Another week gone by, another loss, another starter injured. The Atlanta Falcons cannot catch a break this year. Last Sunday, they lost 37-36 on an AJ Green touchdown with 7 seconds to go in the game. The Falcons got lit up by Andy Dalton and company last week and face a similar style foe this week as they head to Pittsburgh. As we search for our second victory of the season, the defense will need to key on a few things
Stopping AB and Juju
Last week, Atlanta’s Secondary got torched for 330 yards. Ben Roethlisberger is averaging 353.5 yards per game this season. About 172 of those yards are directed towards Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. With inexperienced safeties over top, once again Dan Quinn is going to need to rely on both Robert Alfort and Desmond Trufant to limit both of them. The key to doing so, is keeping these speedsters in front of them. Keeping them out of the end zone and away from big plays will greatly help limit their production. Roethlisberger loves to stretch the field, but staying over the top with a little safety help can prevent this. If Atlanta can keep these guys on underneath routes all day, the Falcons can win this shootout.
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Big Ben is known for playing his best at home. Taking down the steel curtain in Pittsburgh is a tough thing to do. In order for Atlanta to bring home the victory they need to limit Roethlisberger’s time in the pocket. Takk McKinley had three sacks last week and the Falcons just signed veteran Michael Bennett, so the pass rush should be improving. Unfortunately, another starter in Grady Jarrett is out indefinitely. Bennett can help fill his role. However, tackling Roethlisberger might be harder than bringing down Cam Newton. Big Ben stands at six feet, five inches and two hundred forty pounds. Atlanta’s poor tackling issues will need to disappear if they plan on getting Big Ben to the ground on Sunday.
Staying Fresh and Communicating
As the Falcons defense continues to get more and more depleted every week, it is crucial that this team stays healthy and does not lose anymore important guys. A key to doing that is getting off the field quick this week. I am not too worried about the run game, so hopefully the guys in the trenches can stay healthy. But, Pittsburgh’s strong suit is the passing game and I expect our secondary to be gassed if every drive lasts more than eight plays. Dan Quinn has made an effort to improve this defense’s communication as a whole this week by making the sound around practice much more quiet. This young team lacks depth and will need to be communicating all around for best production, especially the safety unit.
In what looks destined to be a shootout, I am afraid Pittsburgh has more pieces on the defensive side to stop Atlanta on a few drives. I expect this game to honestly reach the forties, possibly on both sides. Sadly, I can see Matt Ryan and company being on the losing side of another shootout, if their defense can’t make a big play.