Run defense under Falcons' microscope during bye

Dan Parr
NFC South Spin cycle: Falcons earn top seed, Bucs keep sinking

Atlanta’s defense has been more opportunistic (17 takeaways) in Mike Nolan’s first season as coordinator and is allowing about three fewer points per game (18.8) than it did last season (21.9). The defense has had its issues stopping the run, though. In fact, the Falcons’ run “D” has gone from one of the stoutest to one of the league’s most porous.

The Falcons were ranked sixth — only a few spots behind Nolan’s third-ranked Dolphins run defense — vs. the run last season (97 rushing yards per game) and gave up only 10 rushing touchdowns. At their Week Seven bye this season, the Falcons are allowing 143.8 rushing yards per game (27th in the league) and already have given up seven rushing TDs.

The coaching staff is evaluating its personnel and scheme during the bye and tightening up the run defense is a priority of head coach Mike Smith. However, we hear the team anticipated there would be a drop-off vs. the run with two key components of the team’s run “D” from last season absent — MLB Curtis Lofton departed in free agency and DT Corey Peters has been out since OTAs with a foot injury (he has yet to be activated from the PUP list).

As the league’s only undefeated team, the Falcons are not panicking about the run defense just yet, but it’s an area offenses will look to exploit until Atlanta forces a change in strategy.