The Falcons defense is considered one of the more promising units in the league. A combination of speed in the front seven and solid play in the secondary has garnered plenty of optimism. For them to take the next step, it will be on their young players to continue their rapid development. That starts with making tackles on a consistent basis.
They failed to accomplish that in a disappointing display against Chicago. According to Dan Quinn, the defense missed double-digit tackles last Sunday. The coaching staff can’t be thrilled, considering how much they implement tackling in their off-season and training camp regime, as we heard about throughout the summer.
I always rewatch the previous Falcons game and post GIFs on Twitter of the most impressive and disappointing plays. One specific player, positional group, or topic is excluded from the film review to be saved for this piece. Here are four missed tackles that caused the game to be closer than expected.
Second Quarter: 2nd and 7 at CHI 28
It only took one game for Tarik Cohen to become an absolute nightmare in the open field. The dynamic rookie proved to be the much-needed spark for a lethargic offense. By forcing several missed tackles, he created numerous big plays and made the Falcons’ defense look silly in the process. Cohen knows how to make something out of nothing. This play is a prime example, as he should be held to a minimal gain at best. Cohen’s vision and elusiveness creates a 46-yard gain.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains called a toss play to the left, which means Brooks Reed isn’t going to be touched on the backside. Derrick Shelby manages to get some penetration, while Duke Riley is flying in downhill. All three players should have an opportunity to bring down Cohen. He recognizes the play is jammed up and needs to redirect his run. Reed is ultimately at fault, as he isn’t quick enough to react.
It’s a difficult spot for the veteran edge defender. He struggles to make plays in space based on his lack of elite athleticism and closing speed. That could be a reason why Quinn moved him into a full-time defensive end role. Riley merits some blame for overrunning the play as well. There is also a missed tackle from Deion Jones, which results in 25 extra yards.
Third quarter: 3rd and 1 at CHI 34
While Cohen had a memorable debut, Riley can only look to improve from last Sunday. The third-round pick struggled to get off blocks on several occasions. When he was unblocked, Riley failed to capitalize and tackle the ball carrier. Chicago used Michael Burton to convert on a third and short situation. To counter their play call, Dontari Poe lined up in over the nose. That is what the front office paid him to do against power running teams.
Cody Whitehair does a nice job driving him out of the play. Since Poe is such a massive figure, he will always command attention. His presence gives Riley space to make a huge third down stop. Riley doesn’t finish the play, as Burton bounces off him and gains seven yards. There were some concerns about Riley’s undersized frame and overall strength. With him playing on the weakside of the base defense, he will need to make stops like this. There are going to be plenty of opportunities with Poe and Grady Jarrett manning the middle. For the run defense to improve, the entire linebacker unit must finish better.
Fourth quarter: 3rd and 2 at CHI 43
This is one of those moments where poor tackling turns a solid play into an explosive play. Dion Sims benefits from Keanu Neal slipping on Chicago’s sketchy field. What makes an easy third down conversion transform into something even more significant is Ricardo Allen’s tackle attempt here.
He tries to lower his shoulder on a 260-pound tight end at a difficult angle. That ends badly for the usually reliable safety. It allows Sims to gain another ten yards on a drive that ended in a touchdown. Every coach will tell you how important every yard is. In a ten-point game, Allen needs to wrap up the much bigger player in the open field.
Fourth quarter: 2nd and 10 at ATL 30
Riley has another golden opportunity to make a big stop. If he wraps up Cohen, this play ends in a five-yard loss. That puts a playmaker-starved offense in a precarious situation. For them to convert on third-and-fifteen is highly unlikely without any real threats at wide receiver. Riley’s inability to wrap up squashes that possibility.
He is on the receiving end of a devastating swim move. Cohen benefits from his smallish stature, as tacklers are to bound miss going high. Riley manages not to go high on this play. It’s just another remarkable play from another impressive running back in a stacked rookie class. It’s hard to be too critical of Riley here. Given the magnitude of this play and what could have possibly been, it will be remembered as a notable miss.