The Falcons are 6-4 at the bye and have a major issue to figure out moving forward. The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov get into that and the Falcons place amongst the NFC’s best.
(photo credits clockwise)
(1) PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles shakes hands with head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons after the game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(2) PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Keanu Neal #22 of the Atlanta Falcons breaks up a pass intended for Jordan Matthews #81 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(3) Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(4) PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 13: Jalen Mills #31 of the Philadelphia Eagles interferes with Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning. Here's your bye week edition.
1. Run defense on alert. If the Falcons are going to the playoffs, they must fix the run defense over the bye week.
The Eagles entered last Sunday’s game as the 17th ranked rushing team in the league averaging just 107.8 yards per game. The Eagles nearly doubled their average as they rushed for 208 yards on 38 carries as they played keep-away from the Falcons high-powered offense.
The enigmatic Ryan Mathews rushed for more than 100 yards for only the second time over his last 27 games against the Falcons when he amassed 109 yards on 19 carries.
Backup Wendell Smallwood rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries.
“When we play our eight man fronts, like we do and a run gets through and we don’t play our gaps when we want to, that’s when the long plays come,” Quinn said. “We had one of 19 yards and 21 yards where we didn’t hit our gaps correctly and (free safety) Ricardo Allen had to make some touchdown saving tackles that were down the field.”
After the bye week, the Falcons face Arizona running back David Johnson, Kansas City’s Spencer Ware and Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley.
The Cardinals average 109.1 yards per game, 14th in the league. The Chiefs average 99.7 yards per game, 20th in the league and the Rams average 82.6 yards per game, 29th in the league.
Johnson is the league’s 5th leading rusher. He has 175 carries for 760 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
“When you watch him on tape, there are so many things he can improve on,” said Arizona general manager Steve Keim on his weekly radio show on Monday. “The sky is the limit for him.”
Ware is 13th in the league with 115 carries for 572 yards and two touchdowns.
Gurley, playing without a passing threat at quarterback, is 23rd in the league with 167 carries for 515 yards and three downs.
Quinn knows that teams will try to test the defensive front after the Eagles were able to gash the front seven. Quinn noted that the defense line got pushed around and that some players tried to jump out their gaps to help out and created more space and running lanes for the Eagles.
“It wasn’t a scheme that we were not prepared for so we didn’t execute like we are capable of,” Quinn said. “That’s not good. We’ve had two games this year where we weren’t happy with our run defense. (Against the Eagles) and back at Oakland.”
We didn't execute is coaches' code for "We got whipped at the line of scrimmage."
FALCONS RUN DEFENSE THIS SEASON
Team carries yards touchdowns
Tampa Bay 28 90 0
Oakland 25 155 1
New Orleans 23 115 1
Carolina 14 49 0
Denver 24 84 0
Seattle 27 72 3
San Diego 26 78 2
Green Bay 19 108 0
Tampa Bay 19 73 0
Philadelphia 38 208 2
2. Kids and Pros Fundraiser. Former Falcons Buddy Curry and Bobby Bulter held an event called the 2016 Locker Room Chat to help celebrate 15 years of the Kids and Pros organization at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
Dave Archer served as the emcee and Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic and George Rogers were feature speakers.
Kids and Pros holds football games, clinics and football safety training across the Southeast to teach character and skills through athletics.
Over the past 15 years, they've trained 40,000 campers, hosted 240 camps in eight different states and have worked with over 200 former NFL players, who actually work the camps.
"We wanted to fellowship and present our story to some of the business owners here to raise our sponsorship dollars to continue the work that we are doing with Kids and Pros," Butler said. "We are basically ministering to kids. I call it a ministry. Our mission statement is to build character and skills through athletics."
You can find out more on their website: KidsandPros.com
3. Record alert. Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones needs 43 yards to pass former Falcons wide receiver Terance Mathis on the franchise’s all-time receiving list and move into second place behind Roddy White.
Jones (75 games played) has played 51 less games than Mathis (126).
Jones has 7,306 yards receiving. Mathis (1994-2001) had 7,349 yards. White has 10,863 yards.
4. Ping pong ratings. Jones is atop the teams "unofficial" ping pong ratings released by Curtis Jackson of the team's media relations staff. The players have ping pong battles, in the name of competition, in the locker room.
5. Beasley is beasting out. Falcons defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley is tied for second in the league with 9.5 sacks with Denver's Von Miller. Buffalo's Lorenzo Alexander and Kansas City's Dee Ford lead the league with 10 sacks.
Beasley, who was drafted eighth overall out of Clemson, had just four sacks his rookie season.
What's been behind this surge?
"One, I think he has a real idea of how to attack now," Quinn said. "Knowing that maybe each tackle might set a little different. Might play a little different. Some of that comes with experience. What I did against this player may not be as effective on the next player, For sure, he's ramp up his practice habits. That's totally transferring into the game. We call that trusting your training.
"The more that you put it out there on the practice field, it totally carries forward to the game. I've seen a big swing in his practice habits for sure. "
6. Collins played well. Cornerback Jalen Collins performed well for Desmond Trufant against the Eagles.
"For Tru to be out and for him to step into that spot, we thought he had a real solid game," Quinn said. "He made some plays on the ball. I thought he was tackling physically. So for us, he kind of performed the way we expected him to. He used his length. He used his speed. As far as his performance after playing the whole game, we were pleased with him."
7. Falcons still elite in AJC's Power Rankings. NFL Power Rankings: Falcons still among NFC elite?
8. Falcons at halfway point. The Falcons have played 10 and if they are going to the Super Bowl they have 10 games left.
9. Depth chart. The Falcons (6-4) are hoping to get back to running back Tevin Coleman and possibly cornerback Desmond Trufant after the bye. Tight end Jacob Tamme, barring a miracle healing of his separated A/C shoulder joint, appears headed for surgery possibly as soon as Thursday.
(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)
WR 11 Julio Jones 16 Justin Hardy 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre 63 Ben Garland
C 51 Alex Mack 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder 76 Tom Compton
TE 83 Jacob Tamme 81 Austin Hooper 80 Levine Toilolo 82 Joshua Perkins
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu 19 Aldrick Robinson 18 Taylor Gabriel
QB 2 Matt Ryan 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman 26 Tevin Coleman 28 Terron Ward 33 Stevan Ridley
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 50 Brooks Reed 99 Adrian Clayborn 93 Dwight Freeney
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux 98 Cliff Matthews
DT 97 Grady Jarrett 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson 77 Ra’Shede Hageman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr. 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones 55 Paul Worrilow 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell
CB 23 Robert Alford 29 C.J. Goodwin 32 Jalen Collins
CB 21 Desmond Trufant 34 Brian Poole
S 37 Ricardo Allen 27 Robenson Therezie 20 Sharrod Neasman
S 22 Keanu Neal 36 Kemal Ishmael
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 14 Eric Weems 16 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Eric Weems 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24