NFL Atlanta Falcons

5 Things The Atlanta Falcons Must Do Moving Forward

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Atlanta Falcons: 5 Things They Must Do Moving Forward

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Before this season, the Atlanta Falcons were right on track to make another run into the playoffs. Tight end Tony Gonzalez decided to come back for one more year, and they landed huge additions to the running game with Steven Jackson and in the pass rush with Osi Umenyiora. But after Week 3, Jackson is out, the offense can't seem to finish their opponents in the fourth quarter and if these 1-2 Falcons don't make the right adjustments, the playoffs will be out of reach.

The Falcons shouldn't be completely written off just yet. Sure they are 1-2, but they aren't the only ones with a slow start. Atlanta currently shares their record with six other NFC teams, including the Super Bowl runner-ups San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. At least they aren't the New York Giants, who have an embarrassing 0-3 record, and now Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has found himself in his own dog house.

Atlanta can definitely bounce back. They already got that playoff win monkey off their backs, and they have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. Plus, regular season records cannot define a team's identity. The Giants are proof of that. They began their 2007 season at 1-2, but eventually, finished the year as Super Bowl champions. If Atlanta is going to do the same, they need to make some adjustments moving forward. Here is a look at those five things.

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5. The Running Game

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons' running game needs to step up. Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins is proof that an effective running game controls the tempo, as the Falcons' total time of possession was over 37 minutes. Quarterback Matt Ryan was also able to have a successful day through the air as a result. Atlanta currently ranks 21st in the NFL for average rushing yards with 90, so this needs to improve regardless of Jackson's absence.

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4. Red Zone Scoring

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Their inability to score in the red zone has been evident in 2013. They could not capitalize on a late fourth-quarter drive against the New Orleans Saints, which left them just yards short of a 1-0 start. The Falcons were also 2-for-5 in the red zone against the Dolphins. On their last offensive drive, their inability to score in Dolphin's territory resulted in a missed field goal.

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3. Improve in The Pass Rush

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta's defense is not great, but they looked good in Week 3. Atlanta recorded five sacks against the Dolphins on Sunday, two of them coming from Umenyiora. Umenyiora even forced a fumble, which eventually resulted in a Falcons' touchdown. Atlanta is hurt, but their defense must maintain their intensity moving forward.

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2. Protect The Quarterback

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When Ryan stays upright, he is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. When he has time to connect with his receivers, the offense is considered one of the best. Ryan had a pair of touchdowns on Sunday, and Julio Jones had himself another 100-yard receiving performance. If Atlanta wants another playoff berth, they must keep their quarterback protected and healthy.

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1. Adopt Less Conservative Play Calling

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta head coach Mike Smith may have noted the offense is lacking in execution, but I feel the play calling has been too conservative in the second half as well. Atlanta lacks the defense that will hold any lead. That was evident last season in the playoffs. Part of the offense's inability to continue scoring points is in the play calling. Atlanta has the fire power, so coach Smith and the rest of his staff need to find ways to be more efficient in their game plans.