Smith hopes Atlanta keeps creating turnovers
Falcons coach Mike Smith hopes his defense is finally starting
to understand how to create takeaways.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention in a Week 11
home loss to New Orleans, Atlanta has four interceptions and eight
fumble recoveries in three games since.
Strong safety William Moore, rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant
and defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux were the top catalysts in
helping the Falcons recover five fumbles and pick off two passes in
Sunday’s 27-26 win over Washington.
Smith, though, stopped short Monday of praising the defense too
much, particularly considering that the Falcons are still too
susceptible to mistakes.
Atlanta began the game ranked fourth-worst in NFL turnover
margin, and the abundance of what Smith calls explosive plays had
contributed to a fourth-worst ranking in average points
”The first (point of emphasis) is winning the turnover battle
and the second one is winning the explosive battle,” Smith said.
”You put those two things together, and it’s the toxic
differential that you look at. More times than not, the teams that
are in the top 12, most of those teams are in the playoffs.”
Since losing last month to the Saints, Atlanta has allowed 21
plays of 15 or more yards.
Smith said he’s not too surprised considering how many young
players are on the field at the same time. Five rookies started on
defense against the Redskins, but even the most experienced rookies
– Trufant and cornerback Robert Alford – struggled at times.
Though he batted down a potentially devastating two-point
conversion pass on the Redskins’ final play and intercepted Kirk
Cousins earlier in the fourth quarter, Trufant had a major gaffe on
Pierre Garcon’s 53-yard touchdown reception in the second.
Trufant had already been flagged for holding Garcon on the play
before Garcon beat him to the ball.
”If you’re getting beat on a double cut and you’re going to
hold the defender, make sure you hold him good where he doesn’t
still get a chance to catch the football,” Smith said. ”You take
the 5-yard penalty on the defense.”
Earlier in the second, Alford gave up Aldrick Robinson’s 62-yard
reception, but rookie free safety Zeke Motta missed an assignment
and never had a chance to help over the top.
And in the first, the defense used poor alignment and technique
to give up a 37-yard run to Alfred Morris and 23-yard touchdown
catch by Fred Davis on the next snap.
”They’re all learning opportunities for our guys,” Smith said.
”As a coach, you want to have those positive learning situations.
We’ve had too many negative learning situations in this ballgame
and the entire season.”
When Atlanta (4-10) visits San Francisco (10-4) next Monday, the
defense will face a tough challenge. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick
has struggled with completion percentage this season, but he played
well in Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay and has some of the league’s
top playmakers in running back Frank Gore, receiver Anquan Boldin
and tight end Vernon Davis.
Babineaux, who recovered two fumbles against Washington,
believes the defense can build on its performance against the
”I think the defense stepped up big by creating as many
turnovers as we did which put the offense in the best position to
score points,” Babineaux said. ”We have to continue to press
forward and find ways to win out the schedule.”
Notes: Smith indicated that LB Sean Weatherspoon should be able
to practice this week despite leaving in the fourth quarter and not
returning against the Redskins. … FS Thomas DeCoud, who missed
the game, is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol and has not
been cleared to return to practice.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org