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Falcons Run Defense Requires Three-Level Effort

When Falcons head coach Mike Smith addressed the media Monday, discussing his team's Week 4 loss, he minced no words in describing how the Falcons defense allowed the Minnesota Vikings to net 241 rushing yards in their 41-28 victory on Sunday.

Two-hundred-and-forty of those yards came via former Georgia Southern RB Jerick McKinnon, who finished with 135 yards, followed by Vikings RB Matt Asiata's 78 yards and 27 yards by rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.

While many are quick to point fingers and cast blame here and there, Smith expressed obvious disappointment with Sunday's result, but at the end of the day, he and his staff are working tirelessly, as are the players, to provide what the team's fan base wants: improved play on all three phases, including stopping the opposition's ground attack.

"When we talk about defending the run, it's all three levels that are responsible, the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary," Smith said. "We had way too many explosive plays and each unit contributed to the specific plays that we're talking about; it's not just one group. We're all in this together; if something happens at level one, it should have an opportunity to get stopped at level two or level three."

With that very mindset, I headed to the Falcons locker room, looking for perspective from a player on each level of the team's defense and just like their head coach, the Falcons made no excuses about what happened Sunday:

The Falcons headed to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a Sunday afternoon game against the Minnesota Vikings. Check out these pictures of gameday.

Falcons DT Paul Soliai: "With a run defense that allows over 100 yards, I didn't do a good job... I just have to be physical every play. I have to win the individual matchups and make a play, which comes down to using my strength, power, hands, technique, everything; I don't care where the ball carrier is, I have to go make the play."

Falcons LB Prince Shembo: "A great defense, realistically, should never let the play get to the safeties, don't ever let it get past the second level. All those explosive plays, they ran past the second level. ... We just can't let that happen. We'll respond. Trust me, after a game like that, everybody's upset at that performance."

Falcons CB Robert Alford: "We just need to communicate better, go out there and execute more and try to find a way to come away with takeaways. We have to come in every day and know our opponent, back and front, and execute the plays that (Falcons defensive coordinator) coach Nolan calls."

Following the players' media session, they headed home for the day, with game film of the New York Giants loaded on their iPads, allowing them to study QB Eli Manning and a recently high-powered Giants offense. The team is off Tuesday, before returning Wednesday for more preparations for the Week 5 road test in New York.

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