3 Keys: Falcons vs. Panthers

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In a season that was supposed to make or break for the entire organization, it could not have started off worse. Not only have the Falcons lost the first four games of the season for the first time since 1999, but they blew two 15-plus-point fourth-quarter leads in a row. Now, they are ravaged by injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

As far as playoff hopes, only one team has made the playoffs after starting the season 0-4. Given how far ahead every team is in the division, the chances of the Falcons making the postseason are basically zero. They’ll definitely be zero if they can’t find a way to beat the Panthers on Sunday.

3 Keys for Week 5:

Safety Play

The Falcons entire secondary is decimated. Darqueze Dennard is on the IR. A.J. Terrell is still on the COVID-19 list. Somehow, Atlanta’s safety situation is even worse.

Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen didn’t play last week. Damontae Kazee tore his Achilles in the game against the Packers. Jaylinn Hawkins suffered a head injury. Who knows who will be playing in the back end, but they have to be infinitely better than last week or the Falcons will have no chance of beating the Panthers. Who thought we would be saying this four weeks ago?

Matt Ryan

I’ve been an avid Ryan supporter for his entire career. In the first two weeksof this season, he looked as crisp as ever. However, it’s fair to say he’s been sub-par over the last two games and just as much at fault for the Falcons struggles as anyone else.

Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady will be able scheme up some things that will give the Falcons trouble defensively. So once again, Atlanta’s offense will have to score points.

The Falcons will probably be without Julio Jones, who reaggravated his hamstring and left the game against the Packers early. However, Carolina’s defense is very vulnerable. If Ryan plays at the top of his game, the Falcons still have more than enough weapons to put up 30-plus.

Apply Pressure

For a few halves in Weeks 1-3, it looked like the Falcons might finally have found some semblance of a pass rush. However, it’s been mighty inconsistent and was completely absent Monday night against the Packers.

Dante Fowler hasn’t been much of an upgrade over Vic Beasley, and not having Takk McKinley out there has certainly played a factor. Hopefully, McKinley will be able to return for this matchup.

There are two ways to stop an opponents passing game — fantastic secondary play and pressuring the quarterback. With all the injuries to the Falcons secondary, it’s almost impossible to expect anything more than average play from the unit. That means the pass rush has to step up.

The Panthers have been pretty good at getting the ball out quick and protecting the quarterback, allowing just eight sacks this season (average of two per game). If the Falcons can’t get to Teddy Bridgewater more than two times on Sunday, the Carolina offense should have plenty of success.


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