The Falcons started the season 1-3, already jeopardizing what should’ve been a special season. There are 12 games left and still a chance, in theory, to turn things around. Here is how they can do it.
Defense has to get off the field on third down.
Lets start with the obvious. Injuries or no injuries, the Falcons’ defense has to find a way to get 5-7 stops a game. They simply have to be better.
The Falcons do not need the defensive replacements to be superstars, just be serviceable, NFL players who play well for four quarters.
Last week, the Cincinnati Bengals went 7-12 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down. The week before, the Saints went 7-14 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down. The Falcons have one of the worst third-down defenses in the league at the moment.
Normally, those numbers could be overlooked but with the Falcons coming out on the losing end of so many closes games, getting off the field on an extra third down or two per game is the difference between 1-3 and 3-1. Dan Quinn must help this defense find a way to get the ball back to the offense, especially with how well Matt Ryan and company have been playing.
Another factor to consider is lack of depth caused by the injuries the Falcons have suffered. The Falcons being shorthanded makes it even more important to get off the field. Time of possession is always an interesting stat to look at. The Falcons have lost the time of possession battle in every game this season.
A defense already down multiple players cannot afford to continuously expose themselves to extended time on the field on a weekly basis. If they do so, there will inevitably be breakdowns and busts in coverage; as has been seen in the last few weeks.
Run the ball effectively/ Ball control offense
The Falcons have only run the ball for over 100 yards, one time this season. No surprise, that one time, came in their only victory this season. It is important the Falcons run the ball not only for the sake of the offense but at this point, for the sake of the team.
It’s clear Steve Sarkisian has figured out the Falcons offense, knock on wood. The next step in his development is dictating the pace of the game with his play calling. Of course, the more points the better, but are quick scores always good? Again, Atlanta has lost the time of possession battle in every game this season. There have been a few quick scoring drives, which is always good.
But, considering how bad the defense is ailing, would it be worth it to strategically dominate the game with the offense?
If Sarkisian needs a tutorial, he can go look at how the Eagles’ offensive play calling strategically dictates the flow of the game, every time they play the Falcons. While the specific game plan might be different than what the Falcons’ would be, the concept of ball control would be the same.
Or better yet, go back to the Matt Ryan and Michael Turner days. Long scoring drives. Take that mentally and apply it here.
It would allow the Falcons to dictate the game in favor of their strength, which is their offense. I’m sure the Falcons would much rather take that option than watch helplessly on the final drive of the game, as the opposing team effortlessly drives down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
Running the ball effectively will do everyone in red and black a favor and keep the patchwork defense off the field, for as long as possible. If the Falcons are able to run the ball and control the clock, it puts the power back in their hands. The Falcons need 5+ minute, touchdown scoring drives, every* time they touch the ball or they can keep leaving their fate up to the current defense. We’ve seen how well that’s worked out.
ELIMINATE THE PENALTIES!
During their 1-3 start, the Falcons have been the more penalized team, in every game. That usually correlates with losing football. While some penalties were arguably, some were senseless. Not only were most of them senseless, but they were also usually backbreaking penalties. Even more frustrating was to watch penalties come from seasoned veterans. I’m looking at you, Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole.
The offense has a tendency to get flagged at inopportune moments as well. A false start or a holding call might not seem like much but if called at the wrong time, Jake Matthews, that makes scoring that much tougher. The Falcons are the seventh-most penalized team, through four games. They have enough going against them, they can’t afford to keep shooting themselves in the foot.
Go on a win streak
As bad a 1-3 start is, the Falcons could potentially go on a run. Their next 5 games are against Pittsburgh (1-2-1), Tampa Bay (2-2), New York Giants (1-3), Washington (2-1) and Cleveland (1-2-1).
The Falcons could have won every game they’ve lost, it isn’t a stretch to think the Falcons could string a few wins together. With the way the offense has been playing, the Falcons should be able to battle for any of those next five games. They should also have a shot in the games after the five listed above.
If the Falcons can even go 3-2 in that time frame, beating Tampa Bay, Washington and New York or Cleveland, they’d have a record of 4-5. That would leave them at 2-1 in the NFC South with one more game against every team in the division. And that, my friends, means the Falcons would still have a shot at the division title and therefore, the playoffs.
One more important detail: every one of the Falcons remaining division games, after Tampa Bay next week, would come after Deion Jones is projected to return.
I’m sure he’d help out a little.