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http://sports.yahoo.com/news/team-report-atlanta-falcons-194317990--nfl.html

Team Report - ATLANTA FALCONS

19 hours agoThe SportsXchange



INSIDE SLANT

The Atlanta Falcons need help along the offensive and defensive lines.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes the 2014 NFL draft in strong in the team's obvious need areas.

The Falcons, at 2-9, are in contention for the top overall pick and appear destined for at least a top 10 pick.

"Now moving forward on to (2014), there are some really hot positions out there right, interestingly enough, along both fronts, again, which is rare to have two seasons in a row that there a number of defensive linemen out there as well as a number of offensive linemen that are going to be difference makers," Dimitroff said. "So, that's a positive."

The Falcons attempt to revamp the offensive line, as they tried to get bigger and more athletic, has been a failure.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has been under extreme duress all season and the rushing attack has been meek. Ryan has been sacked 24 times and hit 69 times. He's also been hurried on more than 100 other attempts.

The meek line has reduced the Falcons to a passing team that can't pass protect.

Defensively, the Falcons have not been able to stop the run or mount much of a pass rush. They give up 130 yards rushing per game, which ranks 28th and only have 22 sacks, which ranks 27th in the league.

"I believe again given the fact that there are going to be players out there that are going to be impact players, again, it's going to be up to us and our scouting staff and our coaching staff to discern which are going to be the best fits for us and how many we in fact do take," Dimitroff said.

Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, would be a good fit for the Falcons.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney could also boost their anemic pass rush.

Also, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is an intriguing prospect with play-making potential.

With victories by Tampa Bay and Jacksonville on Sunday, the Falcons are solidly in the race for the No. 1 overall draft pick for 2014.

Atlanta, Jacksonville and Houston are all tied at 2-9 for the worst record in the league. Minnesota is a half-game back at 2-8-1, ahead of Washington (3-8) and Tampa Bay (3-8).

There is a pack of four-win teams in Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland and the New York Giants.

The Falcons flipped out almost 36 percent of their opening day roster, were hit by a rash of injuries and some players - young ones and veterans - have underperformed creating the perform storm that led from the Falcons' fall from Super Bowl contender to potentially the worst team in the league.

"Play makers are on your team to make plays," Dimitroff said. "That's the way it is. Hands down. You pay them to make plays. ...That's something that we've had struggles with this year and challenges.

"Your play makers have to step up and make the big catch, make the big interception, make the big sacks, make the big blocks."

The Falcons may have whiffed on center Peter Konz, a second round pick in 2012. He's been benched as the center and was yanked against Tampa Bay from his starting left guard spot.

"This is not an exact art putting together a team and evaluating talent," Dimitroff said. "It's just not that simple to say you're going to hit on a guy or miss on a guy."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has publicly stated his support for Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith.

"I think 2013 is season that will be looked back upon as a very contemplative over-analyzed season for us," Dimitroff said. "We'll be looking at all areas across the organization. Not only, obviously personnel, (but) across the entire organization.

"It's about evaluating everyone starting from me at the top. I've mentioned that. How are we going to approach, direct and re-direct. . .this just isn't about, in my mind, the things that have changed. I've mention this in recent meetings. This is also about the things that haven't changed."

He calls it "productive vulnerability" that has led to the Falcons downfall.

SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Falcons lead SERIES, 6-4. The last meeting was a 31-3 Atlanta victory on Dec. 27, 2009. The last home Buffalo game was a 24-16 win by Atlanta in Sept. 25, 2005.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Falcons, turning over every stone to improve their offensive line, moved tackle Terren Jones from the practice squad to the 53-man active roster Tuesday.

To make room from Jones the Falcons waived wide receiver Brian Robiskie.

Jones, 6-foot-7, 341 pounds, was signed as a college free agent following the 2013 NFL draft. He was a three-time All-SWAC performer and an AFCA All-American following his senior season at Alabama State.

Robiskie, 6-4, 212 pounds, was originally selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round (36th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Ohio State University. He was signed by the Falcons as a free agent on October 10, 2013.

The Falcons signed wide receiver Dominique Croom, who played at Central Arkansas, to the practice squad.

--SPOON HOPES TO SPARK DEFENSE: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon believes Atlanta's defense can step up its level of play over the last five games.

