Atlanta Falcons: Resurgent Bucs will test chronic run defense problems





VIDEO: The San Francisco 49ers routed the Chicago Bears, 32-7. Colin Kaepernick threw for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first career start. Aldon Smith recorded 5.5 sacks, a new Monday night record. Now, the 9-1 Falcons have a 1 1/2 game lead over the 7-2-1 Forty Niners for the top seed in the NFC with six games to play.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ run defense has been plagued by the lack of the two ‘M’s’ of defensive football: Missed fits and missed tackles.

A missed fit occurs when a player fails to control the proper gap in the alignment and gives the opposing runner a lane to scurry through.

The Falcons have been trying to fix their run defense for weeks now.

In nearly every game, they have been gashed for big runs, which could be problematic this Sunday. They are set to face a resurgent Tampa Bay team and rookie rushing sensation Doug Martin, who already has run for 1,000 yards in 10 games.

“This running team that we’re getting ready to face is doing a great job,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “The rookie running back has had some really explosive games. It will be a challenge for us.”

In last weekend’s narrow 23-19 win over Arizona, the run defense had two major breakdowns.

Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling had runs of 40 and 52 yards, finishing with 127 yards on 22 carries. Take away the two long runs and Stephens-Howling had 35 yards on 20 carries.

It was the same story two weeks ago with the Saints. Except for a 56-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory, the Falcons held the Saints run game under control.

Stephens-Howling was the third back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Falcons this season, joining Denver’s Willis McGahee (113 yards) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (115 yards).

Fortifying the run defense remains an ongoing construction project for the coaching staff. In eight of the Falcons’ 10 games, the defense has given up at least one run of 29 yards or more.

Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles had a 46-yard gain. McGahee had a 31-yarder. San Diego’s Jackie Battle broke loose for a 52-yard gain. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had a 31-yard run. Morris had a 29-yard run. Oakland’s Mike Goodson had 40-yard gain.

“It’s not where we want it to be,” Smith said. “It’s got to be improved. But we are making progress. Some guys made some nice plays. The two explosive runs were definitely something that we don’t want to be dealing with.”

One of the big runs by the Cardinals came on a mis-alignment by the defense.

“When you don’t align properly, you don’t have a good opportunity to probably be successful,” Smith said. “It was something that was really simple and should not have been an issue. It’s something that we’ve got to be much better at.

“You can’t have 90-something yards of the 127 on two runs. We had opportunities to make them 10-yard runs or 7-yard runs and we missed tackles.”

Smith is hopeful that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon can return this week, which would help patch up the run defense. He has missed the last three games with a right ankle injury.

“Spoon is a run-and-hit linebacker,” Smith said. “Sean is one of our best football players, not only on the defensive side, but on our football team. We’ve missed him and we are looking forward to getting him back.”

Weatherspoon started working out with the training staff last week and could return to practice on Wednesday.

The Falcons run defense will tested by Martin, a first-round pick from Boise State who has 1,000 yards on 197 carries with seven touchdowns.

He has seven straight games with 100 yards from scrimmage, which tied a Tampa Bay team record. He has 1,320 yards combined rushing and receiving yards and is closing in on Warrick Dunn’s record mark of 1,440, which was set in 1997.

With Weatherspoon out, linebacker Akeem Dent has played most of his snaps while Mike Peterson has played in the base defense. He has not been the source of the run defense problems.

“Akeem has done a very nice job for us,” Smith said. “I think he’s gotten better and better each week. The snaps that he’s had to take because of Spoon being out are going to be invaluable for us down the road.”

When Weatherspoon returns, Dent will return to his old role of middle linebacker in the base defense.

“His role is going to change a little bit in terms of his snaps when Spoon comes back,” Smith said. “There is going to be an opportunity, I’m sure down the road, where he’s going to have to step in and play again. It may not be in this exact role, but something very similar to it.”
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124 comments Add your comment

My grades after Falcons ugly win

November 20th, 2012
8:57 am

Enter your comments here

My grades after Falcons ugly win

November 20th, 2012
8:58 am

dean

November 20th, 2012
9:04 am

Historically, I don’t think ATL has done well at TB. This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight. Should be fun to watch.

Ray Edwards

November 20th, 2012
9:06 am

I have a few calendars left. August is a picture of me with my shirt off.

SirReal

November 20th, 2012
9:07 am

Well these misalignments have to stop. These missed tackles have to stop. Simply cant keep winning like this because in the post season this effort will NOT be good enough to win.

True Falcon Fan

November 20th, 2012
9:12 am

Your display of intelligence is pretty unique and very deceiving at best.

North FLA Falcon

November 20th, 2012
9:12 am

DOL can you please take that photo of DeCoud down from the website. He is clowning like he just won the Super Bowl or something. Please.

DC Dirty Bird

November 20th, 2012
9:22 am

Sure tackling and disciplined assignment defense should win us that ball game. Matt owes us an MVP performance, and it better come against the Bucs.

