Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen leaves the game with an injury during the second half against the New Orleans Saints in an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept 23, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Reeling Falcons’ defense can’t afford to lose Allen

But will they call Eric Reid if Allen is out? 

Another game, another Falcons’ defensive starter down and possibly out.

Free safety Ricardo Allen was injured in overtime of the 43-37 loss to the Saints Sunday. It didn’t look real promising. Allen was helped off the field and then taken to medical help on a cart.

He was despondent according to sideline observers. Allen’s injury was announced as a calf injury, but appeared to be a foot or Achilles injury.

The Falcons were already playing without strong safety Keanu Neal (knee surgery), linebacker Deion Jones (broken foot), defensive end Takk McKinley (groin) and defensive end Derrick Shelby (groin). 

If Allen, who’s considered the quarterback of the defense, is lost for an extended period of time, the defense may not recover.   

“We don't know enough yet,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We knew that. That's what I was told then. We'll go and see him now. I don't want to speculate too much, but it was serious enough that he was down for the game.”

Getting defensive help was on the team’s mind after this game.  

“Yes, (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and I discussed that, and we'll continue to discuss that afterward,” Quinn said. “We have some other guys with some versatility that we'll try to plug around. We'll see what the length of the injuries are. That would certainly make a difference if we went outside to look for somebody else. If it's shorter term, then likely we'd stay inside.”
The Falcons were talking about the proverbial “next man up,” but they didn’t sound real convincing. 

“Just went to check on him and tell him that I’m with him,” cornerback Robert Alford said. “I don’t know the diagnosis yet, so I can’t speak on it.”

With all of the players missing, the Falcons gave up 534 total yards and looked confused at times. The Saints scored touchdowns on their last four possessions in the victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Saints scored on 8 of 12 possessions, including five touchdowns. 

“Its football, you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to have nicks and bruises,” Alford said. “So, all we can do is go back, watch film from today and see what we can correct.”

The Falcons didn’t have backup free safety Keith Tandy active for the game. Jordan Richards replaced Allen, who was playing in Neal’s spot. Damontae Kazee played free safety. 

When Neal was injured, the Falcons were asked about signing former NFL safety Eric Reid. The team said they played to stay inside with the players they have in Kazee and Richards. However, they did sign Tandy. 

Reid has not been signed by an NFL team after kneeling during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice along with then-teammate Colin Kaepernick. 

Reid, 26, has started 69 NFL games after staring at LSU. He started 12 of 13 games with San Francisco last season.

If Allen is out, Alford believes he and the rest of the secondary will try to step up their level of play.

“I try to step my game up each and every week no matter who’s on the field,” Alford said. “That’s just me, I’m my biggest critic. I always go back the night of the game and just watch my technique and watch the things I can do.”

Before Allen was lost, the defensive line was not able to mount much of a pass rush. Vic Beasley had one sack and one quarterback hit. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had one quarterback hit. 

“You tell me,” Jarrett said when asked if the loss of Allen hurt the defense in overtime. “We were down three of our top players. No excuses. The next man up. Rico is valuable to this overall defense.”

Even the players on offense know that losing Allen could be devastating.

“He means a lot, especially to the defense,” wide receiver Julio Jones said. “He’s the captain over there; he calls everything, making sure everybody is lined up and things like that. But I don’t know what is wrong with him yet.”

Beasley was despondent after the game. 

“It’s tough,” Beasley said. “I felt like we could have done a better job defensively. It’s heartbreaking, but we are going to go back to the practice field and critique ourselves.”

The rash of injuries may be too much for the Falcons to overcome.  

“It’s been a tough hit for us,” Beasley said. “It’s going to be tough to bounce back from a loss with Ricardo (Allen), another starter. Hopefully, we will have another man that can step up.”

The Falcons are set to face the Bengals at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

“It’s definitely a discomfort to the team,” Beasley said. “When I saw him get carted off the field, I realized that was another blow. He’s such a knowledgeable player who has helped us over the past three games and throughout my career. I hope the best for him.” 

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