Falcons look to unlock return game in New Orleans

Credit: AJC

Falcons’ new special teams coordinator Bernie Parmalee on stopping Saints returner Deonte Harris and unleashing Falcons returner Brandon Powell.

Credit: AJC

Falcons kickoff and punt returner Brandon Powell is averaging 10.2 yards on punt returns and 20.5 on kickoff returns.

Over their recent bye week, the Falcons were looking for ways to unleash Powell in the return game.

Because they need more yards, the return units are on the hot seat for this game against the Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

“When you talk about special teams, you’re finding a way to get your return game going,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “You have a pretty talented returner back there in BP. If we can get his hands on the ball and get him in position to return some balls, I think he can flip the field and get a little bit of field position there that we can take advantage of.”

Powell took over this season for Kenyon Barner, who was not re-signed. Barner is currently with Tampa Bay and serving a four-game suspension after he failed a test for performing-enhancing drugs.

In the 26-9 upset of the Saints last season Nov. 10, Barner averaged 16.5 yards on two punt returns and had two kickoff returns for 33 yards.

“We want more, I think the average in the league is 26,” Falcons special-teams coordinator Bernie Parmalee said. “So, it’s hard to get it out. (There’s) so much that goes into it ... sometimes it could be the difference between one block.”

The Falcons ideally would like for kickoff returns to come out past the 25-yard line.

“Nobody wants to get the ball tackled inside the 20 or anything like that,” Parmalee said. “I just told him to be patient. We have to be patient with our (opportunities). Ultimately, what have to do more of is single blocks. You have to win on those single blocks.”

The Falcons said they feel good about Powell, who started his career with Detroit in 2018.

“The thing about it is, a lot of times as a returner you want to get that return,” Parmalee said. “Now, you don’t want to force anything.

“If you have a returnable ball, do that, but don’t try to force anything. He’s been catching the ball well. He’s been making great decisions. I feel this game probably will be a good one where he’s probably going to get some returns.”

Powell has had one fumble.

“That’s No. 1, making good decisions and catching the football,” Parmalee said.

Falcons’ next four games

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Falcons at Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13

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