Falcons’ defense on the ready for in-game adjustments

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons defense had to make some in-game adjustments Sunday against the Packers.

The Packers held a 10-9 lead at halftime. They came out in the third quarter and took a 24-12 lead with two touchdown passes from quarterback Jordan Love, the second with 56 seconds to go in the quarter.

The Falcons were on the ropes, but the Packers couldn’t deliver the knockout score.

“In the beginning of the game, we let a few things slip by,” Falcons strong safety Richie Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Corrected those (issues).”

The Falcons mixed up their coverages and befuddled Love, who’s in his first season as a starter.

“In the fourth quarter we had a great standup,” Grant said. “We were able to close it out, which is a really a great feeling compared to the last few years. So, I don’t know, we just keep stacking on that. But we definitely have to eliminate some of those mistakes.”

The Falcons gave up a 32-yard touchdown pass and were called for a 43-yard pass-interference penalty on cornerback Tre Flowers in the Packers’ two touchdown drives.

“Some of it was play-calling, some of it was personnel, but mainly, it was us individually winning our one-on-ones,” Grant said. “I felt like in the beginning of the game, I don’t know what was happening, but we definitely lost some one-on-ones, and it cost us. In the fourth quarter we tightened up on them.”

While the offense was figuring things out, the defense held the Packers to two three-and-outs and a four-and-out.

“They were massive,” Falcons defensive tackle David Onyemata said about the adjustments. “We go out there, and after a series you see certain things. Teams usually go back to things they had success (with). The great thing is that we communicate and get down on the sidelines, we make the right adjustments.”

Flowers was giving chase on the touchdown pass to rookie Dontayvion Wicks.

“I’ve got to clean up some stuff on my end,” Flowers said. “Just being personal with you, but it was a great team win. Great defense. Offense did their thing. The defense did their thing at the end to win the game.”

Flowers was pulled from the game, but reinserted.

“I give credit to everybody on the staff,” Flowers said. “Coaches. Players. Great team. We just fixed it. That’s what football is about, adjustments. That’s what we did.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith thought Flowers bounced back late in the game.

“Things happen,” Smith said. “I thought Tre finished the game well. He was out there, played pretty good coverage. He had pretty good coverage on that last play.

“(Arnold Ebiketie) had some really good rushes at the end. They went four and out. Tre played, I thought, really good, aggressive coverage there. But things happen. Guys come in and out of the game. We have a lot of faith in Tre.”

Flowers took over at right cornerback when Jeff Okudah sustained an ankle/foot injury Aug. 4. He signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract in free agency. Okudah returned to practice last week and could be available this week.

The Falcons spent heavily on defense in free agency. They opened the season with seven new starters, who cost $132.5 million in free agency. They are trying to play an attacking and aggressive style of football.

“We are trying to control the line of scrimmage as best we can,” Grant said. “We are going to keep trying to play aggressive, starting up front and then all the way to the back end. Coming up finishing tackles and things like that.”

The Falcons plan to keep improving.

“It’s way easier to building with wins instead of losses,” Grant said. “I don’t care what (anybody) tells you, a loss hurts. Nobody wants to lose. When you win, you’re able to have those conversations a little easier.”

Onyemata, one of the big free-agent signees, believe the defense is coming along.

“We are just understanding where we are supposed to be at,” Onyemata said. “Understanding what schemes and what we are getting up there and basically executing our jobs.”

The in-game adjustments are required.

“I don’t think it’s hard,” Onyemata said. “When you get on the sideline, but when the offense is on the field, we get together. I think the adjustments have been going pretty smooth. Pretty easy. We go out there and figure out the adjustments, and we go out there for the next series.”

The Falcons are hoping they can build on the string of stops that allowed them to pull out the come-from-behind deficit.

“It’s having each other’s back,” Onyemata said. “Going out there and playing great, that’s the biggest thing. That’s one thing we pride ourselves on and communicate well.”

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