Return of injured players could help Falcons' struggling pass defense

Posted Oct. 26, 2010 @ 2:27 a.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Falcons head coach Mike Smith passed on a chance to question Raheem Morris' declaration that the Buccaneers are the best team in the NFC when he was asked about it at his press conference Monday.

While Atlanta almost collapsed vs. Cincinnati on Sunday — it blew a 21-point lead before coming back to win 39-32 — Atlanta (5-2), not Tampa Bay (4-2), holds the best record in the NFC and has a bye in Week Eight. The Falcons will host the Bucs in Week Nine.

Smith did say he and his staff will spend the next couple of days critiquing the Falcons' performance through seven games.

"My biggest thing is that we want to see improvement each and every week," Smith said. "Some games we've taken steps backwards in some areas, but the bye week gives us an opportunity to evaluate what we need to get better at. Some of it's obvious and some of it may not be as obvious.

"But over the next 48 hours as a coaching staff we're going to spend a lot of time self-scouting everything that we do and get an opportunity to work on that on Wednesday and Thursday (at practice)."

The PFW spin

One of the things Smith and his staff will likely assess is how they are defending the pass. The Falcons rank 28th in pass defense and are allowing 260.3 yards per game through the air.

After showing signs of improvement in that area earlier this season — the Falcons held teams to 211 passing yards or fewer in three of their first four games — they have been torched by quarterbacks in back-to-back contests. Bengals QB Carson Palmer completed 36-of-50 passes for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Week Seven, and Eagles QB Kevin Kolb lit them up for 326 yards passing and three TDs one week earlier.

Part of the problem could be that key defenders have been sidelined by injuries. Atlanta was playing without its top cornerback, Dunta Robinson, who is recovering from a concussion, on Sunday, and OLB Sean Weatherspoon (knee) has missed the last two games. FS Thomas DeCoud left Sunday's game with 3:17 left in the first quarter with a head injury.

Smith said Robinson has been cleared to practice, but it sounds as though he has yet to be cleared to play in a game by an independent neurologist.

The bye week comes at a good time for those three players, and Atlanta has to hope their return — all could play in Week Nine — will help patch some of the holes that have appeared in defending the pass.