Watch: The Three Keys to an Atlanta Falcons Victory Over the Los Angeles Rams

Tom Pollin

Football, at its basics, is a simple game that some people feel the need to tie into increasingly complicated knots. The Atlanta Falcons can beat the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7 by taking these three, deceptively simple steps.

Ito Smith Must get a Majority of the Running Back Carries

Yes, we’ve said this before but each week there’s a new reason for saying it. Devonta Freeman has been running more aggressively the past couple of weeks which has raised his average yards per carry to 3.6. Still, just on average yards per carry statistics, Smith gives the Falcons an extra yard per touch at 4.7.

If you take a deeper look into the rushing stats between Freeman and Smith though, you see a startling number that reveals the true difference between the two running backs this season. There is a stat called yards before contact, Freeman is averaging 1.8 yards before contact per carry. On running plays, he’s taking his first hit from defensive linemen. Smith averages three yards before contact per carry. He’s getting to the second level on a more regular basis and taking his initial contact from linebackers.

Looking at yards before contact makes it easy to see that Freeman hasn’t fully recovered the burst he possessed before his knee injury in 2017 and groin injury in 2018.

Smith’s proven ability to get to the second level would raise the Falcons overall yards per attempt average and go a long way towards taking pressure from Matt Ryan’s arm. It would also help give the Falcons a boost in time of possession and keep their defense off the field for longer periods. Without a doubt, all fans would consider that a step in the right direction.

Commit to the Blitz

The Falcons have played three straight games against quarterbacks who take heavy heat from opposing defenses on a regular basis and given them the equivalent of a bye week. Heading into Week 4, the Falcons had five sacks on the season. Heading into Week 7, the Falcons still have five sacks on the season.

For those of you keeping score at home, that is tied for dead last in the NFL. Who is that total tied with? The Miami Dolphins! Mr. Dan Quinn, you should be ashamed that any facet of your team has sunk to the depth where the Dolphins have made their living in 2019. Your team cannot get hands on a quarterback with a traditional four-man rush.

It may be that the defensive coaches are making an attempt to cover for deficiencies in the secondary by dropping extra men, but that strategy isn’t working. Defenses are finding out that Rams quarterback Jared Goff doesn’t work well under pressure. The Falcons can keep the football out of the hands of Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp by putting an extra hand in Goff’s face every play. The only way the Falcons will accomplish that is by bringing a fifth rusher!

If Quinn’s goal is to make this defense more aggressive, this game would be a good start towards that.

If the Falcons can accomplish the first two keys, a more effective rushing attack led by Ito Smith and increased defensive pressure by bringing an extra man, that will lead the team to the third key to beating the Rams.

Support Your Local Quarterback

Matt Ryan has been kicking big-time buttocks so far this season and getting no national credit because the rest of the team has been falling apart around him.

Ryan is second among NFL quarterbacks in yards through the air, tied for first in the league with Patrick Mahomes with 15 touchdown passes and is seventh in passer rating. Ryan should be suing his defense for non-support by using the Falcons current 1-5 record to make his case.

This is the recipe for a Falcons win Sunday. We’ll see if the team is willing to use it.