Can Falcons Take Care of Browns in Cleveland? Not so fast Falcons fans. A game that looked as it might be one that wouldn’t be as difficult seems to be much harder than originally thought. Yes, the Cleveland Browns are 1-3, but when you take a look at their schedule, who they played, and how close they played them, Falcons fans better get ready for Sunday with “clear eyes and full hearts” as they say on Friday Night Lights. After two weeks of nail-biters and a near escape against a tough 0-3 team, overlooking the Browns shouldn’t even be in the conversation. Again, the Browns may be 1-3, but they just beat the Cincinnati Bengals and their two losses were to the surprise of the season Kansas City Chiefs (14 – 16) and Baltimore Ravens (17 – 24). After a week of looking sloppy at home, the Falcons better bring their A game or they could drop won thought unimaginable when the schedule came out. Six searing questions as Birds head to Lake Erie…….
The Falcons played tough in Pittsburgh and barely lost in overtime. They came back the next week at home and clicked on all cylinders to blow out the Cardinals. Then came the enormous win in New Orleans against the Super Bowl defending Saints. An expected hangover the next week against the 0-3 Niners and the Birds barely escaped. So which team will show up on Sunday against the underrated Browns? Let’s hope the same one that blew out the Cardinals beat the defending World Champs, not the ones who came out flat and lost the first while nearly losing the second. Coach Mike Smith has always done a great job in getting his teams prepared and ready to play on Sundays with only a few exceptions. The Browns are coming off a huge win against the Bengals and will be ready to continue their momentum against the NFC leading Falcons. Which ones will take the field @ 1 pm in the former house of Lebron?
The first loss in the Mike Smith Era came at the hand of the Mike Shanahan led Denver Broncos and a little know fullback-turned-halfback Peyton Hillis. A close game to the end, the Broncos pulled ahead on the legs of the mammoth Hillis (6’2, 250) who notched 44 yards rushing with 2 TDs and added another 26 yards receiving on 3 catches. After a few injuries Montario Hardesty and James Davis coupled with non-production from Jerome Harrison, Hillis has exploded for 322 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns, and a staggering 4.9 yards per carry. The Falcons are ranked just outside of the top 10 in terms of rushing defense at number 11 and that’s including two plays for a combined 130 yards (50 yarder in Pittsburgh and 80 yarder against Arizona). They did hold Frank Gore to 77 yards rushing (without much help from the offense), but also gave up 60 yards receiving. Hillis is known as a good receiving back as well, so will the Falcons be ready for Hillis this time?
Yes the Falcons torched the Cardinals who run the 3-4 defense, but they also continued to lend credence to the idea that they traditionally struggle against 3-4 defenses. They had hard times with 3-4 defenses last year(the exception being at San Francisco) and that has continued this year against the Steelers and 49ers. They have an issue getting their ground game going and thusly generally have a hard time moving the ball. Is it that Mularkey has issues with the 3-4 defense or that our offense isn’t built well to run on the 3-4 with Turner failing to always hit the hole quickly. The Browns defense won’t be confused with the Steelers, but they have some hard nosed players including Shaun Rogers, safety TJ Ward, DE Robaire Smith, and former Saint Scott Fujita. The Falcons, Mike Mularkey and Co. have yet another opportunity to put the “3-4 Struggle” idea to rest.
Many fellow Bird Cage members brought up a great point about the Falcon introducing rookies into special teams and that might be a reason for the struggles. Matt Bryant has been rock-solid, but the coverage and return teams need some work. While Eric Weems is solid, he hasn’t scared a ton of teams while returning the ball. The punt block against the 49ers almost cost them game and they were a determined team to come back from the blown punt coverage in the first minute in New Orleans. Probably just a few mistakes and it will likely be fixed, but the time for major blown coverages should be over.
-What Birds will show up in Cleveland: Cards/Saints or Steelers/Niners?
-Any way the Falcons take the Browns for granted?
-Has Michael Turner lost a step?
-Should Snelling be getting more carries?
-Will Birds hold Peyton Hillis in order this time?
-Can offense start to put the “3-4 Struggle” behind them?
-Has special teams got it together?
-Itching for a return of Jenks and Spoon?
-Are you concerned about Peria Jerry?