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Falcons Better Rush To It


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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- To say Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith isn't pleased with the pass rush through two games would be an understatement.

How could Smith be anything but discouraged after watching his team become the only one in the league to fail to record a sack after two games? One player got close, but defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux had a sack taken away by a defensive penalty versus New Orleans. And Babineaux is the only Falcon to record a quarterback hit, but that play still resulted in a 76-yard touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to receiver Mohamed Sanu in Sunday's 24-10 win by Cincinnati.

"We've got to put more pressure on the quarterback," Smith said. "It's not where we want to be after the first two games. And I think it has translated into us not playing the type of defense that we want. We haven't been able to pressure the quarterback, nor have we been able to stop the run. And those are two issues that we definitely have to address and get better at."

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wasn't too discouraged after the season opener -- won by the Falcons 37-34 in overtime -- because he knew it would be tough to get after Saints quarterback Drew Brees with his quick release and tremendous footwork. In fact, Nolan admitted trashing some of his planned pressures in that game as a result of Brees' expertise and bad matchups.

The Falcons showed a little more push against the Bengals, but not nearly enough. Defensive tackle Corey Peters was close to getting a sack, but the end result was Dalton's checkdown to running back Giovani Bernard for a 46-yard pickup. Then when Nolan sent the all-out blitz early in the third quarter with the Bengals facing third-and-6, that's when Dalton found Sanu for the long touchdown as Robert Alford's attempt to knock the ball away failed.

Coming into the season, the Falcons figured the additions of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson as run-stuffers and the switch to more of a 3-4 look against the run would help put opponents in undesirable, third-and-long situations, allowing Nolan to be creative with his pressures. The Falcons also figured adding tough-minded Bryan Cox as the defensive line coach would bring out more fight in the pass-rushers.

Such hasn't been the case.

Those pass-rush woes are part of the reason the Falcons are tied for 29th out of 32 teams in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 51.85 percent through the first two games. And the Falcons have surrendered a league-worst 6.79 yards per play.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant admirably said if the defensive backs cover better, then the Falcons could get after the quarterback better. Give Trufant credit for again trying to absorb some of the blame, but that's not the issue.

Veteran designated pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora was asked about what has gone so wrong with the pass rush.

"Too early to say," he said. "Pass rush will always be about stopping the run first. We haven't done a good enough job of that. We just need to keep working hard.

"We have very good pass-rushers on the team. It's very early, and I'm sure things will fall in place as far as the rush is concerned."

Maybe Thursday night's home matchup against NFC South opponent Tampa Bay will help the Falcons find their footing. Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown has been sacked four times this season and his offensive line isn't exactly intimidating. But the Falcons have to be aware of McCown's mobility. And they, of course, have to shut down the run, with Bobby Rainey coming off a 144-yard rushing performance in Week 2. Rainey had a career-high 163 rushing yards against the Falcons in Tampa last season while also scoring three touchdowns in that game.

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Guest facelessman07

"And those are two issues we definitely have to address and get better at."

So ******* tired of hearing that after each lackluster Falcons performance.

In all fairness to Smitty he's only been saying that for about 6 years now so it's not like it's been an eternity

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I don't want to hear that "we didn't get the outcome that we wanted" when thursday's final whistle has sounded.

It's funny because I'm seeing some of the same "Falcons will blow them out" posts I saw last week before they played the Bengals.

It could happen. The Bucs certainly aren't anywhere near as good as the Bengals. I don't think they're as good as the Falcons....but Rainey can run, and the Falcons can't stop the run....and McCown is mobile and the Falcons have ZERO sacks.

I'm not kidding myself about this game. It could go in either direction.

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we are fine....we just have to figure out what we really have at each position in the front 7...we have a lot of new parts and we haven't settled on anything yet. that offense is more of a concern to me....with so much of the teams resources on that side of the ball, we need to get production week in and week out....its pretty obvious that the defense is gonna struggle....we haven't invested in the defense

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I just don't understand how people thought we would come out and just dominate this year.

We are a catch fire team this year. Get on a hot streak and ride it type of team. We need results for confidence this year.

This team is a work in progress and will be the entire year, what makes this work in progress team exciting is the fact we can put up points with anyone. Sure we had a tough week but it's early.

We need to win the games we are suppose to so we can even be in a position to get hot.

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