Falcons defenders looking for answers

Cardinals running back David Johnson carries the ball against Falcons defensive back Kemal Ishmael and linebacker Deion Jones in the first half Oct. 13, 2019, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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Cardinals running back David Johnson carries the ball against Falcons defensive back Kemal Ishmael and linebacker Deion Jones in the first half Oct. 13, 2019, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Credit: Jennifer Stewart

Credit: Jennifer Stewart

There may be no easy explanation for what is ailing the Falcons’ defense, but defenders at all three levels of the unit seem united with a relatively simple answer for how to tighten up: everybody needs to focus on their own assignments and not worry about anybody else.

“When we lose or our defense didn’t do well, I feel like we each individually need to look at, ‘What do I need to do to improve our defense, to improve our team?’” tackle Tyeler Davison said. “I know my role as a D-tackle: I need to provide support whenever they run anywhere along the line, and make damn sure they don’t run through the A-gaps.

“In the pass, I need to make sure I’m pushing the pocket and getting pressure on the quarterback to make it easier on our DBs and linebackers in coverage. I feel like it’s just a matter of everybody taking that approach and doing exactly what they need to do.”

The Falcons (1-5) this week are trying to plug leaks before Sunday’s game against the Rams (3-3), and the biggest holes lately have been in the pass game.

The Falcons have recorded only five sacks on the season, tied for last in the NFL, and none in the past three games. They have five quarterback hits in that time, and rank last in the league in third-down conversions allowed (56 percent) and next to last in points allowed (31 per game)

Coach/defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said the team is focused on cranking up the pass rush and snugging coverages whether zone or man-to-man.

There have been some glaring examples where mix-ups in coverages have allowed opposing receivers to be wide open, especially in zones.

“For instance, in our pass rush, we had a meeting (Wednesday) about not being on the same level, or one guy too high and allows the quarterback just to hitch up enough to throw ...,” Quinn said. “To see a couple of errors take place in (coverages), that was difficult.

“The ones that are the contested catch, that they earn them, whether it be man-to-man or a zone, you definitely can live with those; but not the ones where they're self-inflicted.”

The Falcons are reviewing all assignments.

“We can’t sit here and complain. ... We’ve just got to make corrections and get back on track,” linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said. “We aren’t playing the best right now, but the only people who can change it is us. Can’t nobody do it for us, so we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do ...

“We’re just not making enough plays as a defense. It’s not one person or one scheme. We just have to play better collectively.”

Safety Ricardo Allen said it’s critical that players not point fingers at each other and focus themselves.

“Everybody has to do their job, do their part and contribute the best way they can,” he suggested. “You have to stick in your spot. You don’t want to be the one to try and go make plays when you’re doing too much. It’s a tough situation to be in, but it’s one that we feel we can fight through.”

The Falcons have been picked apart by the quick passing game, which is a partial explanation for why the sack totals are low. There’s often very little time to get to the quarterback, and Davison offered a suggestion on how to combat that issue.

“That’s frustrating when you’re rushing the passer because it makes it feel like even if you win your pass rush and doing well you can’t get there in time, but one thing I do feel like we could do better at in that area is getting our hands up and trying to deflect more passes,” he said.

“As a D-lineman, when the pass is quick, the only way you can defend against that is to get in the way.”

There are different kinds of frustration. Allen said Wednesday that in a way he feels bad for Quinn as the coach had remained ever upbeat and positive as multiple players are making costly mistakes.

“That’s even tough for me to watch from the side because, man, I would be cussing people out,” he said.