Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta GA- Looking to get their season back on track, the Atlanta Falcons will travel up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Following a heartbreaking 37-36 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, the Falcons head into week five of the NFL season at 1-3 and quickly approaching must-win territory if they are to reach the high expectations that Atlanta and their fans had heading into 2018.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spoke about the recent losses and what the team needs to do to get back on track saying, “We got to continue to keep working on the things that we’re doing well and then trying to find ways to improve in the areas that we can get better. Last week we had a couple opportunities with low red zone stuff where we didn’t come away with as many touchdowns as we needed so that’s got to be a point of emphasis for us in this game.”
The continued approach of trying to correct and improve week by week for the Falcons shows they aren’t panicking yet and will try to use this big week five matchup with the Steelers as a game to put it all together and gain some much-needed momentum.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talked about the matchup with Pittsburgh and the challenges they represent saying, “The matchup that we have this week with Pittsburgh, they’ve been excellent with forcing turnovers. They forced seven in their four games so we know that’s a big deal for us.” He continued. “Getting the turnover for us defensively is only half the deal. Then you have to go make them pay. So, we have lots of work to do in that area, but we’re looking forward to the challenge of that.”
Despite the 1-3 start to the season, the offense has really seemed to put it all together under second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and is averaging 29 points per game, good for sixth in the NFL through the first four games.
Leading the offense is former MVP Matt Ryan, who has seemingly returned to the form that helped him win the award just two seasons ago. The veteran, who is in his 11th NFL season, has thrown ten touchdowns to just two interceptions and will key in on continuing his great protection of the football against the ball-hawking secondary for the Steelers.
Ryan has a bevy of weapons at his disposal and has used them to great effect early on this season. The leading receiver for Ryan and the Falcons continues to be star wideout Julio Jones who, despite not getting into the end zone yet this season, is already over 500-yards receiving on just 29 receptions.
Atlanta also sends out an impressive running back duo, with starting back Davonta Freeman returning this week after suffering a knee injury in week one. Freeman will join running mate Tevin Coleman, who has proven himself versatile taking over as the starter the last three weeks. Coleman has rushed for over 200-yards and a touchdown, while also adding 84-yards and another score in the passing game, and looks to continue to be a big part of the offense even with the return of Freeman.
Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley continues to be the player to watch for the Falcons, as he delivered another breakout performance last week, adding to his touchdown total that now sits at six for the season.
Matt Ryan on Ridley, “Calvin has done a great job for us, taking advantage of every opportunity he’s gotten. One-on-one coverages, he’s made a ton of plays for us. I’m proud of him.”
With all of the successes on offense, it’s hard to imagine how this team has found themselves at 1-3 on the season. The reason, however, has been the terrible injury luck on defense that has proven too much to overcome thus far.
With injuries to two Pro Bowlers in safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones, as well as starting safety Ricardo Allen, the Atlanta defense has struggled mightily, giving up 30.5 points per game, which puts them at 30th in the league.
The Falcons defense will have a difficult matchup against an explosive Steelers offense, but Atlanta feels their struggles so far are correctable, and they will be able to make enough stops to leave Pittsburgh with a victory.
It should be an exciting game featuring two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses, and the game will come down to which defense can make a key stop in a big situation. Will the Falcons finally be able to overcome their injury woes to get their season back on track? Tune in on Sunday to find out.
The Falcons and Steelers kick off at 1:00 p.m. from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.