Skip to main content


4c9664bcb6973dcd4a080000.jpg contributing writer Daniel Cox gets you ready for Sunday's game with his five keys to a Falcons victory, including tightening up special teams play, honing in on running back Peyton Hillis and preparing for two different quarterbacks in Week 5 on the road at Cleveland.

Entering Week 5 of this season the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns should be tired of close games.

With the exception of Atlanta's Week 2 blowout victory over the Arizona Cardinals, both teams' games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less and hung in the balance entering the fourth quarter.

Cleveland will look to ride the momentum from last week's victory over in-state rival the Cincinnati Bengals, its first of the season, after three tough losses.

Atlanta enters Cleveland for the first of two straight road games after two emotional final-second victories in previous weeks.

The Browns appear to be mostly at full health for Sunday with only the status of the season-opening quarterback, Jake Delhomme, in question. However, they've been in the capable hands of backup Seneca Wallace.

Falcons wide receiver Michael Jenkins has had limited participation in practice for the second straight week and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. If he plays, it'll be his first action of the regular season.

While Cleveland is young, they've played with heart through their win and their losses early in the season, but Atlanta's shown more than a little heart of their own.

A look at the five keys that could ensure a Falcons victory in Week 5:

Little more special special teams:With rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon out last week and second-year safety William Moore starting, some of the young difference makers on special teams have not been part of the squad in recent weeks.

Because of that, Atlanta's been susceptible to some big returns, giving opponents good field position and big plays on special teams. Against the Saints they allowed Lance Moore to return a punt 72 yards and Courtney Roby to average 27 yards per kick return.

Last week against the 49ers, a Michael Koenen punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

Cleveland features one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL in Joshua Cribbs. The do-everything man for the Browns holds the NFL career record with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns.

While he has no touchdown returns so far this season, the explosive playmaker returned two in one game last season.

Always a threat, if Atlanta allows mental lapses to occur on special teams, Cribbs could single-handedly beat them.

Halt Hillis:Cleveland's emerging feature running back, the bruising Peyton Hillis, enters the game against Atlanta seeking his fifth straight game with a touchdown and his third straight game rushing for more than 100 yards.

Once inserted into the starting lineup, the former Arkansas fullback has carried much of the burden of Cleveland's offense.

Cleveland's offensive line is a strength, but Atlanta's front four should be able to hang with them. If they can shut down or even limit the running game, the Browns' offense will operate short-handed.

Browns' green secondary:With the exception of 31-year-old starter Sheldon Brown, Cleveland's secondary is inexperienced.

Eric Wright is in his fourth season, but has struggled in pass defense this season. 2010 first-round pick Joe Haden has worked primarily out of the slot this season.

Safety T.J. Ward leads all rookies in tackles, but is still highly inexperienced. Across from him is Abram Elam, who only became a full-time starter last season.

Theirs is a secondary ranked 24th in the league, allowing 235 yards per game and have given up seven touchdowns through the air. Last week they allowed Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens to gain 222 yards receiving and score one touchdown.

Atlanta prides itself on a tough running game, but against a feisty defense they may find gains on the ground tough to come by. The Falcons may opt to utilize their dynamic passing weapons and quick strike for scores through the air.

Fast start, big lead:Quick strikes through the air from the arm of quarterback Matt Ryan to receivers like Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez would be two-fold.

Not only would it allow Atlanta to start fast, an approach they place a premium on, but it would put a young team who has kept games close all season in an early hole.

The Falcons, down by two touchdowns early last season, managed to chip away and get back into the game before eventually winning it on an all-out hustle by White. They've shown an ability to come back from deficits.

Cleveland's been in every game through every quarter, but finding themselves down early may demoralize an inexperienced team and they may not respond favorably for the home crowd.

Double prepared:The Falcons face a tough challenge in game planning this week since they have to prepare for two quarterbacks of different abilities.

The starter for the last three weeks is the mobile Wallace, who has played well, leading two scoring drives against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 and a win in Week 4.

Delhomme is a familiar foe to Atlanta, facing them twice a year in seven seasons as the starter for the Carolina Panthers.

An ankle sprain has kept him out of the starting lineup since Week 2, but Browns head coach Eric Mangini said Friday that he felt his quarterback's progress was better than last week's.

The limbo at quarterback is nothing but a good thing for the Browns as they've shown an ability to play well for both signal callers and Atlanta could give itself a headache worrying about which one to be ready for.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content