The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and CineSport’s Noah Coslov discuss what’s led to Julio Jones’ big numbers, the Falcons’ first half struggles and the challenges ahead against the Texans on Sunday.
1. FALCONS FLIP FLOP. The defense’s flip-flop against Dallas was remarkable.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank, in our little post-game chat in the media room, marveled at how the coaching staff made the adjustments in-game and implemented them quickly against the Cowboys. He was real proud of first-year head coach Dan Quinn and his staff. He was especially grateful for the 73rd birthday present.
Blank hasn’t been that happy post-game in a long time.
The Falcons went from giving up 131 yards rushing in one half to minus-4 in the next half. The turnaround was absolutely amazing.
“One of the great parts about it was that when we went in, there wasn’t a lot of wholesale changes that we had to do differently,” Quinn said. “We did miss nine tackles in the first half, and we ended up with 11. That was really uncomfortable, especially on two of the first three plays which resulted in some really long runs.”
Quinn and the staff will continue to work on the missed tackles. The Falcons missed nine against the Eagles and nine or 10 against the Giants.
“It’s such an important part of what we do,” Quinn said. “We’re just going to try like crazy to be one of the best (fundamentally sound) teams that we can. To have those kinds of misses is something that we know we can get fixed. In the second half, to go from nine to two, I thought was a big jump.”
Quinn likes his boxing analogies. The Falcons took some shots to the mouth and were tasting blood early. But they got back up and finished off the old-school 15-round bout.
“It was a huge swing,” Quinn said. “I thought, give the defensive guys credit for just coming back and saying, ‘Alright, we’re down on the canvas,’ and it was only the first round, knowing that the fight was going to have to go the distance, and it did.”
2. TACKLING DRILLS: Quinn has a plan to fix the tackling issues.
“I think it’s more of the technique,” Quinn said. “When we stop our feet that’s when we get attacked so hard. There’s all this space, and if you stop your feet and the guy restarts, if you’re not closing to the guy, that’s when the missed tackles occur.”
The open-field tackles are important because they can lead to the really big plays.
“In other words, there’s all this space between you and I, and if I don’t keep coming that’s when the missed tackles occur,” Quinn said. “We’re going to keep drilling it like crazy just to get it down exactly right. We’re a leverage based tackling team, so there are so many times that I have someone there that can help, so let’s make sure that we have the details just right.”
3. TOP TACKLERS: Linebacker Justin Durant leads the team with 27 tackles, according to the coaches film analysis.
He’s followed by strong safety William Moore (21), linebacker Paul Worrilow (21), free safety Ricardo Allen (17) and nickel back Phillips Adams (13).
4. COVER 9: Just in case you were wondering, a Cover 9 is about the only defense that might a chance to slow down to Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
5. POWERFUL DEBUT: The Falcons debuted at No. 4 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s NFL power rankings which came out Tuesday morning.
6. THE HAMMER WILL BE IN THE HOUSE: Former Falcons great Jessie “The Hammer” Tuggle will be the team’s honoree on Sunday.
The team is honoring one of their former players at each home game during this 50th anniversary season.
Tuggle, who played 14 season for the Falcons, was a five-time Pro Bowler.
“I don’t know anybody, other than maybe Tommy Nobis, that has meant as much to the Atlanta Falcons organization as Jessie has,” coach Dan Reeves said in announcing Tuggle’s retirement. “I’ve been around a lot of great players, but never around anybody that, on and off the field, represented an organization better than Jessie did.”
Tuggle made the Falcons after signing as an undrafted free agent from Valdosta State in 1987.
He led the NFL in tackles for two years (1990 & 1991) and is the all-time leader in Falcons history with 1,830 career tackles. He also led the Falcons in tackles in 10 of his 14 seasons.
7. ROOKIE SACKS: Falcons’ Vic Beasley Jr. 2.0, Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree 2.0, New Orleans’ Hau’oli Kikaha 2.0, Indianapolis’s Henry Anderson 1.0 and San Francisco’s Arik Armstead 1.0.
Anderson, who played at Stanford, is from Atlanta and played at Woodward Academy.
8. PREDICTION CORNER: Pat yourself on the back if you predicted that the Falcons would start the season 3-0.
The Great D. Orlando the Swami predicted a 1-2 start with losses to Philadelphia and Dallas. (My twitter followers have been sending the screen shots of that great piece of work.)
Quinn give his thoughts on how practically no one in the free world predicted the Falcons would start the season 3-0.
“For us, it feels like we are just taking care of business,” Quinn said. “By going through the process each week, we just want to go into every week and approach every game as a championship game preparation. By allowing us to do that, (Monday) we get all the corrections that we want to get with Dallas, then we move as fast as we can right onto the next opponent.
“That way, there’s not anything that lingers from week-to-week. As far as the start goes, we just kind of try and get right back to the present moment, and see how good we can get this week. That’s really where the focus goes as opposed to this game out and this game out. I honestly don’t look that many games out ahead.”
9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the official depth chart for the Houston game. With the release of Tyler Polumbus, Jake Long is likely to be active this week and will serve as the swing tackle.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 85 Leonard Hankerson, 16 Justin Hardy
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 Jake Long
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 62 James Stone
C 68 Mike Person, 66 Gino Gradkowski
RG 65 Chris Chester, 62 James Stone
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris
TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Mickey Shuler
WR 84 Roddy White, 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 33 Terron Ward
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 99 Adrian Clayborn, 71 Kroy Biermann
DT 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 97 Grady Jarrett
NT 96 Paul Soliai, 95 Jonathan Babineaux
DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 93 Malliciah Goodman
LB 52 Justin Durant, 59 Joplo Bartu
LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 Allen Bradford, 54 Nate Stupar
LB 50 O’Brien Schofield, 56 Brooks Reed
CB 23 Robert Alford, 32 Jalen Collins
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 20 Phillip Adams, 22 Dezmen Southward
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie
S 25 Wiliam Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 39, Cowboys 28