FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons (4-7) have to flip their recent script and snap their three-game losing streak, and they will seek to do that against the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
So how can the Falcons go about doing that? Here are three key areas for them to start.
Falcons' run game vs. Ravens' run defense
This has easily been one of the biggest areas of concern for the Falcons in recent games, and Atlanta has a tall task ahead of it to try and get the run game back on track against a stout Baltimore defense. The Ravens are near the top in nearly every major defensive category, and they have the third-ranked run defense in the league, allowing just 92 yards per game.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has the 31st-ranked rushing offense this season and averages 83 yards on the ground per game. The Falcons have been held under that average in their last three games and are coming off a 26-yard rushing performance in their loss to the Saints. The two times Atlanta has surpassed 100 yards on the ground they've won, beating the Panthers in Week 2 and the Redskins in Week 9.
"A number of things," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said when asked what he wants to see in the run game," first things first as we're executing a plan I want to make sure are the details and all of the communication that goes along the line, that's usually what I listen for first. That's usually the right calls, the right checks are in place that we can get to it. From the running backs side specifically, I want to really make sure our tracks are on course. We have one cut and are really able to get vertical."
Edge defenders vs. Ravens' read-option
It remains to be seen if Lamar Jackson will again start for the injured Joe Flacco, but this will be extremely important if he is indeed out there. With Jackson behind center, the Ravens have run a variety of different zone-option schemes meant to put the read defender in a stressful situation.
"Yes, and we have some experience with that and certainly in our own division that we have to deal with some," Quinn said of defending the read option. "But that said, this is also one that when you have those rules in option, you better have your cleats in the grass and go ready to attack because if you start overthinking and over analyzing and not trusting your rules, I do my job – but really could do his - it is no truer than it is in this matchup."
Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley have been players who have performed well when forced into the type of quick-decision situations that the red option presents, and they will need to continue to be effective in that area if the extremely mobile Jackson is playing.
The turnover margin
There has been perhaps no bigger talking point from Quinn this week than the importance of winning the turnover margin. "The Ball" is one of the Falcons' three pillars, which should provide some insight into how highly Quinn values creating and limiting turnovers.
"If we can do a better job of creating takeaways, forcing fumbles, recovering fumbles, the interceptions, to push us up into the plus, I thought that would be a real factor," Quinn said. "Offensively and in the return teams, the same thing – can they make sure we're owning it at a level to our standard."
The Falcons are minus-five in the turnover margin over the last three weeks, but they will face a team who is minus-6 in that area this season. The Ravens have given the ball away 14 times this season, so there may be chances for Atlanta to get a few takeaways.