No one expected the Atlanta Falcons to start the season at 1-2, but a combination of problems, which includes protection issues, an inexperienced secondary and an injury to Steven Jackson are all combining for a very disappointing start.
Just last season, the Falcons finished 13-3, tied for the best in the NFL, and were about 10 yards away from going to the Super Bowl as the 49ers managed to hang on with a defensive stand while Matt Ryan and his bruised ribs couldn’t get the ball in the endzone.
Michael Turner was one big problem for the team last season, so Steven Jackson was brought along to revive the running game and give Matt Ryan an extra weapon on a team with plenty of talented receivers in Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones.
So far, it hasn’t been working. Jackson had a strong performance in the loss to the New Orleans Saints with 77 rushing yards and 50 more as a receiver, but he lasted only 3 rushing attempts against the St. Louis Rams before his day was over. How long? It began as a three week estimate, but after the loss to the Miami Dolphins, in which the Falcons ran for a fantastic 146 yards, it seems that his healing factor isn’t going to suddenly kick in out of nowhere.
The problem for the Falcons wasn’t getting yards – it was getting into the end zone, as they had to settle for field goals three times, twice from less than 35 yards, as the combination of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling had no problem moving up the field, but both of them aren’t a third-back kind of guy, and couldn’t bring the punching power needed for when a big back like Jackson is needed.
Next game against the Patriots? Jackson isn’t going to be there. Monday Night football afterwards against the New York Jets? Probably not as well. Then comes a bye week before a division game vs the Bucs. Maybe Jackson will be ready for that game, when we’re already in week 7.
Meanwhile, the Falcons need to find out what’s wrong with their secondary. They’re ranked 25th in the NFL when it comes to pass-defense, allowing 296 yards per game, including 236 yards against Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins. They had no problem sacking the quarterback (five times), but once the defensive line doesn’t get the pass rush to hit the quarterback, the Falcons are pretty exposed downfield. Steven Jackson or no, that’s a whole different problem they have to fix if they’re to catch up with the Saints.