"It's no fun to lose, but everybody had moments where it was fun," Weatherspoon said, citing how the team held the Saints to 17 points last week. "We have to get more and more of that. That will leave you with that feeling that you want to do a little bit more."

Yet it was the defense that wasn't able to stop the Saints' on their last drive and get the ball back for the offense. Atlanta lost 17-13.

"It was tough," Weatherspoon said. "We didn't stop the run there at the end. When (coach Mike Smith) gives us a chance, we have to go out there and man up. They were able to move the ball on us and they hit a pass on us that was kind of demoralizing and everything. But take the positive and learn from the negative."

--The Falcons have discussed handling momentum swings better.

"Momentum is such a big part of the game," linebacker Paul Worrilow said. "It's always a pivotal factor."

The defense is hoping that it can repeat the fast start it had against New Orleans when the Falcons face Buffalo, which features a rookie quarterback in EJ Manuel.

"We came out with tons of energy (against the Saints), came down hill and showed that we wanted to get after them," Worrilow said.

The Falcons didn't use many gimmicks against the Saints.

"We still ran a lot of our base stuff," Worrilow said. "We didn't get out of hand with it. We just stayed discipline with our eyes and our keys."

--After four sound losses to Arizona, Carolina, Seattle and Tampa Bay, the Falcons were competitive against the Saints before losing by four points.

"You don't want to talk about a moral victory, but we did get better," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We didn't come away with the win, but we got better as a team and I think it showed."

--The Falcons' game against Green Bay set for Dec. 8 at Lambeau Field has been moved out of the primetime 8:30 p.m. slot and shifted to 1 p.m. NBC will show the Carolina-New Orleans game, which could determine who succeeds the Falcons as NFC South champions. Fox had the option of putting the flexed-out game in its 4:25 p.m. slot, but passed on the Packers, who are 5-5-1 and without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the 2-9 Falcons.

The Falcons will play San Francisco on Monday Night Football on Dec. 23, their last national television appearance this season.

--Former Falcons kicker Morten Andersen was among the semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014. The Hall of Fame's selection committee chose the 25 modern-era semifinalists from the previously announced list of 126 nominees.

Also, the Seniors Committee nominees, who were announced in August, include punter Ray Guy (1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders) and defensive end Claude Humphrey (1968-1978 Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles).

BY THE NUMBERS: 74.7 -- Falcons average 74.7 yards rushing per game, which ranks 31st in the league.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Play makers are on your team to make plays. That's the way it is. Hands down. You pay them to make plays. ... That's something that we've had struggles with this year and challenges." -- Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on some of under-performing veterans.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Falcons are encouraged by the play of Joe Hawley, who has stabilized the center position.

Now, they can focus on the troublesome right guard and right tackle slots.

Hawley helped the run game against New Orleans, when the Falcons rushed for 91 yards, their third-highest output of the season. He and left guard Justin Blalock opened the way to the end zone on Steven Jackson 1-yard leap.

"Joe is a very active player," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He's an athletic center, a little bit under-sized. But I thought that his play the last two weeks has been good."

Hawley has displaced Peter Konz, a second-year player who started the first nine games at center.

"Joe has been around here longer, so he's heard the schematics of what we want to do offensively," Smith said.

Hawley played all 68 offensive snaps against New Orleans and all 71 plays the weekend before against Tampa Bay. Against the Saints, Hawley didn't give up sack, hit or a quarterback hurry, according to profootballfocus.com. Against the Bucs, he gave up one hurry and one hit.

"It has felt good," the fourth-year lineman said. "The games are the fun part. Getting out there and being able to play again was a lot of fun for me."

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Darius Johnson was having the game of his life against the Saints as an audience on NFL Network watched. And then he made a crucial error that assured that play, and not his highlights, was what they remembered. The wide receiver's fumble in the red zone cost the Falcons a chance at the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The play loomed large after Atlanta's 17-13 defeat. The mistake overshadowed Johnson's six catches for 67 yards, both highs for his young career.

--QB Matt Ryan, much to the dismay of several fans, with the Falcons trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter against the Saints, elected to slide on a third-and-10 instead of trying to barge into the end zone for a touchdown. Ryan did a nifty job of eluding pressure and got down at the 6-yard line. He appeared to have enough room to make it to the 3, where he would have had to fly over or power through a couple of defenders. "It was early in the game," Ryan said. "You've got to take the points. You've got to make the right play. I felt like that was the right play."

