Falcons look to turn things around in second half


The halfway mark of the 2014 season is here and the Falcons are not where they want to be in terms of win-loss record. They are 2-6 on the year and have currently lost their last five games. However, with all the bad that is happening with the franchise right now, they are only two games out of the NFC South lead which is currently held by New Orleans.

So why are the Falcons struggling and can they have a second-half surge and sneak their way into the playoffs?

One of the reasons the Falcons are struggling this season is the same reason they won only four games last year. The defense has not played up to their standards. They currently rank 30th in pass defense, 24th, in rushing defense and 28th in scoring defense.

The biggest thing the Falcons defense needs to improve on is rushing the quarterback. They have only tallied seven sacks which ranks 31st in the league. Jonathan Massaquoi is the only player that has more than one sack as he has tallied two. Another thing that has hurt the Falcons’ defense is they are letting teams convert 46 percent on third down, which is 26th worst in the league. That goes along with the sack total because the Buffalo Bills are only letting teams convert 36 percent on third downs and they lead the NFL with 28 sacks.

But the offense has not played up to their potential as well. They do rank seventh in the league in passing offense and they also average 24 points per game. But when it comes to the fourth quarter, they are only averaging three points per game, and they have only scored seven points in the fourth quarter in the last four games.

So how can the Falcons turn things around? The first thing they need to do is find stability on the offensive and defensive line. The Falcons offensive line has been decimated by injuries as they have lost five players to seasons-ending injuries. The Falcons need to keep the offensive line the way that is right now and hope that no more injuries hit the group moving forward.

As for the defensive line, a player, or two, needs to step up and be the dominant pass rusher. Massaquoi is the one player on the defensive line that could be the leader when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback, but they will need Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson to be more aggressive in the passing game.

Also, the Falcons need more production the run game. The only average 95 yards per game and not one player has yet to rush for 100 yards this year. Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman are talented players that have good intangibles, but two of those for will need to get the bulk of the carries to make the run game more stable.

If there are two players to watch moving forward, it’s Matt Ryan and Paul Worrilow. Despite the constant pressure Ryan sees game in and game out, but he’s on pace to throw close to 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. And Worrilow has not made any game-changing plays this season, but he’s third in the NFL in tackles and he’s projected to have 156 tackles, four forced fumbles and two sacks.

It will not be an easy road for the Falcons as their next two games will be road contest with Tampa Bay and Carolina. They will then have two consecutive home games with Cleveland and Arizona who has the best record in the NFC. The Falcons will then travel to Green Bay for a Monday night game, come back home to play Pittsburgh and finish the season with a road game against New Orleans and a home contest against Carolina.

Head coach Mike Smith is in a position he’s not used to and that’s playing the chasing game. It’s not a fun game, but what’s also not fun is sitting at home in January and that’s something the Falcons don’t want to do for the second consecutive season.

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