4BsihTneeS

November 20th, 2012
9:41 am

I say that Doug Martin is going to gash through that soft fal can’t defense like a hot knife through butter. Goooo Bucks!!!!

Ed

November 20th, 2012
9:50 am

Got to be able to stop Doug Martin. If Matt Ryan can get in the no huddle it would help but Julio possibly being out is going to hurt.

D man

November 20th, 2012
9:52 am

Well I say that the Falcans will take away the ball 3 times on Sunday and will win by 20 against the Bucs not Bucks

Wendell

November 20th, 2012
9:55 am

D-LED – Thanks for turning me on to dirtybirdrock.blogspot.com

Looks like a cool, old school Falcons Blog!

Falcon James

November 20th, 2012
9:56 am

The Falcon Defense seem to be getting beat on the basics. That should be easily fixed if the guys will pay attention during practice and in the film room. We have a good D, just need to pay attention.

I wonder if having Turner running the ball in practice hurts the defense? If Turner runs in practice like he does in the games, why would our D think there was anything needing to be fixed. They are dropping the runner behind the line every single play. That would cause them to be over confident and when they play against a runner who actually can hit the hole and stay on his feet, they are getting burned and by then it is too late.

rollo lawson

November 20th, 2012
10:15 am

I would bring in two additional tackles and start the game in a three tight end formation. We got to get this run game going. Regardless of what Smith says, Akeem Dent was the main culpret in one of those long runs Sunday. He vacated his gap, got caught up in the wash, giving Howlings a nice big hole to run through. Saw that with my own two eyes.

Big O (As in Oscar R.)

November 20th, 2012
10:32 am

Certain defensive players being out of position is certainly a problem. On between the tackle run plays, I see a tendency for the Falcons defense to pinch in leaving the outside open. I saw William Moore do it the last game causing a VERY long Cardinal run play. I see Dent over reacting and getting blocked out of a cut-back play that goes over the area he should be covering. The Falcons seem subject to mis-direction run plays because they tend to over react. I guess this is what the coach refers to as “staying in your assigned run lane”.

I have to admit it is surprising that football players with so much background playing the game still aren’t consistent tacklers; and, know the importance of keeping the outside covered against an elusive runner.

Answer This

November 20th, 2012
10:34 am

We will be tested…………however we will also test that Tamba porous secondary on a consistent basis!

Answer This

November 20th, 2012
10:35 am

And yes I meant Tamba………not Tampa!

David

November 20th, 2012
10:41 am

I hate to say it, but the Bucs will kick our A$$.

extremus

November 20th, 2012
10:46 am

I have an idea on how to make our defense look better against the run: have them try to stop Michael Turner. Too bad that doesn’t work if he plays on the same team, huh?

owen

November 20th, 2012
10:58 am

The falcons have a hurtful tendency to play down to what they think their opponents skill level is. This simply isn’t going to work, especially in the NFL where any given sunday a team that isn’t even in the top playing level will take down a macho team. Being that this is a division game and the bucs have been on the rise, i think ATL will see this and play up a big game to destroy tampa. This is what i’m hoping for; i could be let down for another scrape-by piss poor performance, but i have no doubt that we win. It’s just a matter of how we play.

4BsihTneeS

November 20th, 2012
11:20 am

Man as always I’m really worried about my AInts this Sunday you guys. They are going to get conquered and subjugated to humiliation by the 49ers that just steam rolled the bears. Our Soft Aints defense is statistically the worst in the NFL of giving up an average of 462 yards a game….It appears all teams gash through our defense like hot butter…..

Ron Roberts

November 20th, 2012
11:31 am

Akeem Dent got “up-coached” at halftime and gapped the hole he was being hesitant to stuff in the first half. Adjustment made, run defense bolstered.

We’ll be fine.

1stn10

November 20th, 2012
11:50 am

Turner will get over a hundred yards in this game easy…walking to and from the field to the locker room before and after ther game…enough said!

1stn10

November 20th, 2012
11:51 am

David

November 20th, 2012
10:41 am
I hate to say it, but the Bucs will kick our A$$.

Really?

Judge Smails

November 20th, 2012
12:05 pm

Now if we can just get Dunta Robinson to WRAP his tackles, we’ll be fine. This is going to be one of those old time “Smashmouth” games.

24-20 Falcons. Go ahead and book it!

yeahsure

November 20th, 2012
12:05 pm

We play Tampon Bay good every year. This year will be no different. They are playing good but still lack in several areas. Just as we played soft against Arizona, TB almost got beat by Carolina. I expect us to be more disciplined in our gap assignments this week. Just have a feeling.

I hope we can get nolan a huge NT next year. I’m sure he will come up with some different looks.

My grades after Falcons ugly win

November 20th, 2012
12:08 pm

Judge Smails
November 20th, 2012
12:05 pm

Now if we can just get Dunta Robinson to WRAP his tackles, we’ll be fine. This is going to be one of those old time “Smashmouth” games.

Really? As long as he’s been in the league and even Mike Smith can’t get him to wrap up…..it’s a lost cause. I hope he is gone by next season.