--TE Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 43 yards against the Saints. He extended his streak of games with a reception to 206, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history. He now has exactly 13,000 receptions over his stellar 17-year career. Gonzalez broke his own NFL record, posting his 16th straight season with at least 50 receptions. Gonzalez also joined wide receiver Jerry Rice (17) as the only two players in NFL history to post 16 seasons with 50-plus catches.

--WR Roddy White had just two catches for 24 yards. He had not more than 45 yards receiving in the seven games that he's played this season as he's battled a high ankle sprain and hamstring injury.

--WR Harry Douglas had nine catches for 79 yards against the Saints. He has three 100-yard games on the season and leads the team in catches with 60 and receiving yards with 833 yards.

--DE Osi Umenyiora leads the Falcons in sacks with 6.5. He has posted 82.5 career sacks and ranks eighth in the NFL among active players in career sacks.

--RB Steven Jackson rushed for 63 yards on 16 carries against the Saints, both were season highs.

INJURY IMPACT

--DE Malliciah Goodman (strained calf) has not played in the last two games. He returned to practice on Wednesday and was limited.

--LB Akeem Dent (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Buffalo.

--TE Tony Gonzalez (toe) was limited in practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Buffalo.

--FS/SS Zeke Motta (hand) was limited in practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Buffalo.

--CB Desmond Trufant (thigh) was limited in practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Buffalo.

--LB Sean Weatherspoon (shoulder) was limited in practice on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Buffalo.

GAME PLAN: Falcons coach Mike Smith said the team has to consider some scheme changes and tilt the offense more toward the run against Buffalo.

The Bills are tied for the league lead in sacks with 37. The Falcons pass protection has been shaky all season.

Smith believes that the Falcons can help the line out by successfully running the ball.

The Falcons enjoyed some moderate success against the Saints as they rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries. It was their third-highest output of the season.

The Falcons have averaged attempting 40 passes a game, but need to reduce that number in order to help out the offensive line.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Falcons LT Lamar Holmes, a second-year man from Southern Mississippi, vs. Bills DT Mario Williams, who's turning in a stellar season -- Holmes plays has smooth out a bit after a bumpy start. He's hustling and fighting much harder, but will need some help with Williams, one of the game's premier pass rushers. Williams' 11 sacks are tied for third in the NFL withKansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston. Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis has 14.5 sacks and St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn has 13. The Bills' single-season team record for sacks is 19 by Bruce Smith in 1990. Smith's second-best total was 15 in 1986. Bryce Paup had 17.5 sacks for the Bills in 1995. Williams is three sacks away from his career-high set back in 2007 while with Houston.

--Falcons LB Paul Worrilow, who continues to shine, vs. Bills RB C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills duo rushing threats -- Worrilow has been a tackling machine since being inserted into the lineup. He even had a big breakthrough against the Saints. He diagnosed a run and dropped Pierre Thomas for a 3-yard loss. The Falcons must slow down Jackson and Spiller, both of whom have rushed for more than 500 yards. Jackson has 591 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Spiller has 507 yard and one touchdown.

--Falcons RB Steven Jackson, who had 63 yards rushing in his last outing, vs. Bills LB Kiko Alonso, a rookie of the year candidate -- The Falcons want to run the ball against Buffalo's stout defensive front because they don't want see the pass rush unleashed all afternoon. Attempting their average of 40 passes a game is not a formula for success. Jackson, who missed four games with a hamstring injury, has yet to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. Alonso, a rookie from Oregon who was taken in the second round of the draft (46th overall), is second in the league with 112 tackles and has four interceptions.

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Holmes is up against Mario. Bloodbath.

That will be a disaster.....Perhaps somebody, who was laughing about Clabo after Bills/Fins, will stop laughing.

mario had a bad year last year, but this year he is Top 3 DE. He is crushing pockets even against the best Tackles and now Holmes, who is always tired after three quarters....

White Flage!

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We have 22 sacks?!?!?

But..but...but... Didn't you read what TD said? It's hit and miss drafting for the lines. I know it makes no sense to have serviceable vets as insurance, especially when you have backups the likes of ummmmmm??????????? Oh well at this rate we will have a gun OL and DL in about 25 years

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