Atlanta Falcons: Run defense goes back to the drawing board

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons defense has struggled against Carolina’s zone read option offense this season.

The Panthers rushed for a season-high 199 yards against the Falcons on Sept. 30 and nearly duplicated the effort with 195 yards in their 30-20 upset victory on Sunday.

The Falcons could face zone read option quarterbacks in the playoffs if they play Washington or San Francisco. But defensive end John Abraham said the Falcons don’t have a problem with the attack that is popular in the college game.

Pro defenses are designed to stop drop-back quarterbacks and rarely account for a running quarterback. In their first meeting, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton rushed for 87 yards. On Sunday, he rushed for 116 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run.

“I don’t think the read option really bothered us,” said Abraham on Monday. “Cam just ran a good play into a blitz and things happen. Sometimes you do good things and they show up. It was just a good play by him and good play-calling by them. I don’t think that the read option is a big deal for us.”

Newton also passed for 287 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 250 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run in one game.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a whole lot of good things in the ballgame,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Probably the most significant thing that we did was we were 3-for-3 when they got the ball in the red zone. When they got the ball down in the red zone, we played some good red-zone defense.”

Smith was perturbed that all of the Panthers touchdowns came on explosive plays of 25, 72 and 53 yards.

Third down slump: The Falcons were 2-of-8 (25 percent) on third down conversions against the Panthers.

“We need better production on first and second down so that third down is manageable,” running back Michael Turner said. “So guys won’t have the ears pinned back, going after Matt (Ryan) and teeing off on him. We just have to get the ball rolling and keep it moving.”

The Falcons were 1-of-11 in the previous game against the Saints, making them 3-of-19 (15.7 percent) over the last two games.

“We’ve been pretty good all year, so we’re not going to panic over two games,” Turner said.

Injury report: Cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) was active, but did not play against the Panthers. Smith said he was available for an emergency situation. He will return to practice on Wednesday.

Safety William Moore (hamstring) could be cleared after running for the trainers.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (rib) was injured in the game, but returned to the action.

Long hangover: The Falcons are still searching for a reason for the poor start against the Panthers. They hadn’t played since a Thursday game on Nov. 29 against the Saints, making for a nine-day layoff.

“We were very flat when we came out, especially there in the first half,” Smith said. “We couldn’t convert our third downs, and we couldn’t get off the field defensively on third down. Through their first two drives, they had run 27 plays and we had only run five or six.”

The Panthers converted on 9-of-15 (60 percent) of their third downs.

“You kind of get behind the 8-ball when you can’t get off the field on third down,” Smith said. “We’ve got to be much better on both sides of the ball on third down.”

Etc.: The Falcons had won five straight over the Panthers … Wide receiver Roddy White’s 4-yard touchdown pass was the 50th of his career. … Ryan’s 342 passing yards marked the seventh time that he has thrown for more than 300 yards this season, breaking his own franchise record of six games set last year. … Julio Jones needs just three yards to post his first 1,000-yard season. Jones and White (1,140) would become the first Falcons teammates to post 1,000 yards receiving in the same season since 1998 when Tony Martin (1,181) and Terance Mathis (1,136) did it. … Defensive tackle Vance Walker recorded his third sack of the season. He’s tied for third on the team this season behind Abraham (10 sacks) and Babineaux (3 1/2).


Cornerback Asante Samuel, safety William Moore are questionable for Panthers

Falcons at Panthers: 3 key matchups

Q&A with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who’s closing in on his first 1,000-yard season

Falcons amused by tough talk from Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter not worried about dip in Matt Ryan’s numbers


Falcons avenge their only loss to improve to 11-1

Turner becomes franchise’s all-time leading touchdown leader

Falcons quoteboard: What they were saying after the game

Defense ends Drew Brees streak of 54 games with a touchdown pass

Video: Ledbetter discusses 23-13 win over the Saints

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

55 comments Add your comment

Steve Desboeufs

December 11th, 2012
10:23 am

This is our year for the SUPERBOWL way to go team!!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!

