Falcons' struggling defense must step up against explosive Packers
This is not exactly the way the Atlanta Falcons hoped to go into their rematch with the Green Bay Packers. You remember the 48-21 divisional playoff rout by Green Bay at the Georgia Dome nine months ago, when the Packers scored touchdowns every time they touched the ball in the second and third quarters. And you saw Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff fortify the Falcons for a rematch such as this one by trading a ransom so he could draft wideout Julio Jones, and then signing a pass-rusher, Ray Edwards, in free agency. Now, the Falcons would be able to score with the Packers, and defend against them. Theoretically.
The best-laid plans have stunk so far, basically.
Last year, the Falcons were 16th in the NFL in team defense, averaging 1.9 sacks per game. This year they're 21st, with four sacks in four games, and the Falcons have played three straight games without a sack.
Last year, the Falcons allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 65 percent of their throws. This year it's 68 percent.
Matt Ryan averaged 1.8 touchdown passes a game last year. It's early, of course, but he's throwing 1.5 a game. And getting beat up quite a bit too.
Jones has been as good as advertised, averaging six catches and 86 yards per game. But Edwards, though being a terrific locker-room guy and hard-trying presence, has zero sacks and two quarterbacks hits in four games.
And, ProFootballFocus.com notes, cornerback Dunta Robinson has had a poor first quarter of the season, allowing 79 percent of the passes thrown to the man he's covering to be completed. That's the fourth-worst of all NFL corners.
In other words, it's hard not to like the Packers Sunday night at the Dome, where the Falcons will host an emotional Sunday-nighter for the second time in 22 days. (Week 2: Atlanta 35, Philadelphia 31, in the Return of Vick Bowl.) Atlanta has to hope it'll have the same stadium-rocking verve this weekend.
"We've been up and down,'' Robinson said this week. "We're still trying to put the perfect game together. We're going to be a great defense, but to do that, you've got to be closers, great closers. That's something we've got to improve on.''
I asked Robinson if he liked games like this, when a premier quarterback is on the other side, or whether he prefers to play a lesser quarterback on a bad team. "These are the moments you play for,'' he said. "You dream of playing in games like this, against great teams with a great quarterback. So I love it. You can't run behind Momma and hide. You're out there, yourself. Everybody expects you to dominate an 0-4 quarterback. But Aaron Rodgers? He makes plays. That's the beauty of this game -- why I love it so much. Forty million people watching on Sunday night ... if that doesn't make you want to compete, nothing will. It's why people love this game, guys competing at the highest level. So much adrenaline.''
Some good cover skills would help Sunday night. The Falcons will need that.
This week's guest is writer Sam Farmer of the
• On the possibility of San Diego building a new stadium for the Chargers: "San Diego is not going to get a new stadium there.''
• On how soon he expects Los Angeles to have a team: "What they [owner Phil Anschutz, front man Tim Leiweke] are looking at is bringing a team to Los Angeles for a couple of years to play in the Coliseum or Rose Bowl while the stadium is being built, for the stadium to be open at the start of the either 2016 or 2017 season. The earliest this can happen, conceivably, is [a team] could say, in February, 'We're leaving and we're going to Los Angeles ...' If I were a betting man, I would say it's more likely by February of 2013, you would see a team announce, 'we're moving to Los Angeles, we'll play there next season.'"
• On the percentage chances the city would have a team by 2013: "About 60 percent.''
• On which team he thinks will move to LA, if one does: "If it happens, I believe it will be the Chargers.''