The Atlanta Falcons march through the NFC East continues Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. After beating Philadelphia and the New York Giants, can the Falcons, who are riding high after a 2-0 start, continue to show they are a team to be taken seriously this season?
The Cowboys may be 2-0, but catastrophic injuries to both wide receiver and Dez White and quarterback Tony Romo in consecutive weeks have left Dallas head coach Jason Garrett with no choice but to start Brandon Weeden in an attempt to remain undefeated. Yes, I said Brandon Weeden.
This game is more about the Falcons and their rebuild of a team that has suffered the past two seasons. It’s more about the start for new head coach Dan Quinn and a defense that is stronger and faster than a season ago. It’s about a high octane offense that continues to thrive on the arm of quarterback Matt Ryan and a receiving corps that features Julio Jones and Roddy White.
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It’s also about a culture that changed once team owner Arthur Blank hired the former Seattle defensive coordinator and gave him the keys to the sports car, so to speak. If you want to know exactly how this game is going to progress, look no further than the Falcons first round draft pick, Vic Beasley this week.
The Clemson star has proven he was the right choice for this Falcons defense, showing the speed Quinn likes from the LEO linebacker position. While there is no doubt the Falcons will look to score early and often, Beasley and the Falcons defense must be able to control the line of scrimmage early.
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Beasley draws Tyron Smith this week as the left tackle may have his hands full trying to stop the lighter, quicker and more elusive pass rusher. As D. Orlando Ledbetter of AJC.com said, last week proved Beasley belongs in the NFL.
“Beasley recorded the first sack of his NFL career last week and has held his own in his first two NFL games. He played the run strong and has created some pressure while rushing the passer. Smith, who was All-Pro last season, helped the offense control the clock for 40:30 against the Eagles. The line yielded three sacks on 37 drop backs against the Eagles,” Ledbetter said.
Playing against a Cowboys offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL will challenge the rookie. Should he be able to get to Weeden or apply pressure, the secondary will have an easier time in coverage, especially Marcus Trufant who will be covering the wide receiver, Terrance Williams. Weeden, who is essentially a game manager in this situation, must not be rattled by a pass rush that is getting better in Quinn’s system he brought from Seattle.
“Trufant has developed into a top corner. He stayed on the left side last week, but the Falcons might want to match him on Williams this week," Ledbetter explains.
He caught four passes for 84 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown, last week against the Eagles. With the injury to Dez Bryant, Williams is the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. Williams has led Cowboys receivers in each of this three seasons in average yards per catch, which has never dropped below 16.0.
The Falcons can make a strong statement with its third consecutive win. The NFC South is a mixed bag so far this year, with the New Orleans Saints proving to be the worst of the lot so far. Tampa Bay won last week and Carolina and its defense continues to impress off and on.
Should the Falcons win, it would mean this is a team that might be in the mix for the long haul.
Which is something this franchise hasn’t been part of in the past two seasons.