Answer This

December 11th, 2012
10:28 am

Fix it and lets RISE UP!

Me Too

December 11th, 2012
10:37 am

Turner’s comments are hilarious!! He is the main reason the third and longs occur. How many times has he lost yardage and gained less than two yards on first down for the past two years. All HC Smith has to review is himself and the conservative nature of the offense. After awhile surely he will realize M Turner is not getting it done.


December 11th, 2012
10:53 am



December 11th, 2012
10:55 am

Falcons need to shake up things offensively by replacing HD with Drew Davis at slot receiver….. HD is too undersize to go into the teeth of defenses………Drew Davis has the size, speed and route running ability to do it…….


Harry Douglas is popular among Falcons players and fans but popularity doesn’t get the job done; performance do….

Falcons on three, DOMINATE….


December 11th, 2012
10:57 am

@me to, we hope he does anyway lol, hes been stubborn so far


December 11th, 2012
11:10 am

joja boi

December 11th, 2012
11:14 am

Gamer I think its worth a shot…that way you can let HD return punts and kicks (like Wes Welker). Drew Davis has definitely shown some flashes this season.

Kenny D

December 11th, 2012
11:16 am

If the Falcons can’t improve the OL and DL , it’s going to be very hard to advance in the playoffs. Also Matt Ryan, is back to his old habits (holding the ball to long).

Micheal Turner need to sit and Quiz should be starting. The corners are getting burned on every passing down. The Falcons will beat the NYG 31-20……….. Go Falcons


December 11th, 2012
11:35 am

It’s a combination of things that prevent the Falcons from having a strong consistent running attack. The offensive line rarely pushes the defensive line backwards and opens holes. Turner is too slow hitting holes and when he get’s bottle up, he has no options. Sometimes it’s the offensive coordinator not having the patience to stick with the run, when other teams get the lead. Finally if Jaquizz Rodgers has a couple of good runs, he’s taken out of the game. I see Jaquizz breaking tackles, I can’t say the same for Turner. Antone Smith has the speed to go outside and in preseason, I saw him take it to the house. Just Saying!!


December 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

I think the lack of pass receptions for HD is on Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan is good at finding Roddy, Tony, Julio, and a check down back, but he never seems to find the fourth receiver. HD has his best games, or portions of games when he has to take the place of Julio or Roddy when one of them is injured. Why is HD productive in these instances when he has to be the number 1 or number 2? Because he moves to the top of the food chain for Matt Ryan and who ever takes his place in the slot catches the same number of balls HD catches in the slot replacing him – zero to one or two.


December 11th, 2012
12:28 pm

Harry Douglas is no comparison to Wes Welker……..Wes Welker is stoutly built and plays fearless over the middle on short or long yardage around defenders…Harry Douglas is fast but is built skinny and plays nervously around defenders……..

HD is no comparison to Wes Welker……nana

Tony B

December 11th, 2012
12:47 pm

Maybe the key here is not giving players so much time off. The extra 4 days off seemed to take the edge away this week. I hope they plan a way to keep the team sharp and focused through the Playoff Bye week!!

Jerry Glanville's Beltbuckle

December 11th, 2012
12:48 pm

I think it is time to evaluate our Offensive Coordinator, I watched the game last night between the Texans and Patriots, the way the patriots move the ball with total confidence and less talented receivers as a group than we have. Koetter came out in the begnning of the season like a kid with a new toy, throwing vertical, mixing runs, screens, keeping defences guessing what was next. Now, he has us back to Pork Chop Turner up the middle on first, for what is an almost certain 2nd and 11 to go, and then predictibility takes over. i’m sure most of us has noticed, every team is blitz happy against us now, our OC seems to have NO answer for this.
Why can he not notice Quizz can run circles around Turner? Why not throw more screens and short dump off passes to force opposing teams to stop the blitz?

In order to play with the good teams in this league, you must make other teams TRY to match YOUR intensity.

Let’s get back to mixing the offensive plays and what about that swarming defense we had against Denver?

We must realize this is a very special year, home field advantage, mega talented receivers, etc..