Eric C.

November 20th, 2012
12:14 pm

How about get Weatherspoon back on the field…what is the deal with him?

okeetee

November 20th, 2012
12:17 pm

I hate to be the bearer of bad news…..but this Hamster kid is going to bust one on us for at least 50 yards….and probably for a touchdown. Our only hope of winning this game is in a shootout where we win the turnover battle and score on a short field with touchdowns and not field goals! That being said, the Bucs are a flawed team, just like us. The bookies have this game close….a “pick’um” game. We are due for an offensive explosion. Personally, I think we will lose this game. However, the Falcons have surprised me on more than one occasion this year. I hope they do so again this Sunday!

1stn10

November 20th, 2012
12:20 pm

Converting just 1 of the 3 1st and goal situations in the aints game we win and would be setting at 10-0 and every negative nancy would be slobbering at the mouth for a Falcons for sure win this weekend. Well, I am 100% positive the Falcons win this Sunday in T-Bay.

Flacons loose the next 7 games

November 20th, 2012
12:20 pm

Fist off the Flacons need 2 be scarred of the Bucks more so then the Siants. They got a beter QB and a beter RB both thigs that have cost the flacons a lot of problims. Next the Falcons need 2 do sumtin with Dunte Robrerson he is the worse palyer on the team he miss 2 many tackels is awyas gettin beet on coverege and is a cheep shot artist.

I just no the Flacons will loose this game.

Flacons never learn

November 20th, 2012
12:24 pm

Witherspoon was a misteak 2 draft he is injruy prone he never paly a compleet season B cuz he is awalys hurt.

Nice job tommy Dummytroff!

Camaro Bob

November 20th, 2012
12:27 pm

I have 2 agreed that Witherspoon is a waisted draft pix

BIGBEN42

November 20th, 2012
12:27 pm

Stopping the run is the achilles heel of this team.They tend to get beat by mis-direction.Staying in their lanes has been a problem,for the last couple of years.This team keeps getting gash by the run.

If this team can finally get this fixed.I can see them going to the super bowl.If not this will be just another good year for total wins.

[...] While they’ve generally been able to pass their way out of trouble (though Matt Ryan passed them into trouble last week), their run defense needs to get fixed quickly. [...]

4BsihTneeS

November 20th, 2012
12:35 pm

Bucks by 10. And it may not even be that close!

Nique

November 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

D-Led

I was watching Sunday Night Football & I heard Al Michaels say that due to some new rule, that while Ray Lewis was played on IR, he’s no longer required to miss the entire season & can come back for the playoffs. Can you explain that rule & does it apply to Grimes as well?

oldmike

November 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

btw the Bucks play in the NBA you moron

LOL at The Aints

November 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

Brilliant!! Flacons loose the next 7 games

November 20th, 2012
12:20 pm
Fist off the Flacons need 2 be scarred of the Bucks more so then the Siants. They got a beter QB and a beter RB both thigs that have cost the flacons a lot of problims. Next the Falcons need 2 do sumtin with Dunte Robrerson he is the worse palyer on the team he miss 2 many tackels is awyas gettin beet on coverege and is a cheep shot artist.

Nique

November 20th, 2012
12:53 pm

Flacons loose the next 7 games

You’ve got to be joking……Freeman better than Bress….not even in his own dreams is that true!

4BsihTneeS

November 20th, 2012
12:54 pm

Niners by 20….awwwwww so sad

LOL at The Aints

November 20th, 2012
1:00 pm

They’re comming out of the woodwork now!! Niners 42, Aints 24, LOL

NARDO

November 20th, 2012
1:01 pm

Weatherspoon a wasted PICK?……u guys kill me u noticed that they shut down McCoy and the Eagles run game with Spoon in for 3 qtrs…….and Jimmy Graham cracker killed us for 146 yards with Akeen Dcent covering him….Weatherpoos also provides passs rush he has 3 sacks and mant qb hits and pressures……u non football guys kill me.

NARDO

November 20th, 2012
1:03 pm

is everyone in the NFL forgetting that the bucs have the 29th ranked defense and is suspect against the pass?

and if NO one else noticed Matt Ryan is leading the NFL in passing yards right now.

Mike Franklin

November 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

All depends on the moodiness of the Falcs and whether our receiver corps has greasy fingers from pre-game box of KFC. We SHOULD win… we CAN win but… WILL we win?
That’s a question for a bottle of Sailor Jerry’s.

falconsrus

November 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

Seen how do you really feel about this season so far ?

cdog

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

big game.they falcons must keep pressure on josh freeman and shut down the run game.the falcon offense should rebound this week against the bucs

cdog

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

big game.they falcons must keep pressure on josh freeman and shut down the run game.the falcon offense should rebound this week against the bucs

cdog

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

big game.they falcons must keep pressure on josh freeman and shut down the run game.the falcon offense should rebound this week against the bucs

cdog

November 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

big game.they falcons must keep pressure on josh freeman and shut down the run game.the falcon offense should rebound this week against the bucs