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Early Bird Report: Falcons looking to get pass rush on track

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the Falcons’ desire to ramp up their pass rush as well as Dan Quinn’s call for more speed and energy.

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Atlanta signed Bruce Irvin last week in an attempt to bolster its pass rush, but that didn’t happen in the Falcons’ 28-16 loss to the Browns. The Falcons did not manage to sack Baker Mayfield once in the game, and the Browns’ success running the ball limited Atlanta’s chances to pin its ears back.

"I don't think we had enough opportunities, honestly," Irvin told ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. "They did a good job of switching it up. When we had our base personnel out there, and they were passing. And when we put our nickel group out there, they were running. They did a good job of mixing it up and keeping us off-balance."

The Falcons have 17 sacks this season, which is tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL. In order for Atlanta to get more opportunities to rush the quarterback, coach Dan Quinn believes the defense needs to be more effective on early downs.

“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 -- you'd like to have a negative play that goes to second-and-10 or 12, and we have some real pass rushing opportunities. So in that game, I thought that was probably the fewest rushing ops that maybe our nickel team would normally have. So I think it tied back into the first and second down.”

To read McClure’s story on the Falcons looking to ramp up their pass rush, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

AJC: Quinn wants more speed and energy after disappointing loss

Dan Quinn didn’t mince words when it came to his team’s performance against the Browns, saying he felt the Falcons “took a step back” in the loss. On Monday, he talked about moving forward and what he needs to see from his team. Among the most important things he looking for are greater speed and energy from his from his defense, which D. Orlando Ledbetter covered in his report for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I thought competitiveness-wise, toughness, that part was there,” Quinn said his team’s effort. “You really saw, even on the long run, guys like Brooks Reed and Grady Jarrett straining to go get it. Where I was probably more disappointed was the energy and the speed that we normally play with, that part of our style, we’ve got to capture that every time that we go.”

AJC: Why the 4-5 Falcons are only half a team

There’s no doubt injuries have impacted what many believed coming into the season could be one of the NFL’s top defenses. After showing strides during the Falcons’ three-game win streak, the defense turned in one of its worst performances in the loss to the Browns. According to The AJC’s Mark Bradley, that’s further proof that the Falcons are only half a team.

“What was revealed Sunday wasn’t really a revelation, given that we’ve seen it all season, but never had it been presented in such screaming neon letters: The Falcons are half a team,” Bradley writes. “When that half manages but 16 points, they have no chance. “

To read the rest of Bradley’s column, click here.

ESPN: No finger pointing: Falcons have issues to fix on both sides

The Falcons played far below their standard during Sunday’s 28-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns, but at 4-5 with only seven games remaining there’s no time to sit around pointing fingers. Besides, all parties deserve to shoulder at least a little bit of the blame.

Atlanta’s defense struggled to defend the run and allowed rookie quarterback to have an excellent day throwing the ball. The Falcons’ offense, meanwhile, struggled against the Cover 2 scheme that the Browns rolled out on defense, which ESPN’s Vaughn McClure noted in his post-game piece.

“Browns coach Gregg Williams typically plays an aggressive man-to-man scheme, but Williams made it clear he wanted to "stay on top" of Jones,” McClure writes. “The whole premise behind the Cover 2 defense is to rush four, drop seven into coverage, and take away vertical routes, forcing the ball underneath. Running four verticals is a Cover 2 beater.

“The Falcons simply didn't find the way to consistently combat the zone defense, and not have great success in the run game (71 yards on 19 carries) didn't help the cause. Plus the Falcons are likely to see more "Tampa 2" next week with Rod Marinelli, the defensive coordinator in Dallas, using that zone defense as his staple over the years.”

To read the rest of McClure’s article, click here.

AJC: Chubb took little glee in running roughshod over Falcons

There’s sure to be plenty of overlap between Georgia Bulldogs fans and Atlanta Falcons fans, which likely made Sunday’s game a bittersweet affair for some. Former Georgia star Nick Chubb led the Browns’ rushing attack against the Falcons, gaining 176 yards on 20 carries, including a franchise-record 92-yard touchdown run. As D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, though, Chubb didn’t take extra pleasure in having a dominant performance against his hometown team.

“This is the same game we always play no matter who the opponent is,” Chubb told Ledbetter. “I know that is my hometown, but I’m just prepared like any other game.

“It’s always great to win, no matter what it takes. I’m willing to do anything they ask me to do. When I was not getting many carries, I was taking advantage of the ones I got. I was just trying to help the team any way I could. That still the same now that I’m getting more carries. I’m going to make the most out of all of them.”

To read the rest of Ledbetter’s piece, click here.

NFL.com: What we learned from Sunday’s games

Falcons fans may want to forget Sunday’s loss as quickly as possible, but what were some of the things gleaned from the contest? NFL.com’s Marc Sessler had three takeaways from the game, which were, understandably Browns-heavy.

“Sunday served as an ultra-effective recruiting advertisement as general manager John Dorsey searches for Cleveland's next coach,” Sessler writes. “The talent is there, just waiting for the right leader to step in and tug this team toward the promised land. The Falcons, meanwhile, can barely afford another misstep after sinking to 4-5 on the year with a rugged, road-heavy remaining slate featuring tilts against the Cowboys, Saints, Packers and Panthers. In a stocked NFC South, the Falcons realistically need to go 6-1 down the stretch.”

To read the rest of Sessler’s takeaways, click here.

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Eyes on target, feet gaining ground.

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Today’s date.

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