December 11th, 2012
1:26 pm

There is a good reason the 49ers suspended Jacobs…they didn’t want the Falcons to sign him..which would put the “bowling ball” on the pine finally. Run D stuck it up..What happened to our 1st round pick “Periaha” Jerry who was supposed to anchor the middle? He’s an anchor all right!!!!!


December 11th, 2012
1:34 pm

He would not have made it to us off waivers (BRANDON JACOBs)


December 11th, 2012
1:39 pm

ONE GAME AT A TIME,NEXT UP NEW YORK GIANTS[24-2 LAST TIME]LETS GO FALCONS,GET THIS BAD TASTE OUT OF OUR MOUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The DL played like...

December 11th, 2012
2:05 pm


December 11th, 2012
2:24 pm

This loss is fine with me. I never thought we would win seven in a row and take the superbowl. This loss should be a good wake up call. These are men with pride and I do think they will show up Sunday and play a great game. One Heartbeat…..


December 11th, 2012
2:37 pm


Hyman Roth

December 11th, 2012
2:58 pm

In Monday’s AJC newspaper, on page 3, there is a “CROPPED” picture of Coach Rivera…with a scowl on his face and pointing…and the following caption “coach Rivera and the Panthers emphatically gained revenge Sunday for the Falcon’s 30-28 last-minute comeback victory in September”. However, the story on-line had the same picture showing Coach Rivera with Coach Smith attempting to restrain his players from trash-talking with the Falcons. The picture in the paper is , in essence, a lie. It was cropped. It makes you wonder how many other pictures in the newspaper may be cropped to fit an agenda. Is this what is called plagerism? What ever it is called it certainly is not journalism. Someone should, at least, be suspended without pay for a day or two. I feel like a fool for spending my hard-earned dollar to be presented lies and innuendos. How do you feel about it, Mr Ledbetter? And can you speaking with your caption writer? Why the embellishment? It stinks!!! By the way, I AM a life-long Falcon Fan.


December 11th, 2012
2:59 pm

No one is addressing the fact that Ryan has went into a shell since his 6 int game vs. the Cardinals… This does not bode well for the rest of the year, much less the playoffs… Matty Ice, is playing Scared, and someone needs to break him out of that! Also, this team has ZERO fiery leadership on either side and that is a MAJOR problem!


December 11th, 2012
3:02 pm

These clowns are going nowhere in the playoffs! They sux!!!


December 11th, 2012
3:18 pm

HAHA, please don’t be so hard on the aints but you are right, they are clowns.

Big Daddy

December 11th, 2012
3:24 pm

Here is the issue to me. While it is true that this is just our second lost of the year, we lost to the PANTHERS. The Texans lost big last night but did so to a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Patriots. Do not confuse the two opponents.

Even if we did win, we would have still had doubters because we would have beat a subpar team. If the Texans had won, they would be considered “For Real”. Well, our opportunity to appear “For Real” arrives next Sunday at 1:00. If the Falcons lose that game, they will have lost virtually all credibility to the rest of the teams, the media and most likely to themselves. The news about the new stadium deal and Arthur’s confirmation about PSL’s will go over real well then.


December 11th, 2012
4:05 pm

Run defense? What run defense?

Brothas Hunt 2

December 11th, 2012
4:11 pm

Like it or not Rodney is correct! No team in the NFL fears Atlanta. The reason why is because after thirteen games played we still cannot run the ball effectively on offense and we still have not stopped the run or tackled well on defense.

I heard Steve Young 49ers Hall of Fame QB say recently after the Ravens fired their Offensive Coordinator, that the Head Coach and the QB of the team are responsible for offensive consistency. For the past four games, the Falcons have looked lethargic on offense. I ask all Falcons fans, who in this organization is responsible for what we saw last Sunday? Is Steve Young right or wrong? Where is the accountability in the Falcons organization?


Delbert D.

December 11th, 2012
4:34 pm

Draw pictures of some good DTs and put them on the office wall, just so you don’t forget to draft one.


