Atlanta, GA- Having to overcome several key injuries on defense, the Atlanta Falcons will look to get back into the win column as they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time since 2014.
It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Atlanta, who enter week four 1-2 and down three key starters with linebacker Deion Jones and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen all out with serious injuries. Despite the unfortunate holes on defense, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is confident his team will be able to overcome them and get back on track Sunday.
Coach Quinn on the injuries, “We will not play the role of the victim with injuries. We have a locker room full of tough-ass competitive guys.” He continued, “I expect us to play well.”
Entering the season, the biggest question mark for Atlanta was whether or not the offense could return to the success that led them to a Super Bowl appearance just two seasons ago. The Falcons seem to found their groove under second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, as they have scored over 30 points in each of the last two weeks and will look to continue their good work as they go up against the Bengals.
Leading the offense is veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, who in last week’s overtime loss completed 26 of his 35 passing attempts for 374-yards and five passing touchdowns. Ryan looks to be back in his 2016 MVP form, spreading the ball out among his talented receiving corps, and delivering big-play ability that has kept the Falcons in games thus far.
Along with the injuries to their defense, the Falcons have had to deal with the absence of starting running back Devonta Freeman, who has been out with a knee injury suffered in week one. Freeman has returned to practice in a limited capacity but will miss the matchup with the Bengals on Sunday.
In the absence of Freeman, versatile back Tevin Coleman has assumed the starting position and impressed both in the running game and as a pass catcher. Through the first three games, Coleman has rushed 40 times for 150-yards and a touchdown, while also catching 7 passes for 58-yards and a score. The fourth-year back has been a key in the Falcons ability to mix up their play calling, and will again be called upon without Freeman.
The player to keep an eye on for the Falcons offense is rookie receiver, Calvin Ridley. The first-round draft pick out of Alabama had a coming out party against the Saints last week, exploding for seven catches for 146-yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard score that showcased Ridley’s ability to break away from defenders.
The Falcons offense has converted on eight consecutive trips to the red zone, quieting down the talk about the struggles under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Now the questions have shifted towards the defense, who as mentioned before must overcome several key injuries.
The defense will have a tough matchup, as the Bengals have averaged 29.7 points per game on the season, good for the sixth-ranked scoring offense in the NFL this season.
Leading the Bengals is veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who is in his eighth season with Cincinnati. Through the first three weeks, Dalton has thrown for 860-yards and eight touchdowns but has also thrown for five interceptions. The Bengals will run a pass-heavy attack, and the Falcons defense will need to capitalize on any mistakes by Dalton if they are going to come out victorious.
Sunday’s matchup between the Falcons and Bengals will showcase two high scoring offenses, and the key of the game will be which defense can make enough stops to win. All of the injuries will be difficult to overcome for the Falcons, but they won’t feel sorry for themselves and have a chance to show why coach Quinn is confident his team can be successful.
The Falcons and Bengals will kick off from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.