ATLANTA, GA- The Atlanta Falcons lost the season opener to the Saints 23-17 at the Superdome in New Orleans. However, the Falcons can rectify the situation if they impress the Atlanta fans at the Georgia Dome this Sunday, September 15.
Fan of the Falcons or not, many people were expecting many more points from the team that went to the NFC Championship game last year. Getting held under twenty points in four quarters was quite the let down as both teams’ defenses showed up to play.
What does this mean for Falcons fans? It means the Falcons are who they were last year. They will be a team that will produce two to three touchdowns in the first half, but the offense will continue to sputter in the second half as the opposing team seems to make all the correct adjustments to slow down this otherwise powerful offensive attack.
This second half conundrum can be fixed by one man: Steven Jackson. He’s a running back that wants the ball in his hands more than eleven times in one game. In St. Louis, the offense was practically run through this man.
The offense starts with Matt [Ryan],” Steven Jackson said according to CBS Sports. “I will get the bulk of my carries in the second half. In the first half, I would imagine the majority of my touches will be receiving the ball.”
Considering Jackson was targeted eight times in the passing game, he was correct in one aspect, but the carries from scrimmage needs to increase. Matt Ryan was sacked three times and was hit six times. Drew Brees was hit only three times, but with two sacks. The Saints also ran the ball twice as much as the Falcons with a total of 29 rushing attempts. Running the ball, even unsuccessfully, will provide Ryan with better opportunities to throw the ball downfield to either Roddy White or Julio Jones.
Speaking of White, he needs to sit this one out. With a high ankle sprain I’d feel much better if he was ready to play by week four at his full potential, rather than seeing him limp around the field as a fancy distraction. Harry Douglas made great use of the extended playing time with four receptions for 93 yards.
I won’t be too hard on Lamar Holmes even though many analysts have targeted him as the cause for numerous Matt Ryan pressures. The truth of this matter is that Holmes got beat on some third quarter plays, but I believe he will step up for this team. Until then, the Falcons should hire a good strength and conditioning coach.
Staying the course
While the Falcon’s offense was not fully exploited due to White not being in the lineup, the run defense and the front four delightfully surprised me. With 29 rushing attempts the Saints only gained 78 yards, which averages to only 2.7 yards per carry. In order for the Falcons to have any type of defensive success, the key will be to stop Daryl Richardson.
When the Falcons stop the Rams’ rushing attack then they will have to contend with Sam Bradford. Unfortunately for Bradford, the time to test the Atlanta’s rookie corners is nearly at an end. It’s true, Brees started to wear down the secondary late in the game as the pass rush seemed to disintegrate, but before then Robert Alford made an interception and broke up a few passes. If Asante Samuel returns then Bradford could be in for a long day.
As I predicted before, the Falcons will beat the St. Louis Rams in their home opener in Atlanta. Expect to see 21 points from the Dirty Birds in the first half, three points in the third quarter and a touchdown in the final four minutes of play to put the game out of reach. Falcons win 31-21.