December 11th, 2012
5:01 pm

Hey Mike Smith! I’ve got the answer for your third down problems. Don’t run Turner and pass the ball more than 5 yards down the field.


December 11th, 2012
6:21 pm

I am sorry but i have never wish a team lose so much as i do these Falcons .The Falcons have a conservative defensive head coach who is out of his lead . Smith , Abraham and Turner all need to go etc etc etc .The Falcons need a fresh start .


December 11th, 2012
6:58 pm

Don’t worry…..This is just part of the process.


December 11th, 2012
7:18 pm

It’s pretty easy to say what happened on defense. No Asante (Smith and his counterpart were wide open all day)

Dunta Robinson continues to be really bad in coverage but a good hitter and tackler. Chris Owens played pretty well, it just wasn’t good enough

and no William Moore (so they couldn’t tackle anyone)

There is just not going to be a pass rush. We simply don’t have the players.

Same deal with the Offensive Line, the talent to push guys around does not exist on this team. Without a youthful fantastic back, there’s not going to be much of a runing game to speak of, especially if they keep giving Turner more carries than Quizz.


December 11th, 2012
7:20 pm

A fresh start? What? You don’t like 11-2? You don’t like going to the playoffs?

Guys it’s not the coaching, we’ve missed on to many picks up front.

I’m not saying fire anyone, but that’s the deal. It’s the talent that’s lacking.


December 11th, 2012
7:57 pm

The Giants have to win every remaining game to stay in contenion…I think they’ve come to town Sunday believing the win will be a shoe-in….the pressure is on them (Giants)…if they lose they could fall out of the playoffs all together…..


December 11th, 2012
9:25 pm

3 big plays, Really the entire game was a bust, Smith needs to be fired , matt benched, turner benched, and defense benched, the whole team, that why no one think this team can win


December 11th, 2012
9:45 pm sound like an idiot


December 11th, 2012
9:52 pm

What are we talking about run defense, we need a run offense minus M. Turner. J Rodgers has got to be our man. Something is wrong with Turner and he’s been like this all season. Demote Turner just like the Steelers did their starting running back. Our offensive line is still weak, but J Rodgers has quickness to the hole and runs better than M Turner after he catches the ball out of the backfield. I believe our defense will make plays if their not on the field all the time. Oh by the way Matt Ryan is not as sharp as we think, but with a run game we could manage with Matt.


December 11th, 2012
10:34 pm

Let me start by saying Coach Smith does not have any balls to hold players accountable for lack of production. I know a lot of people might not like Coach Belichik, Schiano or Shannahan for many reasons but they do not take any crap or care how big of a profile player you are, if you do not produce then you will be replaced. Smitty continues to start Turner causing the offense to be behind he chains every time he runs, allows Franks to fair catch every punt, continues to put H Douglas in the slot and produces nothing, D Robinson consistently getting burned in coverage and pretty boy Decoud to afraid to tackle anybody because he is scared to get his face bruised I guess. I hate to say it but our team is SOFT. One and done again until we get a coach who is more concerned about being a Coach and not the players friend. Throw a clipboard, grab a player by the face mask, kick over the Gatorade. No not Smitty, he just turns red and runs his fingers through his hair when he is mad. What a clown.


December 11th, 2012
10:44 pm

Back to the drawing board, eh? Well, they better draw something up REAL GOOD with the G-Men coming to town!!! We’ve got our work cut out for us this week, boys!
Since I’m not a football guru, I can’t really explain what our D was doing against Denver….but, whatever it was, we need to duplicate that against the Giants, since they’re a similar team, with a similar QB. I mean, at times in that game our D was milling around, sometimes with 8 on the line, and it confused Peyton Manning….so no reason it wouldn’t work against his little brother.



