The Falcons have been remarkably healthy during the Matt Ryan era. Their best players have missed only a handful of games over the last five years, and while the injury bug bit Harry Douglas and Peria Jerry hard, this has been a team that has had a good run of luck in that department.
That luck has hit a speed bump. There's a ton of uncertainty heading into the Rams game with neither Julio Jones nor Roddy White practicing yesterday, fresh off a week of shaky line play that could be made worse if Sam Baker isn't healthy. Even the most stoic Falcons fan would have to admit to some nerves in that scenario, and I'll cop to the urge to roll Matt Ryan in bubble wrap ahead of Sunday.
That said, the Falcons still have the pieces to win this game. The Rams are a good team, a team on the rise, but the Falcons are not without weapons even if Julio Jones and Roddy White can't go or are slowed by injury. If I were the Falcons and I was trying to compensate for these injuries and the possible presence of Lamar Holmes on the left side (and we'll know more about whether they have to go that route in a day or two), I'd do the following:
- Utilize Steven Jackson. The Rams have a great pass rush, but the Falcons can try to work around it by tossing screen passes to S-Jax, giving him way more than 11 carries for the game and finding him in the flats. The three drops last week were an aberration, I'd wager, and it's clear that the Falcons can and should get him more involved.
- Get Chase Coffman and Tony Gonzalez on the field at the same time. If you're looking to take pressure off limited receivers, two tight end sets would help to accomplish that. The Rams are a strong defense, but their linebackers and safeties are not elite, and Gonzo in particular can exploit that weakness.
- Chip like crazy. Lamar Holmes is going to need help if he has to man left tackle, and the Falcons need to make it a priority to keep the pass rush from going through him. If Jeremy Trueblood can do even a decent job on the right side, the Falcons can afford to dedicate Bradie Ewing and tight ends to Matt Ryan's protection. As crazy it sounds to wish for Baker after last week, let's hope he's healthy.
- Take a page out of Chip Kelly's book. The Falcons are going to struggle to block effectively for Matt Ryan, obviously. You can't magically make this offense go at a breakneck pace, but the Falcons should focus on getting the ball out of Ryan's hands faster and let the receivers make plays. That could lead to some maddening, dink-and-dunk plays, but if it works none of us are really going to complain.
Add your brainstorming here. How can the Falcons keep the offense humming against the Rams despite the injuries?