“Especially like, you look in the mirror and go what can I control,” defensive end Calais Campbell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What can I do better? Having that mentality among all of us. When I speak about taking another step, especially defensively, there are too many little lapses. We are playing great defense, great defense and great defense with the exception of five plays.”
The Falcons are allowing 278.2 yards per game, which ranks fourth. The defense is giving up 99 yards rushing per game, which is 11th and the pass defense has allowed 179.2 yards per game, which is fourth.
Some of the lapses go back to the Detroit game Sept. 24, when rookie tight end Sam Laporte broke free for 45-yard touchdown pass. Late in the game against the Texans on Oct. 8, Dalton Schultz snuck up the seam for a 18-yard touchdown pass to give them a lead with 1:49 to play.
Against the Commanders on Sunday, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy dialed up a screen to running back Brian Robinson that went for a 24-yard touchdown.
“If we’re in good coverage or in a good position and somebody just beats you, that’ one thing,” Campbell said. “That’s football. Those five plays are mental lapses where we beat ourselves.”
It’s pretty clear that if the Falcons can clear up those lapses, that they will have a top-10 defense.
“I want perfection where we don’t have those mental mistakes and we are doing our jobs the way we are supposed to,” Campbell said. “If we get beat, we get beat. That’s football. We are just improving on those smaller details at a higher level.”
Campbell believes the defense can do more.
“It would be crazy to say we are not playing good defense or that we are not playing as whole to a certain quality,” Campbell said. “But we are not playing good enough to win the games. We lost three games which were games that I feel like we could have won.
“So my mindset is, just challenging the guys, what could we all do better. Start to work on and make sure that we are in position to be able to win the next game.”
Campbell signed with the Falcons because he thought they had the potential to end their five-season playoff drought.
“Put ourselves in position to make a run and go to the playoffs,” Campbell said. “At the end of the day, it’s a fun game, but there’s only one goal. Any that goal is well within reach and all it comes down to is, where we go from here in this moment.”
2. Pass-rush update: Falcons coach Arthur Smith has been fine with the pressure the defense has been putting on quarterbacks. He wasn’t ready to celebrate the five-sack performance against the Commanders.
The Falcons now have 10 sacks and are tied with the Rams for 29th in the league.
However, the Falcons’ pressure number – hurries plus knockdowns plus sacks – is 63, according to Pro Football Reference’s advanced defensive stats.
The Bills and Ravens led the league in sacks with 24.
The Bills pressure number is 70, while the Ravens is 49.
The Falcons have 25 hurries, 25 quarterback knockdowns and 10 sacks. Half a sacks are rounded up by Pro Football Reference, and the Falcons have three to make their number 63.
Defensive tackles David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett lead the team with the highest pressure numbers, 10. Bud Dupree has a nine, Campbell an eight and Arnold Ebiketie a seven.
Also, the Falcons have blitzed 72 times, with Kaden Elliss being the top blitzer with 20.
The Bucs have given up only five sacks this season.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
3. Mayfield follows Brady: After the Browns beat out the Falcons and Panthers to trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson, Mayfield’s tenure in Cleveland was over. He finished with a 29-30 record for the Browns.
He played for the Panthers and the Rams last season and went 2-8 as a starter. Overall his career mark is 34-40 as a starter. He’s thrown 109 touchdown passes and 67 interceptions and has a 86.8 career passer rating.
“He’s played some good football for them,” Smith said of Mayfield. “The scheme has changed a little bit.”
4. Bowles has Smith’s respect: However, Smith has a great deal of respect for Bucs coach Todd Bowles and the Bucs’ defense.
“I always think it’s the sign of a great coach – the guy that’s continued to evolve some years, and it’s looked a lot different than others,” Smith said. “What he’s trying to attack you with. A lot of respect. I just think going back to the things that he did in Arizona over a decade ago, to what he did in New York, and what he’s done in Tampa. He’s – I think – one of the better defensive coaches in this league.”
