Time to move forward. The Falcons have the Patriots at home this Sunday night, and it won't be an easy game. The Patriots were basically the anti-Falcons through the first two weeks, narrowly winning two games they probably shouldn't have, but they did look improved in Week 3. The Falcons are reeling a bit right now, and they need this win.
They have to start by making changes. We've seen enough of this team to know what they do well and what they can't do, and so the coaching staff and players must adjust to that reality.
Here are the changes I would suggest to give the Falcons the best possible chance to win.
The Patriots' defense has quietly carried them through the first three games, albeit against some pretty mediocre offenses. They've held their opponents to a 33% conversion rate on third downs, they're seventh in the league against the past and just 24th against the run. That looks daunting on paper, but it's going to be especially daunting if the Falcons turtle.
It's time to take advantage. I'm betting Sam Baker won't return this week, so the Falcons should pound the ball against the Patriots' front seven right off the bat. Mix in deep strikes to Julio Jones, who has been so hard to stop. And for the love of the Football Gods, go for it on third and fourth and short opportunities. The Patriots play aggressively by pushing the ball downfield and punishing teams for playing soft coverage, they play to win and a bunch of field goals aren't going to get the job done against New England.
The Falcons have always been good at rolling down the field in stretches. It's time to build an (adjustable!) gameplan around maintaining an offense that pushes for big plays hroughout the game, and taking advantage of the weaknesses presented to you. The Falcons would do well to use the run to set up the deep ball.
Get The Best Coverage In The Game
We have ample evidence at this point that the Falcons are capable of holding a ground game in check. Stevan Ridley is talented
Instead, the Falcons need to concentrate on stopping the pass. This is a totally different Patriots team than in years past, when they were bristling with weapons. Wes Welker is gone, Danny Amendola is hurt, Rob Gronkowski is probably just returning from injury and the rookie receivers have been prone to drops and poor route running. The Falcons are capable of taking these guys out of the game, though even a limited Gronk would be a beastly challenge.
So key on the pass. Brady's completing less than 60% of his passes, he's tossed a couple of interceptions and he's absorbed seven sacks already. The pass rush that showed up against the Dolphins will go a long way toward keeping him from getting too comfortable, and quality coverage will be even better.
So don't play around here. Get Stephen Nicholas off the field. If Robert McClain continues to struggle, dial up Robert Alford. Sit Thomas DeCoud down for a couple of trig classes. The Falcons have a real opportunity to shut down a passing game, and they should exploit it.
Make Constant Adjustments
As I wrote yesterday, this Falcons team prepares well and is capable of hanging points on teams with surprising speed. It's when teams adjust to the gameplan that the Falcons start getting into trouble.
All the Patriots do is adjust. Part of the reason they've been so successful for so long despite a mediocre draft track record is their willingness to change up the plan if things aren't working. They'll yank a starting running back who puts the ball on the ground, switch up their targets in the passing game when things go awry and shuffle their defensive deck when teams get rolling. At minimum, that keeps them in games, and we all know the Falcons haven't had much luck closing things out when teams keep it close.
So the Falcons need to come in with their gameplan for the first few drives and be ready to throw it out the window if things start to go awry. You will not beat the New England Patriots with a static game plan. Period.
Obviously this post could stretch on for 2,000 words, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to take the Falcons to school. Draw up some changes on your personal blackboard.
More from The Falcoholic:
- Poll: Grade The Falcon Performance Against the Miami Dolphins
- Falcons vs. Dolphins Recap: Opportunity Knocks, Door Doesn't Open
- Falcons-Dolphins: Injury Bug Just Won't Leave
- Falcons vs. Dolphins final score: Atlanta blows lead, loses 27-23
- Robert McClain Injury: Cornerback Leaves Game, Questionable To Return