The Atlanta Falcons picked up a big win on Sunday night and now turn their sights to an interesting Indianapolis Colts team. Here are three important keys to monitor.
It was not easy by any means, but the Atlanta Falcons earned a very tough win against the Philadelphia Eagles last week to improve to 1-1 on the season. It was one that required all three phases of the game to execute, and while they faced favorable circumstances with the amount of Eagles injuries, it was a victory that showed a little character in the Falcons and their coaching staff.
For week three, the Falcons head back on the road to take on an Indianapolis Colts squad that picked up a divisional road win last week and will be in front of their home crowd for the first time all season. In order for the Falcons to build on last week’s gritty victory, here are three decisive factors to closely maintain a visual on.
No. 1: Clamp down on the Colts run game
It has been a tale of two run defenses for the Falcons this season so far. In the season opener, the defense allowed 172 yards on the ground and appeared to get gashed on just about every run play. Last week against Philly, the Falcons only relinquished 49 total rushing yards and 2.3 yards per carry — which, I might add, came against a highly respected and well coached Eagles offensive line.
The Colts themselves have an all-around solid run element on offense led by running back Marlon Mack, who leads the team with 225 rushing yards along with a touchdown. Mack’s availability for this game is up in the air as he is nursing a calf injury, so his workload may either be scaled back or nonexistent. Either way, making sure that the league’s second-ranked run offense does not find success is imperative to a Falcons victory. Given the quality talent on the Colts offensive line, this is easier said than done. Their offensive line can create running lanes against just about anyone.
No. 2: Passing game efficiency
After two games, it is very obvious what has been the catalyst of the Falcons offense and it’s their talented passing game. Quarterback Matt Ryan has five touchdown passes and the passing offense itself is ninth in the league overall. But it has not been as polished as it should be so far.
Ryan also has five interceptions, with two of them coming deep into opponents’ territory, well into scoring position. That means that points are being left on the field for an offense that has the talent to score early and often. Across the field from the Falcons on Sunday is a passing defense that is 10th overall. Not to mention, there is a sneaky good free safety on the back end of the Colts defense in Malik Hooker who is capable of turning a game around with his coverage. Ryan and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will need to be more proficient when it’s time to toss around the pigskin.
No. 3: Establish the run game
Take a look at the offensive numbers for the Falcons so far this season, and what stands out considerably is the lack of a run game element this season. Only 130 rushing yards have been mustered this season by the Falcons offense as a result of various reasons. For one, the offensive line starters have been together as a unit for just about two games. On top of that is the talented defensive lines that they have faced so far.
Regardless, the Falcons run game needs to get going, soon. Or else this can be an offense that becomes one-dimensional and much easier to defend. There have not been signs of starting running back Devonta Freeman being unhealthy or that Koetter has favored passing the football more. But in order for the Falcons to go anywhere this season, the run game MUST improve. Maybe it gets a chance this week against a Colts defense that is 20th in yards allowed and 27th in yards per carry allowed.