A tough Week 3 loss for the Atlanta Falcons has them in need of a win in Week 4 at home against the Tennessee Titans. Here are three essential for the Falcons and their upcoming matchup.
Disappointment was the result after the Falcons tried to mount a comeback on the road against the Indianapolis Colts last week. The second half showed the necessary spark from the offense, but penalties and underwhelming play from the defense led to the Falcons coming up just short, and the team now possesses a 1-2 record.
The season-ending loss of strong safety Keanu Neal is a tough blow for the athletic Falcons defense, but they are still capable of putting together winning play to help out an offense that has shown flashes of superior production so far this season. Coming to town this week is a physical Titans team that has underwhelmed so far but has enough tools to give Atlanta a rugged four quarter game. Before their upcoming matchup with Tennessee, here are three important keys for them to focus on.
No. 1: Protect the football
A facet of the game that has hindered the Falcons at times so far in this young season. Currently the Falcons offense is 29th in the NFL in turnovers per game and you can point to a few turnovers this season that has occurred in the red zone, meaning they happened in prime scoring territory. The blame has been passed around to several faces on the team but regardless who is at fault, the Falcons simply can not win games if the offense is limiting their chances of putting points on the board. Especially that close to the end zone.
The Titans defense is a unit that is one of the best in the league in forcing turnovers, as they are ninth in the NFL in takeaways per game with 1.7. Dating back to last season, the Titans defense has forced a turnover in 14 of their last 19 regular season games played. They possess one of the best free safeties in the game in Kevin Byard, who led the league in interceptions back in 2017. This is defensive unit that knows how to hunt for the football which means the Falcons have to be extra cognizant of this aspect.
No. 2: Active run game
We saw a glimpse of the run game on the road against Indianapolis but the fact that 93 total rushing yards is a season-high for the Falcons is not quite something to write home about. Even with running back Devonta Freeman completely healthy, the run game has been bland at best so far. There is no certainty that the Falcons offense can be the juggernaut that they have the potential to be without a consistent run game.
Standing before the Falcons will be a Titans run defense that is 21st in the NFL overall and 24th in the NFL in yards per rush allowed. In their Week 3 matchup against Jacksonville, the Titans only allowed 91 yards and 69 of them came on a big run by Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette late in the fourth quarter. Freeman posted runs of 24 and 28 yards in the first half against Indianapolis but thanks to game circumstances, they were never really able to get the run game going again. With a very good Titans secondary that is capable of making plays, it may be best for the Falcons to lean considerably on the Freeman, Ito Smith and the run game overall.
No. 3: Clean up the sloppiness
If you watched the Falcons road game against the Colts, you could not help but notice the amount of penalties that happened at the worst possible times. On their final offensive drive, the Falcons accumulated 4 penalties for 35 yards. It also didn’t help that the defense received a key holding call on third down to keep the Colts drive alive and the eventual game-deciding touchdown.
Currently, the Falcons are tied for first in the NFL in penalties (and not in a good way) and second in the NFL in penalty yards. Self-inflicted wounds by the Falcons only adds to the fuel to the unfortunate fire as both the offensive and defensive units try to find their footing. The team is already in need of consistency. Holding themselves back (pun intended) will not help them find that consistency that this talented team needs.