December 11th, 2012
10:54 pm

Oh I forgot to mention Matty Who Is Starting to Melt Already Ryan. He is starting a little earlier than expected but he is melting again. I think he should be forced to watch the tape of Brady against the Texans, that is an elite QB who stands tall in the pocket with pressure all around him and delivers the ball on target. Everyone blames the OL when Matt has a bad game, yes he got sacked twice in the gm against CAR but he held the ball too long on those sacks. Once he gets hit once, he is rattled easily and starts his happy feet dance. What people fell to realize about Matt and the reason he will not reach the elite level of Brady, Brees, Manning and Rogers is because he does anticipate his throws to the receivers. If you watch every game like I have this season and seasons past, the receiver is always tackled at the spot he catches the ball without a chance to get any YAC. The majority of the time he gets sacked is because he is holding the ball too long because he does not have the balls to try and throw the receiver open so he just holds the ball and take sacks so that we fans can blame the OL.

[...] Run defense goes back to the drawing board [...]


December 11th, 2012
11:16 pm

Looks as if the Falcons reached a peek a few games back and have played poorly since, Arm tackling that results in additional yardage by opposing runners and poor run blocking by O line combined with less than average running effort from Turner makes for a Good chance the Giants will beat Falcons come Sunday which could cost them home field advantage in PO’s, If Giants win the Falcons will once again be a one and out play-off team

Esquire is in the HOUSE

December 11th, 2012
11:23 pm

Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!




December 12th, 2012
6:08 am

How about getting a running game along with run defense. You are not going to get run defense and passing offense without running game. It is time to try other running backs or a better run block with a full back. How many games we need to go to figure, Turner’s running style is getting stopped cold?


December 12th, 2012
8:30 am

The Falcons are taking on Smith’s nonchalant no worries pansy attitude.. GET MAD AND HIT SOMEBODY!! This is Football! A contact SPORT for crying out loud. Nobody respects the Falcons. And when people wont respect you on their own you have to make em respect you.. Or Fear you. Fear lasts longer.. Mash the gas on all these teams that dont have any respect for us. Hit em hard and dont let up when you get em down. Make them FEAR having to play The Atlanta FALCONS.


December 12th, 2012
8:55 am

Drew Davis in a wide reciever and Dominique in at QB

Buddy Landel

December 12th, 2012
10:47 am

WTF 33, Brady can be a statue in the pocket because his O-Line is excellent in pass pro. The Falcons O-Line is not. If Matt Ryan had the New England O-Line, things would be different.

Buddy Landel

December 12th, 2012
10:51 am


December 12th, 2012
8:55 am
Drew Davis in a wide reciever and Dominique in at QB

Please stick to XBox

Elvis is Alive

December 12th, 2012
12:49 pm

“We need better production on first and second down so that third down is manageable,” running back Michael Turner said. “So guys won’t have the ears pinned back, going after Matt (Ryan) and teeing off on him. We just have to get the ball rolling and keep it moving.”

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…Is this what MT33 says to himself while looking in the mirror?
Play the second string so the obvious won’t be so painful.
Whoops! We are already playing the second string.
If McCarthy, Cauthern,Harbaugh,Belechek,even Andy Reid were coaching this team, I believe our trepidation about the chances of winning this weeks game and those following would be nonexistent.
Calling run-run-pass is too easy to defense when it is on film week after week.
Playing catch up ball may be thrilling, but inconsistency, hesitancy, and mental lapses will beat any team.
I believe MS is an excellent coach, but maybe NOT a head coach.
Tough minded is not a process. A “Killer Instinct” is not a process.
Smashmouth football on both sides of the ball is not a process.
You either have to desire to beat the snot out of an opponent or not.
4 days off after a loss is a process. Execution of the play is a process.
No days off after a loss with a walk through of every play offensively and on defense is tough minded. 4 days in a row!
Keeping the foot on the gas and running up the score till the last whistle is a “Killer Instinct”.
Being a good sport is OK for the YMCA but not the NFL.
Does our team honestly think the other teams care about our success and sportsmanship?
I’d rather see more bloody noses than half-assed quotes about what should have been.
If we see that you played tough, you wouldn’t see so many doubting your ability as a team and coaching staff.
Excuses work for term papers, missed appointments and children who don’t know any better.
No excuses in Professional Football.
I fear we may have gotten off track.

[...] Run defense goes back to the drawing board [...]