Over the past five games, the Falcons have outscored the opposition 91-40 in the first half and have been outscored 90-34 in the second.
The mere numbers suggest that the Falcons are not making halftime adjustments, but New England coach Bill Belichick and Falcons coach Mike Smith both said that halftime adjustments are overrated.
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter acknowledges third-quarter lulls, but points to player execution as the problem. While defensive coordinator Mike Nolan says the team merely is in a slump.
“If you wait to halftime, a lot of football has gone by the boards before you make any adjustments,” said Belichick, whose team plays the Falcons at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome. “I think in the NFL you see teams making adjustments after each series. … One team does something, the other team adjusts to it. … I don’t think the halftime adjustment thing is that big of a deal.”
The Falcons have blown double-digit leads in losses to New Orleans and Miami this season. They also blew 20-point and 17-point leads in the playoffs last season to Seattle and San Francisco. They needed a Matt Ryan-led miracle to beat Seattle.
“If you go back and look at the tape, we definitely stalled out in the third quarter,” Koetter said about the Miami game. “I’ll let those fans that are saying that (the problem is halftime adjustments) go look at the tape and tell me if it was halftime adjustments or if it was just poor execution. … the tape doesn’t lie.”
Nolan has his reasons for the blown leads, but didn’t want to share them. He did acknowledge that there are some consistent issues throughout the five games.
“It is something that you don’t want … that’s kind of a rut I guess you could say.”
Douglas on the spot: Falcons punt returner Harry Douglas, who picked up a punt Sunday after it bounced once and then he fumbled, is in the doghouse.
“It’s how you manage punt returns,” special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. “There are certain rules that you have to follow that have been proven over time.”
Armstrong didn’t want to hear that perhaps Douglas thought he could make a play for the team. The Dolphins turned Douglas’ turnover into a touchdown and tied the score 20-20.
“The best thing to do is follow the rule and play the best percentage,” Armstrong said. “There are always exceptions to the rule. Football is a gray game. It’s not a black-and-white game. It’s gray.”
Rookie Robert Alford is listed on the team’s depth chart as the backup punt returner.
“I think every week he’s got an opportunity,” Armstrong said when asked if Alford was ready to take over the punt-return duties. “I don’t discount him at all. He’s out there every week, and he’s working. He’s developing, and he’s coming along.”
Asked if he was he ready to return punts, Alford said, “most definitely.”
Bryant on miss: Falcons kicker Matt Bryant was still thinking about his missed 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against Miami.
“I rushed the process a little bit,” Bryant said. “Unfortunately, sometimes those things happen. We’ve had pretty good success around here for a while. When you’ve missed one, it seems like you missed 100. It’s like any other time, you have to go on to the next kick.”
Trueblood strong: Jeremy Trueblood, who could make his second consecutive start at right tackle, played well in his first start with the Falcons.
“I thought Jeremy, for his first game, did a nice job,” Koetter said. “Jeremy showed that he’s a guy that has 80-something starts in the NFL and what a pro that he is.”
Etc.: In what Falcons coach Mike Smith called a football decision, the team announced that it was closing practice to the media other than the “at least the first 30 minutes or until the start of ‘team’ work” that is required by the NFL’s 2013 media-relations policy. … Wide receiver Roddy White (ankle), running back Steven Jackson (hamstring) and left tackle Sam Baker (foot, knee) did not practice. Wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), center Peter Konz (knee) and right guard Garrett Reynolds (knee) were limited in practice. Cornerback Robert McClain (knee) and running back Josh Vaughan (ankle) fully participated in practice.