The Atlanta Falcons continue rolling along undefeated, entering Week 5 with a perfect 4-0 mark. After a close call in their NFC South opener last week, the Falcons will look to keep an untarnished record as they hit the road to Washington, D.C.
We’ve seen Robert Griffin III all over the news since he was drafted in April. So far he’s helped fuel the Redskins to score the fourth-most points in the league (123), one fewer than the visiting Faalcons this weekend.
Matt Ryan is already being brought up in MVP discussions, and his offense has been nothing short of spectacular. The Falcons chances of success in Week 5 should hinge on the defensive side of the ball after allowing 28 points and 404 yards to another franchise with a dual-threat quarterback this past Sunday.
Atlanta appears to have the upper hand heading to FedEx Field. Let’s take a look at what you should be watching for this time around.
1) Taking advantage of the Redskins secondary: This one could get ugly. The Redskins have allowed 326.3 yards passing per game, while Ryan is putting up 291 yards and almost three touchdowns each outing. Washington ranks tenth in the league against the run, so Ryan will likely be throwing often on Sunday. And why shouldn’t he? If Josh Freeman can throw for 299 yards on this defense, Matty Ice might be putting up career numbers if the game becomes a shootout.
2) Tyson Clabo vs. Ryan Kerrigan: According to Pro Football Focus, Clabo ranked third-worst among all NFL offensive linemen in pass protection last week. The Falcons right tackle allowed nine total pressures, including three sacks, in 47 snaps. Kerrigan is rated as the top pass-rushing outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes right now with 15 hurries, five hits and four sacks on the season. Given that Kerrigan rushes from the left side 73.9 percent of the time, Clabo will have his hands full once again. He’s already allowed more sacks in 2012 than he did all of last season, so his improvement is vital to Ryan’s success.
3) Julio Jones making an impact: After suffering a laceration to his hand against San Diego, Jones caught just one pass in Week 4. Even when he isn’t stuffing the stat sheet, though, he’s opening up room for other targets to get open. The Panthers double-teamed Jones often in their matchup, allowing Roddy White to have a field day with eight receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Jones says he’s ready to go this week, so the hand shouldn’t be a hindrance. Both receivers should have impressive numbers against the Redskins abysmal passing defense.
4) Stopping the ground game: Mike Shanahan knows how to run the ball, there’s no questioning that. His zone-blocking scheme continues to provide ample room for rookie running back Alfred Morris. The Falcons run defense was dominated for nearly 200 yards on 5.7 yards per carry against Cam Newton and the Panthers rushing attack. Robert Griffin III likes to run the ball when he can as well, so hopefully Mike Nolan made some notes on dual-threat quarterbacks after Week 4. His secondary ranks No. 8 in the NFL. Now it’s time to pick up the pace against the opposing runners.
5) Limiting missed tackles: According to PFF, the Falcons have tallied 37 missed tackles through four weeks, ranking towards the bottom of the league in this category. There were several plays last week where defenders would simply hit whoever had the ball instead of trying to wrap up and bring them down. Greg Olsen broke multiple tackles on his first-quarter touchdown as several Falcons flew in to either attempt to strip the ball or knock him out of bounds. Making sure the runner is down instead of putting a good hit on him while he keeps heading for the end zone will be important Sunday.