The Dirty Birds registered a satisfying destruction of the Carolina Panthers last week, and that means they have another chance to notch their first consecutive victory of 2011. For a team that finished 2010 with only three losses and of whom much was expected in the new year, that's a depressing bit of trivia.
Luckily for the ATL, nobody in the NFC South seems particularly interested in running away with the division, so the Falcons are only one game removed from the catbird seat despite playing mediocre football.
That's the good news.
The bad news is they face a Lions squad that is raring to go after an embarrassing loss in Week 6 that featured a fourth-quarter comeback in their own house plus a postgame meltdown by their head coach. So Detroit should have its claws out (yup) when Atlanta comes calling on Sunday.
As might've been expected, we've had a nip-and-tuck affair through 30 minutes. With five quick adjustments, the Falcons can emerge with their second straight W:
1. Kill the Dumb Penalties
Not all penalties are stupid—if you're beaten in the end zone, a pass interference penalty might be the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. The Falcons' penalties have NOT been of that variety.
If the Lions weren't keeping up with them stride for stride in the dumb flag category, the Dirty Birds would have quite a problem on their hands.
The bright side of the coin is, if Atlanta can clear its penalty issue up, the club might have a considerable edge in the second half.
2. Get off the Field on Third Down
Color commentator Brian Billick mentioned the struggles the Atlanta D has been having with third down conversions. To be blunt, the Falcons haven't been able to get off the field when the defense has most need to do just that.
Through the first half, the unit has been able to bow its collective back and force the punt.
That needs to continue if the Falcons want to head back to the Dirty Dirty with the win in tow.
3. Get Roddy White Involved
Like Calvin Johnson on the other side of the field, Atlanta's primary receiving threat has been strangely absent. And just like Detroit is missing a dangerous offensive weapon in running back Jahvid Best, Atlanta is missing its rockstar rookie wide receiver Julio Jones.
White hasn't been as brilliant as expected in 2011, but that's still no excuse for almost completely ignoring him when you're already down a threat.
Get him the rock.
4. Go To Tony Gonzalez...Over and Over
At one point in the first quarter, tight end Tony Gonzalez drew pass interference calls on consecutive snaps in the red zone. Whether or not the calls were warranted is beside the point, which is that they were called.
Future Hall of Famers get that sort of respect.
So enjoy it.
5. Keep the Detroit Offense Between the Tackles
The Lions had a little success running up the gut with Keiland Williams, but other than that, there's been a whole lotta nothing in the middle. By contrast, things get a little dicey when Detroit's fleet-footed weapons test the edges of the defense—nothing's been broken yet, but there have been a few close calls.
If Atlanta can maintain the integrity of said edge and funnel everything between the tackles, the Falcons should be smiling all the way back to the ATL.