Falcons' run defense has a fire to extinguish

D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Football

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons' defensive house is on fire.

After giving up 172 yards rushing in the season opener, the Falcons (0-1) know they will see a heavy dose of running plays when they face the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"We just have to put the fire out," strong safety Keanu Neal said. The Eagles rushed 31 times for 123 yards in their 32-27 win over the Redskins on Sunday."It's something that we are working on," Falcons linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich said Wednesday. "In the NFL, when you put something on film, the fire is lit. So, we have to put the fire out. It's something we'll definitely see from here on out until we put the fire out. That's what we plan to do."

The Eagles feature running backs Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard, who was acquired in a trade with Chicago, and rookie Miles Sanders, a second-round pick out of Penn State. Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook did most of the damage with some improvisational runs that the Falcons failed to contain and push back to the middle of the field. He finished with 111 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns."

Talking to their running back coach Kennedy Polamalu, he's a good friend of mine, and those plays weren't designed to get outside," Ulbrich said. "It's just that (Cook) kind of went dot, dot, dot. He saw air and just kind of went."

And the Falcons were chasing. "Yeah, we talked about it," Neal said. "We have to do a better job with that. A lot of it is technical things we could have done, technique-wise. Setting edges and things like that. That's everybody on the defense. We have to be better and we will."


Defensive ends Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley were standing up as outside linebackers. The Falcons have been working on the scheme modification for most of the offseason."

We're pros," Neal said. "We know how to work through things. We'll be all right."

Falcons speedy middle linebacker Deion Jones finished with five tackles. If the play gets turned back inside, he would likely have had another five tackles. "Yeah, they drew up some stuff," Jones said. "Like I said, just make corrections quicker. When we did make the corrections. ... But they had kind of did their damage."

Jones also believes the Falcons can quickly fix their run defense. "If you watched the game, there were some real good glimpses of ball, you know what I'm saying," Jones said. "Just some runs here and runs there. Once we get that cleaned up, we're good."


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