Dialing up pressure on Cowboys' Dak Prescott will be key to a Falcons win

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After a "disappointing" loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Falcons' coaching staff and players will go back to the drawing board and to find answers before hosting the Dallas Cowboys (4-5). 

One area that's at the top of the list for improvement defensively is the pass rush. 


According to ESPN, the Falcons rank second to last in pressure percentage. This stat is measured by the percentage of dropbacks where defense applies pressure to a quarterback. The Falcons are doing that only 22.6 percent of the time.

The Falcons have seen on multiple occasions when they affect the quarterback how it impacts the rest of the defense and ultimately plays a factor in the final outcome.

During their three-game winning streak the Falcons were able to consistently get pressure on opponents' quarterbacks.

Here's a look at the numbers from those three Falcons wins:

· Buccaneers – four quarterback hits, two sacks

· Giants – eight quarterback hits, four sacks

· Redskins – five quarterback hits, three sacks

Against the Browns, the Falcons had zero quarterback hits and zero sacks on 20 dropbacks.

It certainly makes a difference.
So how do the Falcons ensure their pass rush becomes more of a factor in the upcoming games?
To Dan Quinn, it's pretty simple – play better against the run on first and second down.

"When we didn't play the run quite as well as we'd like, there weren't longer third-downs that force a team into becoming thrown in those scenarios," Quinn said. "So to not play as well on first and second down, I think that caused [the lack of pass rushing opportunities] -- you'd like to have a negative play that goes to second-and-10 or 12, and we have some real pass rushing opportunities."

Quinn said that was the fewest rushing opportunities his nickel team defense had in a game so far this year.

That's certainly not ideal as the Falcons would like to get Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford and newly signed Bruce Irvin as many opportunities as they can to affect the quarterback.

The Falcons rank 29th in the league in sacks with 29 on the year with 17.

Atlanta ranks in the bottom five in the league in three other important statistics that an improved pass rush can help:

· Passing yards per game – 30th(294.4)

· Third down percentage – 31st(51.89 %)

· Red zone percentage – 30th(75%)

Atlanta saw firsthand how getting pressure on Dak Prescott can play a factor in the game. In 2017 when the Falcons defeated the Cowboys, 27-7, the Falcons sacked Prescott eight times, six of those belonging to Adrian Clayborn.

Prescott has been sacked 32 times this year, tied for the most in the league.

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