Missed tackles and soft pass coverage are foiling the Falcons’ defensive scheme on third downs.
Teams have converted on 33 of 66 third-down situations, a 50 percent inefficiency rate that ranks 32nd in the NFL.
What is even more troubling is that the defense has not been able to stop offenses in third-and-long situations.
When confronted with situations longer than third-and-8, the defense has been getting scorched. Teams have converted 10 times in 22 of those situations (45.4 percent).
New Orleans was 2-of-4, St. Louis was 1-of-5, Miami was 3-of-6, New England was 1-of-3 and the New York Jets were 3-of-4.
In longer than third-and-8, which statistically is a favorably situation for the defense, the Falcons have given up pass plays of 21 (Jimmy Graham, Saints), 19 (Marques Colston, Saints), 47 (Chris Givens, Rams), 19 (Darryl Richardson, Rams), 19 (Brandon Gibson, Miami), 18 (Brian Hartline, Miami, TD), 21 (Jermone Kerley, Jets), 20 (Jeff Cumberland, Jets, TD).
The Falcons have managed one sack (Corey Peters against the Saints) and one interception (William Moore against the Dolphins) in a situation of third-and-8 or longer.
The pass rush isn’t getting to the quarterback, and the coverage is soft, too. Nickel back Robert McClain and rookie Desmond Trufant have been targeted at times.
“We’ve got to put more pressure on the quarterback,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We can’t let the quarterback stand in there and be comfortable. We must play tighter coverage.”