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Falcons look to correct mistakes on defense


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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes couldn’t recall the San Diego Chargers’ actual third-down conversion rate from Saturday’s third preseason game, but he did remember that the numbers were “pretty bad.”

For the first half in which the Falcons’ first-team defense allowed three touchdowns and 255 yards passing, the third-down conversion rate was a frightening 88 percent (7 of 8).

That first-half performance has been the subject of a good amount of head-scratching and concern by fans and the local media, but the message from Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith and members of the secondary was calm.

“There were some really good plays on first and second down,” Smith said of the defense. “There were some really bad plays on third down and that was kind of the story of the defense and the ballgame. But we did some things better this week than we did in the first two weeks and that’s the great thing about this preseason… We get four opportunities to make all the corrections we can.”

Smith also urged not to point the finger solely at the secondary, which includes two second-year players (Grimes and safety Thomas DeCoud) and a relatively young third-year player in Chris Houston.

“It’s not just the secondary,” Smith said. “This is team defense and all the guys on defense are out there on third down and they have a job to do on every play. Obviously, when it takes place on a passing play, people are going to assume it was someone in the secondary. That’s not necessarily the case. Just like the secondary is very involved in defending the run, the other positions are very involved in defending the pass.”

Smith said the mistakes were partly mental and partly physical but said they were all correctable.

“We spent the day making those corrections, working on a number of the things we have to do,” he said of Monday’s practice.

Grimes said of the mistakes: “Watching the film, like the coaches said to us, it wasn’t anything major it’s just little minor things.”

Houston said some of the mistakes involved playing the scheme wrong, which can be fixed by watching film and going over it in practice.

“We ran certain schemes where a certain man’s job can mess up another man’s job,” he said, “and not doing your job can hinder somebody else’s job. So everybody needs to be on one page as a defense and as a whole, as unit.”

Personally, Houston, who was on the defending side of some long passing plays by the Chargers, said missing the second preseason game and some practices caused him to start a little bit slow.

“And I was a little -- with the hamstring injury -- kind of not so confident, but then as the game picked up and ‘OK, OK, I’m good,’” he said. “Once you get repetitions in practice and you’re on for a week you pick it right back up.”

As he put it, “repetitions are the father of learning.”

INJURY UPDATES: Smith said running back Jerious Norwood most likely would not play on Thursday at the Georgia Dome against Baltimore in the final preseason game and rookie safety William Moore would be held out.

Norwood got shaken up with 3:33 left before halftime when Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie delivered a hit to Norwood’s head after a four-yard pass reception.

Smith said the team would be very cautious with Norwood, as his head “got jarred and he also had a situation with his leg.”

Moore, who had missed three weeks after having a procedure on his left knee, pulled his hamstring on the same leg.

Smith said the team would try to work Moore back into practice next week.

FINAL PRESEASON GAME: With the starters’ having played into the second half on Saturday, they will likely receive far less playing time on Thursday. Smith said the Falcons will play “a completely different rotation.”

“This week we did not play some of the younger guys as many snaps as they had the first two games, so we want these guys who are fighting for roster spots to have an opportunity to be evaluated so that will be the focus,” he said.

The Falcons’ roster is currently at 75 players. They will have to get down to 53 by Saturday.

They can then re-sign eight players to the practice squad.

Brent Grimes Interview

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I agree... I said this right after the game..... All of the mistakes are fixable....... Holding a team to 3-and long those many times is a good thing..... The mistakes are fixable..... "The Sky is not falling"

Sidenote: It was god to see Spencer Adkins getting some playing time against the Chargers.

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I'm sure some things are fixable through coaching, but I'm skeptical that all of the problems are. Something is wrong for things to go that badly in the third preseason game, against their second string quarterback. Of course, I'd love for them to prove me wrong, but I did not check my brain at the door.

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