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Falcons Team Report/INSIDE SLANT


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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports - Sep 24, 9:45 pm EDT

Inside Slant

Notes, Quotes

Strategy and Personnel

When the Falcons decided not to re-sign Lawyer Milloy, they had some options at the safety position.

They'd drafted Thomas DeCoud in the third round of the 2008 draft and William Moore in the second round of the 2009 draft. They figured that one of the two would start alongside of Erik Coleman.

While Moore had knee surgery, DeCoud took over at free safety and Coleman, a hard-hitter, scooted over to strong safety.

DeCoud, who will face the New England Patriots and Tom Brady for the first time, has played well in his first two starters.

"He doing well," Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "(He's handling) his responsibility on the field to communicate and get us in the right coverages and such."

He was a special teams maven as a rookie last season.

"It's just the workload," DeCoud said. "Having a little bit more studying to do each week. Really know what the other team is going to do on any down and in any situation. Just having your T's crossed and I's dotted, pretty much."

DeCoud is started to get recognized around town.

"A little bit, but not too much," DeCoud said. "I'm not Michael Turner or Matt Ryan or anything. But you know, I've got recognized here and there, once or twice."

Coleman has helped to ease DeCoud into the starting lineup.

"It's been huge," DeCoud said. "He's been through every situation. He knows how to handle certain things and knows what to expect. In different situations and just in football in general it's nice to have a guy like that who can get guys lined up. Get me lined up when I may be a little bit too slow to make a call. It's always great to have that veteran safety next to me."

After seeing Chad Pennington and Jake Delhomme, DeCoud will face Brady.

"It's going to take even more time," DeCoud said. "We are trying to study what he likes to do. More so, his mannerisms. What does his poker face look like when he drops back to pass. Then just getting a feel for how their coordinator likes to get into the flow of the game when he gets in this situation or this formation."

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Falcons lead series, 6-5. The Patriots have won the last two meetings. This will be the first meeting between the teams at Gillette Stadium. This is their first meeting since the 2005 season when the Patriots prevailed 31-28 at the Georgia Dome. The last time the Falcons traveled to Foxborough was during their 1998 Super Bowl run when they beat the Patriots 41-10 on November 8, 1998.

—Falcons coach Mike Smith might turn into the Riverboat Gambler if this keeps up. The Falcons were successful twice when they went for it on fourth down against Carolina.

"I've got a lot of confidence in our offense and our offensive line," Smith said. "When you are in fourth-and-short, I feel like the odds are in our favor especially with the guys that we have."

The replay at the end of the game came from upstairs replay booth. Smith said they were looking to see if there was a catch on the final play or if the Falcons had 12 men on the field. They could not review if the time had expired.

The Falcons are facing their second 3-4 defense of the season. They didn't fare so well against Miami in the opener. Michael Turner was held to 65 yards on 22 carries.

"Where we had problems was sustaining the blocks," Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey said. "We were very close to big runs, a lot of times. In their scheme, that two-gap scheme, they shed blocks. That was the discussion afterwards, 'What do we have to get better at?' We need to sustain and get on them. It wasn't like they had an extra guy that we didn't get to or block. It was just a matter of us doing a better job up front block and that's everybody."

Cornerback Brian Williams has helped to stabilize the Falcons secondary.

"It worked out good. He did a good job. I think we talked about the fact that he's been in our system a few years. … I thought he held up well," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said.

Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is pleased with the play of the revamped linebacking corps, but noted that they are getting some help from the defensive line.

"I thought our defensive tackle play from Jonathan Babineaux was excellent. (Peria) Jerry had a good first game (before being lost for the season). Then T.J. (Thomas Johnson) came in. He's a big, strong guy who protects those linebackers. Not taking anything away from them because their production was good, but I think the defensive line play had a lot to do with that."

By The Numbers:

15—Consecutive games won by the Patriots against NFC teams dating back to a 2005 loss to Carolina.

133 -- Tony Gonzalez' streak of consecutive games with a reception. His streak ranks second among tight ends in league history behind Ozzie Newsome (150 games).

9 -- The Falcons are 9-1 in the Georgia Dome on second-year coach Mike Smith.

11 -- Roddy White's reception after two games, second on the team.

253 -- Consecutive regular season games PK Jason Elam has scored at least on point.

114 -- Consecutive regular season games C Todd McClure has started, dating back to 2001.

38 -- Consecutive regular season games in which Roddy White has caught at least one pass.

Quote To Note:

"Chris, I think continues to progress. All of our guys are showing that they have a better understanding of what we want to get done. I want to caution you, that we have a long way to go. There are a lot of things, not only offensively, defensively but specials teams that we can do a whole lot better."

—Falcons coach Mike Smith on CB Chris Houston, who had a game-saving interception against Carolina.

Safety William Moore, the team's second-round draft pick, returned to participate in parts of practice. He had his left knee scoped early in training camp and returned after three weeks.

He played in the third preseason game, but suffered a hamstring injury on the same leg.

He had a strong mini-camp and OTA and was expected to contend for the starting strong safety position. It will be interesting to see how fast the Falcons work Moore back into the defensive operation.

Player

/PERSONNEL NOTES

DT Peria Jerry, the Falcons' first-round draft choice, is out for the season with a left knee injury. He started the season opener but had one assisted tackle.

WR Harry Douglas had surgery last week to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. DT Peria Jerry's surgery for his left knee injury has not been scheduled yet.

MLB Curtis Lofton leads the Falcons in tackles with 23 while added a forced fumble.

DE John Abraham is very familiar with New England from six seasons with the New York Jets days. He has 10 career sacks against the Patriots, his highest total against any team.

RB Michael Turner rushed for over 100 yards for the ninth time in 19 games with the Falcons last week against Carolina.

OLB Mike Peterson ranks second on the defense with 22 tackles. He has an interception and two forced fumbles.

WR Marty Booker had two big third down catches, including one that went for 27 yards, against the Panthers.

FS Thomas DeCoud has logged 16 tackles (seven solos), one pass defensed and one fumble recovery.

Game Plan:

The Falcons will get another shot to run the ball against a 3-4 defense. They've had trouble in the past and didn't spring Michael Turner against Miami in the season opener. He went over 100 yards rushing last week against the Panthers. They will have to run the ball against the Patriots in order to keep Tom Brady from attacking their secondary.

Matchups To Watch:

Patriots NT Vince Wilfork, who is massive at 325 pounds, vs. Falcons C Todd McClure, who will get some help from guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl. In order to get the running game going, the Falcons will have to start with moving Wilfork out of the trenches.

Falcons DE John Abraham vs. Patriot OTs Nick Kaczur and Matt Light. Abraham is familiar with the Patriots. He had two sacks in the opener, but was shut out last week. His ability to help get pressure on Tom Brady will be a key to the Falcons attack. Abraham will move around, but will rush primarily for the right side.

Falcons CB Brian Williams vs. Patriots WR Randy Moss. The Falcons will use a combination of zone and man coverages. Williams will try to get physical with Moss. Williams will likely have help over the top from either strong safety Erik Coleman or free safety Thomas DeCoud.

Injury Impact:

DT Peria Jerry (knee) is out for the season.

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