By Curt Macysyn
Injuries are part of the NFL life, so no one, least of all the New York Football Giants (2-2), will shed a tear for the plight of the Atlanta Falcons (2-2). Two weeks ago, the Falcons were riding high off of a prime time dismantling of an overwhelmed Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad 56-14 on Thursday night. This week, the team looks to bolster its bruised ego, despite lingering questions as to who will start on the offensive line. The Dirty Birds lost to the Minnesota Vikings 41-28 on Sunday, and in the process lost three offensive linemen.
Injuries played such a role for the Falcons that tight end Levine Toilolo finished the game at right tackle for Atlanta. Yet as bad as things got for the offense, the defense may present more of a challenge for head coach Mike Smith entering the game against Big Blue. The Falcons’ defensive unit gave up 558 total yards to a Vikings’ squad that was without its starting quarterback (Matt Cassel) and its starting running back (Adrian Peterson).
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 311 yards in his first NFL start, and rookie running back Jerick McKninnon rushed for a game-high 135 yards on just 18 carries. Matt Asiata powered in three touchdowns in red zone, as the Falcons’ defense had no answers for the Vikings’ offense all afternoon.
Eli Manning knows the feeling that Atlanta’s franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan, went through on Sunday. Ryan, who like Manning is a pocket passer, was hurried and harried all afternoon, finishing with 25 completions in 41 attempts for 298 yards. Ryan did throw three touchdown passes, but also chucked two interceptions against the purple and gold defense.
Perhaps a better way of highlighting the struggles of the Atlanta offense is to look at Roddy White’s afternoon against the Vikings. White caught just four passes on 14 targets from Ryan. Atlanta’s number one receiver, Julio Jones, hauled in six passes for 82 yards but was held out of the end zone. Revitalized Devin Hester caught a touchdown pass in the game, and he is always a threat on kickoff and punt returns, as evidenced by his NFL record 20 non-offensive touchdowns. Jones is the second leading receiver in the NFL with 447 yards and has three touchdown catches in four games.
White, Jones and Hester will be a formidable trio for the Giants to contain, who may also see the return of another receiver, Harry Douglas, from a foot injury. Running back Antone Smith looks like he will be wrestling some carries away from starting running back Steven Jackson. According to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Smith’s 48-yard touchdown run against the Vikings Sunday was his third score in four games this season. All five of his career touchdowns have gone for at least 38 yards.” Steven Jackson has rushed for 201 yards in the Falcons’ four games this year with just one touchdown. The Giants would definitely like to force Atlanta to win the game on the strength of its ground game.
Kroy Built Defense
On the game show Jeopardy, the scene would sound like this. The Answer Is: This Atlanta Falcon leads the team in tackles. Question: Who is Paul Worrilow?
Exactly, who is Paul Worrilow? Worrilow leads a no-name Falcons’ defense with 44 total tackles, almost twice as many as the number two tackler, safety Dwight Lowery. At 6-0, 230 lbs., Worrilow is an undersized middle linebacker, so look for the Giants to try and exploit him by using tight end Larry Donnell like they did last week against the Redskins’ Perry Riley. For those who may have forgotten Donnell had three touchdowns against a Washington defense that look likes Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain as compared to the current Falcons.
Defensive end Kory Biermann is known more as a reality television star than he is for his exploits on the football field. Biermann has 22 tackles on the season, which is third best for Atlanta. The Falcons’ defense has only three quarterback sacks on the year, all of which came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week three. And the team has only two interceptions on the season; one by safety Kemal Ishmael and the other by cornerback Robert McClain.
Atlanta gives up an average 430 yards a game on defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL (only Jacksonville is worse). The team is tied for 25th in takeaway ratio at -3 already on the young season, and it has given up 614 yards on the ground this season, which is 30th in the league.
The last time these two teams played, the Falcons pasted a listless Giants squad 34-0 in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 16, 2012. The all time series, which began in 1966, is tied at 11-11-0. Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin has a 4-2 record against the Falcons as New York’s head coach, including one playoff victory.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.