Sep 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) carries the ball in the third quarter of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Georgia Dome. The Buccaneers won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
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The week six chapter of the 2016 season should be behind the Atlanta Falcons at this point and while it didn’t result in an eye-opening, statement victory against the rugged Seattle Seahawks, the season still goes on for head coach Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons.
Next on the menu is the 2-4 San Diego Chargers, led by quarterback Philip Rivers. While many won’t mistaken the Chargers for the Seahawks or the Broncos, the presence of Rivers, an enticing rookie pass rusher in Joey Bosa, and a team that is fresh off a victory against those same Broncos.
The upcoming contest against the Chargers is winnable but as we saw against Denver, enough talent is on the Chargers roster to make things interesting. Here is a to-do checklist for the Falcons and how they can collect win number five on the season.
Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) celebrates after he scored a rushing touchdown in the first quarter of their game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
3. Control Time of Possession
The reputation built by Rivers and the Chargers over the years have been a high-flying offense that is pass-heavy.
One way to combat that aspect and keep Rivers on the sideline is to control the time of possession. In three of the Chargers four losses this season, they lost the time-of-possession battle and the one loss where they did not (Wk1 at KC) the Chargers only had a three minute advantage in a contest that went into overtime.
Granted, the Falcons are 20th in the NFL in time-of-possession per game with an average of 29:56 per game but this can also play into the hands of an offense such as Atlanta’s that utilizes their run game effectively enough to keep defenses off balance. That balanced play-calling by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is going to come in handy to keep Rivers and company on the sideline.
If you viewed the Chargers latest contest against the Broncos, it was no secret that the Chargers relied heavily on their tight ends Antonio Gates and rookie Hunter Henry. Combined, the two tight ends received 14 of the 29 attempts tossed by Rivers with the rookie hauling in six catches for 83 yards and a first quarter touchdown.
It’s no secret that season-ending injuries to receivers Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson along with running backs Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver has taken a lot out of the passing game for San Diego but Rivers has two big targets at tight end that are worthy of keeping an eye on.
This is where the presence of rookie safety Keanu Neal and rookie linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell will come into play. The three will alternate at times against tight ends and have done it all season with facing the likes of Greg Olsen and tussling with Jimmy Graham last week. Stopping the two tight ends may be more of a complex task than most would believe, but taking these guys out of the equation would truly limit an offense that is lacking a few weapons.
Oct 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter of their game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 48-33. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle loss is a bitter one. So bitter that maybe the Falcons can take their aggression on the Chargers and their 18th ranked defense.
The aggressiveness shown by Shanahan, quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons offense during the second half of the Seattle game is exactly what we have seen for majority of the season. Finding a weakness of the opposing defense and attack, and continue to attack, and attack some more.
Oct 16, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Remember that word ‘balance’ that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it needs to play it’s part once again.
Getting All-Pro receiver Julio Jones involved early against a Chargers secondary that is missing their best corner in Jason Verrett, getting running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in mismatches against a Chargers defense that has struggled with high-scoring offenses such as Oakland and New Orleans, pressing the gas a little more in the red zone against a Chargers defense that has given up the third most rushing touchdowns on the season with eight.
The Falcons have been aggressive all season on offense and there should be no letup against San Diego.