Falcons look to correct offensive problems

BY foxsports • September 13, 2010

Coach Mike Smith and his staff are trying to correct the problems that plagued Atlanta's offense in the Falcons' season opener.

And there are a lot of problems to correct after Sunday's overtime loss at Pittsburgh.

Michael Turner couldn't run the ball. Matt Ryan struggled to throw downfield. Tony Gonzalez caught just two passes.

It's no surprise the Atlanta Falcons scored only nine points.

''I think you'll see, throughout the league, the most improvement usually comes between Week 1 and Week 2,'' Smith said Monday. ''Fortunately for us, we have a lot of things we can improve on.''

Of the Falcons' top four playmakers, only receiver Roddy White, with 13 catches for 111 yards, measured up to high standards.

Turner ran 19 times for a 2.2 average. Ryan had a 67.6 passer rating. Gonzalez, the NFL's career-leading tight end, finished with 35 yards receiving.

''Our objective has to be to get back to work and improve,'' Ryan said. ''We have to do everything we can next week to get a win.

Atlanta (0-1), which hosts Arizona (1-0) this week, suffered perhaps its biggest letdown with Turner's lack of production and deficient blocking in the running game.

Over the last several months, Turner spoke at length about his renewed sense of commitment and improved conditioning.

Whatever improvements Turner made, however, were nullified by the Steelers. His longest gain was seven yards against a defense that has ranked among the NFL's top three units against the run since the start of 2004.

Turner credits Pittsburgh with shutting down his running lanes with strong gap control, but he believes the offense was close a few times to breaking free into the secondary.

''We just have come back and clean some things up and just go from there,'' Turner said. ''Everything was not clean out there, but it's not going to be clean out there every time. We still have to make some plays.''

An ankle injury last year hurt Turner's production during the final two months and contributed to Atlanta's fall from No. 2 in 2008 rushing to No. 15 last year.

Turner still believes the offensive line, which returns all five starters for the third straight year, is one of the league's best.

''Guys are full of pride on this team,'' Turner said, ''so I have faith in those guys, including myself, that we are going to get the job done next week.''

After watching film of a rushing attack that managed 58 yards on 25 carries, Smith saw some major flaws.

''We need to block better,'' Smith said Monday. ''We've got to sustain our blocks in the running game. I think was evident yesterday.''

The line's problems extended to protection. Though Ryan was only sacked twice, he wasn't afforded the time needed to make accurate reads and throws.

Smith was pleased that Ryan adapted to Pittsburgh's success against Gonzalez by shifting focus to Nos. 2 and 3 receivers Harry Douglas and Eric Weems, who were targeted a combined seven times and caught seven passes for 75 yards.

Douglas' 23-yard catch late in the second quarter moved Atlanta to the Steelers' 49 before the drive fizzled three plays later.

''I think for the most part in the passing game, except for some errant throws (because of) pressure that we did a pretty good job,'' Smith said. ''I thought Matt threw the ball pretty well with a 61 percent completion.''



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