5. Bowles, Morehouse connection: Bowles, a former NFL player, started his coaching career at Morehouse in 1997 as a member of Doug Williams’ staff.
6. Donation to education: Campbell, who reached 100 career sacks Sunday in the 24-16 loss to the Commanders, plans to donate $150,000 to teachers in cities where he’s played and went to college.
“It just really came down to doing something along with getting 100 sacks,” Campbell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “Giving away $100,000, which has really turned into $150,000. ... I didn’t want to leave out the places where I grew up. So, Denver and Miami, for college, I want to look out for schools there. It was kind of cool. I just wanted to arm the communities that supported me with some resources.”
Campbell has named the program “100 Sack Give Back.”
In addition to Denver and Miami, donations will be made in through the Kids in Need Foundation in Phoenix, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Atlanta.
“I’ve been drawing this up since last year, hoping that I would get the 100th sack a lot sooner,” Campbell said. “I’ve always felt like giving back was important in the communities that I’ve been in as a player to help me to kind of become who I am and help me accomplish this goals that I’ve had. I wanted to support those communities. I felt like the most important way to do that is with the teachers.”
Campbell, a six-time Pro Bowler, who is in his 17th year in the NFL, is highly respected around the league for his community work. He won the 2019 Walter Payton Man of The Year award for his off-the-field involvement.
“I’m just trying to give back to teachers at a level where they can impact the youth,” Campbell said. “Mainly, it will be up to their discretion how they want to help them teach better. I’m working with an organization that will figure out the teachers who are deserving and then just arming them with ... it’s pretty much 25 teachers in each community with (funds) to work toward building the classroom, to make it better for them to teach the way they need to.”
7. Series history: This will be the 60th meeting. The Bucs lead the series, 30-29. The Falcons won the last meeting 30-17 on Jan. 8, stopping a string of five consecutive losses.
8. Where to watch, listen and livestream: What you should know about Sunday’s game between the Falcons (3-3) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2), which is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida–.
Local radio: 92.9 The Game. Play-by-play: Wes Durham. Analyst: Dave Archer. Executive producer: Beau Morgan. Engineer: Miller Pope. Pregame/postgame show – Hosts: Chris Goforth and Mike Johnson, with Dylan Matthews and Orin Romain as studio producers at 11 a.m.
Satellite radio: SiriusXM NFL Radio. Falcons channel 386 or the App. Buccaneers channel 226 or the App. (Games also are available on the SiriusXM App. Fans can find their team’s channel under the “NFL Play-by-Play” tab or by searching their team’s name.)
Livestream: Streaming inside the Atlanta market: Fans in the Atlanta market can stream the game on the Atlanta Falcons app. NFL app (subscription required). Out of the country: GamePass International.
9. Depth chart: Here’s a look at the Falcons’ official depth chart for the game Sunday:
WR Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge
TE Kyle Pitts, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
LT Jake Matthews, Isaiah Prince
LG Matthew Bergeron, Jovaughn Gwyn
C Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil
RG Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton
RT Kaleb McGary, Storm Norton
TE Jonnu Smith
WR Drake London, Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller
FB Keith Smith
RB Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier
J Cordarrelle Patterson
QB Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
DL Grady Jarrett, Albert Huggins
DL David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham
DL Calais Campbell, Zach Harrison, Joe Gaziano
OLB Bud Dupree, Lorenzo Carter
ILB Kaden Elliss
ILB Nate Landman, Tae Davis
OLB Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone
CB A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes
S Jessie Bates, Jaylinn Hawkins
S Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams
NB Dee Alford, Clark Phillips III
CB Jeff Okudah, Tre Flowers
K Younghoe Koo
P Bradley Pinion
LS Liam McCullough
H Bradley Pinion
PR Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, *Scotty Miller
KOR Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Hughes
* Added as third punt returner since he went in for Alford versus the Panthers.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.