Atlanta Falcons: How to Get Back to Good in 2nd Half


The Atlanta Falcons have struggled of late, but are at 6-3 in the Week 10 bye. How does the team get back to playing like a playoff team in the second half?

Your Atlanta Falcons will not play a game today or tomorrow night, as the club is on their annual bye in Week 10. It is a time to rest, recover and re-evaluate. What went well in the first half? What can the team do to improve? What, frankly, does the team just have to make do with?

Sitting at 6-3 should feel better than it does, but when the team lost 3 of its last 5 games in what was the easiest part of their schedule, then the frustrations are understandable. In my eyes, if the Atlanta Falcons go 4-3 in their final 7 games, then the Dirty Birds should make the NFC Playoffs as either Wild Card team. Either Carolina has to tumble or Atlanta has to skyrocket to win the NFC South in 2015, as the Panthers are 8-0.

-= Related: Atlanta Falcons: Injuries or Shanahan the Problem? =-

Looking back on the first half, the Atlanta Falcons do many things well that makes me believe this will end up being a playoff team. The running game is the best it’s been in 4 years. Matt Ryan, though we think he’s struggling, is actually having a Top 10 season at quarterback in the NFL. That is due in large part to Julio Jones having a historic receiving. The guy could in theory have 2,000 receiving yards in 2015.

More from ATL All Day

On defense, the Falcons do a good job of stuffing the run. The secondary is growing better by the game. It hasn’t allowed 200 yards passing in three weeks. When was the last time that happened with the Dirty Birds. Most importantly, the defense seems to play its best ball late in games to always give the team a chance to win the game with a key stop or turnover.

The special teams has been good, but not great this year. Matt Bryant has missed a few field goals. Matt Bosher hits some booming punts, but does hold on to the ball a little too long. Eric Weems had a great game against the 49ers in an otherwise pedestrian return game in 2015. Perhaps we went into 2015 with unrealistic expectations with STC Keith Armstrong’s unit.

On the other side of the coin, the Atlanta Falcons some areas of struggle that the team may not overcome in 2015. The elephant in the room in that regard is the pass rush. The Falcons have 10.0 sacks in 9 games. Where is the pass rush? Atlanta doesn’t do a great job defending the 8-13 yard pass, lacks the dynamism in the return game, and is still dealing with the growing pains of an entirely new offense. Those seem like season long issues in some capacity. So what is the club to do to improve in the second half?

To me, the two most important aspects for the Atlanta Falcons to improve are simply factors of time: get healthier and gain continuity. Atlanta is a significantly deeper team than last year, but if they want to make a playoff push, the best players need to play as often as possible. The Falcons have not had great health in the secondary, with the linebackers, and in the receiving corps for most of the regular season.

More from Atlanta Falcons

Continuity is a big part of it, as Atlanta is in its first year with a new coaching staff. The 4-3 Under defense of Dan Quinn is infinitely better than last year’s, but still isn’t rock solid. Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast offense is vastly different from what Dirk Koetter ran in Atlanta the last few years. More reps in the system will only make this team more comfortable and therefore better because of it.

Outside of those two obvious areas of improvement over time, I think Atlanta should consider doing these three things to see if they help in the second half: 1. Prioritize WR Roddy White more in passing progressions. 2. Get creative with the pass rush. 3. Try to win the first quarter.

It seems that in Shanahan’s offensive scheme that he uses the slot and the tight end more than he does the other outside receiver. Many times, Ryan has to settle for a check down to Devonta Freeman before he can read all his progressions and deliver the ball to Roddy White.

Live Feed

Falcons vs. Panthers prediction, odds, spread, injuries, trends for NFL Week 15
Falcons vs. Panthers prediction, odds, spread, injuries, trends for NFL Week 15 /

Blogging Dirty

  • Every NFL Team's Playoff Odds Following Week 14 (Two New Division Leaders in NFC)Betsided
  • NFC South Odds: Who Will Win the Worst Division in Football?Betsided
  • Atlanta Falcons have yet another chance to slip back into playoff picture Blogging Dirty
  • NFL Week 15 Survivor Pool Picks (Trust Rams, Fade Panthers in Top Predictions)Betsided
  • Road to 272 Bets - NFL Week 15 Picks for Every Game Betsided
  • When the tight end position yielded nothing last year, Koetter would put White in the slot and WR Harry Douglas, the traditional slot receiver, on the outside and it worked wonderfully. White could play possession receiver and Douglas could use his wheels to make plays on the outside. I’d like to see Shanahan do that when Leonard Hankerson returns. From his time in Washington, I know that Hank can stretch the field vertically.

    The pass rush still seems like it needs one more year before it can really do anything. Dan Quinn doesn’t like to send more than four pass rushers in any given situation. However, I thought the play call to send Vic Beasley into coverage through the 49ers off a bit, as Beasley picked off Blaine Gabbert in the 4th Quarter.

    Perhaps sending either Beasley or LB Philip Wheeler back into coverage and blitzing a defensive back could confuse the defense enough to generate a more formidable pass rush. It seems like the offense knows exactly what is coming most times from the pass rush, so here’s to getting creative more often in the second half.

    Next: Julio Jones: 2,000 Receiving Yards Possible in 2015?

    Last and certainly not least, try to win the game in the onset. Go into the first quarter guns a-blazing and trounce an opponent 21-0 in the first quarter, just like the team did against Houston at home. It’s so much easier to not play from behind all the time. The 2015 Atlanta Falcons do a great job of coming back, but controlling the game from the opening kickoff sounds like a good idea going forward.

    Hopefully the Atlanta Falcons have rectified some issues this week and is beyond amped up to play the Indianapolis Colts at home next Sunday, who won’t have Andrew Luck (lacerated kidney). Rise Up!