Who knew that an offseason lockout would produce such inconsistent football throughout the league? The physical and mental aspects of the game apparently take more time and effort than anyone guessed. From an essentially idle offseason to the practice limitations of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Atlanta Falcons are only hitting their stride in Week 9 of the NFL season.
Head Coach Mike Smith said that he has looked into the team's penalty issue (the team has 47 but had only 58 last year) and noticed "spikes" in personal fouls, offensive holding and defensive offsides. These are all a result of the lockout and new CBA, in my opinion. The good news is that all this can be fixed. Maybe a system where players get fined will get their attention.
The coaching staff needs to realize Matt Ryan's limitations. He just can't throw the long sideline pass. Stop calling it, and dial up more long posts and crossing routes.
The running game can be improved by getting Jacquizz Rodgers out in space. He can juke anyone out of their shoes, and he is a great alternative to getting pounded by Michael Turner.
The most difficult correction the Falcons must face is trying to cover up poor safety play. With the existing roster, there is no easy fix here except a better pass rush.
Finally, Coach Smith needs to keep his assistant coaches under control. Now that they know what works and what doesn't, they should quit being purely conservative or unpredictable just for the sake of it. Just doing what they do best will solidify this team and improve their playoff chances.