Atlanta Falcons: 4 Improvements to Keep Winning in Hotlanta
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The Atlanta Falcons are on a hot streak, but must improve in some areas if they hope to continue their success.
From the pressure the defensive line creates to the running game, there are some weaknesses on both sides of the ball. While not glaring weaknesses, subtle improvements could be the difference between a Super Bowl title and another disappointing season.
Here's a look at four improvements the Falcons need to make if they are to continue on their hot streak.
More in the Run Game
Michael Turner is averaging 64.8 rushing yards per game.
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While the NFL is a passing league, the run game has always been something the Falcons prided themselves on.
When Michael Turner came to town in 2008, it looked as if the Dirty Bird was returning to Hotlanta. For four years, that was the case as Turner racked up 5,280 yards.
This year has been a different story as Turner is only averaging 64.8 yards per game on the ground.
Whether it's the increase in the passing game or the offensive line not run blocking as well, Atlanta has not run the ball well, and they need to run it more.
While it was nice to see Turner get 18 rushes against the Washington Redskins Sunday, he still needs to get the ball more.
Last year, the Falcons were 1-5 in games where Turner had 18 or fewer carries. Luckily, the Falcons have done well this year as the 18 carries against Washington was the most he had all year.
Some might say the philosophy of being a pass-first offense is what has gotten the Falcons to 5-0. However, one must remember that a team that can control the ground game also controls the clock. Those who control the clock ultimately control the game.
Stop the Run
The defense ranks 21st with 142.8 rushing yards allowed per game.
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The Falcons have allowed 142.8 rushing yards per game this year, which ranks 21st in the NFL.
For a defensive unit that is without last year's defensive captain Curtis Lofton and Brent Grimes, they have to stop the run.
The five teams the Falcons have played this year are all running teams. With the exception of the opening game against Kansas City, the Falcons have largely struggled guarding the run.
You can attribute Carolina's running attack to Cam Newton and what he was able to create. In the other games, however, quarterbacks were largely ineffective running the football. When they did (to the Falcons credit), the linebackers made them pay.
There are a lot of running teams left on the schedule for the Falcons. If they can get better at stopping the run, there should be more opportunities to get the offense back on the field.
Protect Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan has been sacked 12 times this year.
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Ryan has been sacked 12 times this year.
While seven of those came against the Carolina Panthers, the offensive line has shown it has holes. Plus, if the Panthers can do it, then why can't anybody do it?
The Panthers set a precedent in that if you get in Ryan's face and knock him down, you give yourself a chance. Carolina is nowhere near a good team, but the defense gave the Panthers a chance against Atlanta.
Five sacks in the other four games is something to be proud of for the offensive line, but they still have to get back to work. Carolina still has another shot at Atlanta, while the New Orleans Saints have two games still.
When it comes to the Saints, who better to get to the quarterback than former Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton?
Matt Bosher is averaging 45.9 yards per punt this year.
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When the punter is brought up as a needed improvement, things must be going well for a team. While not a weak point for the Falcons, it is one that could use a slight improvement.
Matt Bosher currently ranks 16th in the league with an average of 45.9 yards per punt. His net average of 42.3 ranks 13th in the league.
Of his 23 punts, 12 have been returned for an average of 6.8 yards per return.
While it's good the Falcons have only called on him 23 times to punt this year, Bosher still needs an extra bit in hang time. By getting even one-tenth of a second more, there will be more fair catches and no possibilities of a return.
Again, this isn't too big of a problem considering the Falcons are 5-0. However, as the team gets later in the season, Bosher may be called on a little more in a battle for field position. That one-tenth could make all the difference in the world.