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Falcons Team Report


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Falcons Team Report

Updated: October 01, 2010 03:48 EST


The Falcons have played the run well early in the season and have only allowed three touchdown passes.

The unit was targeted for major improvement this offseason and so far it looks like it will be a much improved unit.

If you take away two mistakes which resulted in touchdown runs of 50 and 80 yards, the Falcons defense would be giving up just 58 yards a game.

The pass defense, which was 28th in the league last season, did give up 365 yards last week in the 27-24 victory over New Orleans, but it did not give up touchdown catches in two of three games.

At the center of the defensive rebirth is middle linebacker Curtis Lofton.

"He is the quarterback of the defense in terms of making calls and making checks," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Our system relies heavily on making adjustments."

The defense will get a challenge from San Francisco, which has switched offensive coordinators.

"We'll just look at what they did in the past three games and guess on what they are going to do," Lofton said. "They have a lot of weapons and I'm pretty sure they are going to try to get the ball into their weapons' hands."

The Falcons were strong against the run last season, finishing 10th in the league.

"The first goal going into every game is to stop the run," linebacker Mike Peterson said.

Against the Saints, Peterson had a key stop of Chris Ivory on a fourth-and-1. He popped him in the hole and caused a fumble.

"When it's fourth down, fourth-and-1 you have to take a shot," Peterson said. "You can make a good play on the guy, but instead he'll fall forward for the first down. Sometimes you have to take a shot and sell out. The d-line was able to do their job and keep the blocks off of me. My job was to make the play."

Peterson is the veteran of the linebacking corps.

"I'm just been trying to teach them everything I know," Peterson said. "I had to just show the guys the way and how it's supposed to be done. As well as learn the defense. I think it's been a little easier because they are like sponge balls. They take it in. You've got to be coachable. It's a two-way street. I can teach them everything I know, but they have to be accepting of it. All of them have. That's made it easier and made my transition easier."


--Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are 14-3 at the Georgia Dome, including an eight-game winning streak.

Currently, the Falcons rank tied for the second best home record since 2008 with their 14-3 mark. Only Minnesota and New England (15) have won more games at home during that span.

Indianapolis also has 14 wins over that period and there six teams tied with 13 wins.

--The Falcons are second in the league rushing at 160.3 per game. "We've been able to have such success on the ground, really just wearing people down," left guard Justin Blalock said.

"That's something we believe that we can do, with our stable of running backs and our guys up front. We're putting everything together. I think the last two weeks, we've seen a little of what we're capable of."

Atlanta running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling have combined to rush for more than 175 yards in each of the last two games.

"It's just really up to us to put ourselves in position to work it, to be in a situation to run down the clock," Blalock said.

--Defensive end John Abraham is off to a good start with two sacks this season.

He now has 38 sacks as a Falcon. Abraham ranks seventh on the Falcons all-time sacks list and sits just .5 sacks behind Don Smith, who totaled 38.5 in six seasons from 1979-84.

--Coach Mike Smith has shown that he has faith in his offense when facing fourth down situations.

Since 2008, the Falcons rank sixth in the NFL with a 61 percent conversion rate on fourth down, converting 25 of 41 attempts.

This season, the Falcons have converted three of five fourth down attempts, including two on one crucial 19-play scoring drive in a Week 3 win over the Saints.

Last season, Atlanta finished the year ranked fourth in the NFL in fourth down efficiency, converting 16 of 23 attempts for a 69.6 percentage.

"That's coach, he believes in us," Smith said. "It builds the confidence and gets the momentum going for the offense. We have to keep pushing and fighting. We had to fight for everything we got out there. It was a great win."

--Falcons have scored a league-high 61 points in the red zone.

Not counting Ryan's four kneeldowns at the end of the Falcons win over the Cardinals, Atlanta has scored on all 11 of its red zone drives, including seven touchdowns.

The Falcons have scored four times on passes and three times on the ground, while kicker Matt Bryant has added four field goals.

The Falcons are followed by Indianapolis (58), Tennessee (56) and San Diego (53).

BY THE NUMBERS: 61 -- Points score on 12 trips inside of the red zone.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to love it, man, because it speaks volumes about the team. Keep the chains moving. Our O-linemen, they're doing a good job, just pushing guys off the ball, getting yards. And our backs are doing a good job breaking tackles and things like that. If we can continue to do this, continue to keep going like this, we'll be all right." -- WR Roddy White on the team's 12 drives of nine plays of more, including a 19-play drive against the Saints.


Strong safety William Moore, the team's second-round draft pick in 2009, has played well in two starts. He is playing in relief of Erik Coleman, who's missed the last two games with a left knee injury.

Moore has been solid in coverage and has come up strong in run support.

When Coleman returns to good health, it appears the coaching staff will have a decision to make on the starter at that position.


--WR Michael Jenkins (shoulder) is doing more in practice, and is closer to returning to action.

--FS Erik Coleman (knee) suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain, coach Mike Smith revealed. He is close to returning also.

--WR Roddy White had 210 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the 45-10 rout of San Francisco last season.

--FS Thomas DeCoud had his fourth career interception against New Orleans.

--RB Michael Turner rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against the Saints.

GAME PLAN: The Falcons are lopsided in the passing game with Roddy White having 25 receptions and tight end Tony Gonzalez 12.

Michael Jenkins has missed the first three games. The three receivers who are taking his snaps have combined for 13 catches. Harry Douglas has six receptions, Eric Weems has four and Brian Finneran has three and the only touchdown catch from the trio.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: 49ers TE Vernon Davis, who is the team's leading receiver, vs. Falcons SLB Sean Weatherspoon, the rookie who is leading the defense in tackles -- Davis is the 49ers main weapon in the passing attack. He has wide receiver speed and can get open deep. He's also adept at working the middle of the field. Weatherspoon has 27 tackles and has been solid in coverage.

49ers RB Frank Gore, who is off to a slow start this season, vs. Falcons MLB Curtis Lofton, who anchors the defense -- Gore was held to 43 yards rushing by the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Gore has rushed for 197 yards and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The Falcons are giving up just 101.3 yards rushing per game, but if you take out the 50-yard run by Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall and the 80-yard run by Tim Hightower, that average drops to 58 yards per game.

49ers RT Anthony Davis, who was part of unit that gave up five sacks to Kansas City, vs. DE John Abraham, who has two sacks this season -- Abraham will move from the right to the left sides through the game in order to generate mismatches. He will spend most of the day going against Joe Staley from the right side, but he is certain to get some snaps on the rookie.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Michael Jenkins (shoulder) returned to practice, but is being brought along slowly.

--FS Erik Coleman suffered a left knee injury against Pittsburgh and has not returned to practice.

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