Falcons Flyover: November 15, 2012

Kevin C. Cox

Your daily collection of Falcons and NFL news and notes from around the Web.

As the Falcons continue to practice in preparation for next Sunday's game at the Georgia Dome, their opponent is working hard to fix what has turned into a disappointing start to the 2012 season.

After winning their first four games of the year, the Arizona Cardinals have dropped five in a row heading into their matchup with Atlanta. Luckily for Ken Whisenhunt, there remains plenty of time to right the ship and contend for the playoffs. But doing so may mean beating the Falcons.

There's a lot going wrong right now in the desert, and the Falcons will surely be prepared to exploit just about all of the Cardinals' weaknesses. But Arizona is coming off their bye week and have plenty of time to work on what needs to be fixed on the practice field. Their offense, led (sometimes) by quarterback John Skelton, has been stagnant of late, and must be able to move the ball down the field to keep up with Matt Ryan and the Falcons attack.

"We've had plays out there that can get us a first down or can get us into the red zone,'' Skelton said, "and we just haven't been capitalizing on those. If we want to get the ship right, if we want to get moving in the right direction, we've got to start making those types of plays.''

Falcons Offense Thriving Under Koetter
Despite their difficulty running the football, the Falcons offense has reached a new level this season—and everyone has noticed. Atlanta is averaging two more points per game so far this season compared to last, and Matt Ryan is passing for 30 more yards on average per contest.

"A lot of the offense has stayed the same," said Matt Ryan. "I think that's one of the things that's helped us. Dirk came in and changed a lot of his terminology to the terminology we've had. I think that's helped everyone in the transition."

Faulk, Tomlinson Discuss Turner
Two of the greatest running backs of the century recently weighed in on Michael Turner's lackluster season thus far. Marshall Faulk, who was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 2011, has been critical of the Falcons' running game (or lack thereof).

"You can't make the transition to a passing team and expect to be the same type of running team. That just doesn't happen," said Tomlinson. "A part of that is the way the Atlanta Falcons are transitioning into a passing team. Well, they don't run the ball the same way that they used to."

On the other hand, Marshall Faulk took a very different stance than LT on Turner's game:

"If you are going to run the football, just like the Saints (on Sunday), those runs must be productive and at times Michael Turner or the offensive line or combined they don't get that production to go along with the explosiveness of the receivers and the passing game."
Falcons Flaws Aren't Worse Than Any Other Teams
Jeff Schultz wrote a nice, optimistic piece on the Falcons and how they should be compared to the rest of the NFL. While they do have some issues to iron out, so does every one of their competitors.

Everybody has issues. New England ranks 29th in pass defense, and it lost at home to Arizona. Pittsburgh lost to Oakland and Tennessee. Also, Ben Roethlisberger feels like a piano just fell on him. Chicago has one of the worst offenses in the league (28th), punctuated by one of the worst passing attacks (30th). The mean, nasty, rip-your-head-off Baltimore Ravens? They rank 27th in total defense.

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times (29) than any other quarterback. San Francisco’s offense is led by … Alex Smith. And they lost to Minnesota. Houston: Solid overall but not a great passing attack. Eli Manning has 11 interceptions — right between Cam Newton (10) and Brandon Weeden (12) — and has lost to three teams with losing records (Philadelphia, Dallas, Cincinnati).


Falcons Not Pointing Fingers for Running Woes
The Falcons coaches and players seem to agree that the team's difficulty running the football is more of a group effort than an individual issue. After Todd McClure voiced some frustrations over Atlanta's ground game, Mike Smith followed up by sharing a similar sentiment.

“We’ve got to do a lot of things better,” Smith said of the problems in short yardage. “It’s not one position group. It’s not one guy. It’s the entire offense when you’re talking about having a successful play, it’s basically three levels, whether it’s a run or a pass. We did not execute well. We had too many unblocked guys in the hole. It’s hard to get running that way and there are a number of reasons why, and we’ve addressed those in the meeting today and we’ll continue to address them.”

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