Pees didn’t have the option of playing Hawkins and then moving Erik Harris to nickel back, as he did in the previous game against the Saints. Since Isaiah Oliver was lost to a season-ending knee injury, the Falcons have been mixing and matching at nickel back. They have used least five different players.
Richie Grant, Darren Hall, Chris Williamson, Harris and Williams all have played some nickel. Hawkins has been on the injury report with ankle injury this week, while Sheffield has been buried on the bench.
Williams had trouble covering Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb after the Falcons tried to play man-to-man coverage because they were messing up the zone coverages that Pees had planned to play.
“We can’t make mental mistakes,” Pees said. “We had a couple of mental mistakes in that game that hurt us in zone. So, therefore ... (I) tried calling a little bit of man coverage, which really I did not want to call very much of in that game, based on their receiving corps. But all of a sudden, I’m not putting up with the two mental errors that we had in zone coverage that we play every day.”
The Falcons couldn’t match up with Lamb, Amari Cooper, Cedric Wilson and Michael Gallup, and quarterback Dak Prescott completed 24 of 31 passes, a 77.4% completion rate.
“If somebody beats you, they beat you because they are better than you,” Pees said. “Don’t beat yourself. That’s what we did a lot on defense last week. We made too many mental mistakes.”
The Bow Tie Chronicles
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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores
Eagles 32, Falcons 6
Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25
Falcons 17, Giants 14
Washington 34, Falcons 30
Falcons 27, Jets 20
Falcons 30, Dolphins 28
Panthers 19, Falcons 13
Falcons 27, Saints 25
Cowboys 43, Falcons 3
Next four games
Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18
Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28
Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5
Atlanta at Carolina, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12