..so buzz off or drink some kool-aid out of a Falcon Mug !

Falcon James

October 12th, 2012
9:08 pm

LOL…..”only a idiot would stand behind the Saint”……

That about sums it up.

Big O

October 12th, 2012
9:56 pm

D-LED, Yeah, Dent is playing only 20% of the snaps but those plays are mostly right past him or through him. So by the end of the game, Dent should have 2 to 3 tackles at least. But he doesn’t. He’s too slow and too small. But the Falcons have two more experienced players who are faster, stronger, and bigger – Biermann and Sidbury. In fact, I suspect the opposition, after reviewing earlier game tapes, are now targeting Dent in their running plays. I’d like to see them run through Biermann or Sidbury.

wisconsinfalcons fan

October 12th, 2012
10:08 pm

what does coons mean is this a racist slur about certain member on the falcon team

JSS

October 12th, 2012
10:52 pm

@ Ledbetter…
Are you a “blog troll” for bringing up the run defense problems?