The Atlanta Falcons return to the Georgia Dome for the first time since Oct. 12 to host the Cleveland Browns in Week 12. Sunday marks the 14th meeting between the two teams with the Browns holding a 10-3 advantage in the all-time series. The Falcons won the last meeting between the clubs, earning a 20-10 win in Cleveland in 2010.
Top Matchup: Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs Browns S Tashaun Gipson
Matt Ryan loves playing in front of the home crowd and has proven it again in 2014. In three games at the Georgia Dome this season, Ryan is 71-of-104 for 1,005 yards, including seven touchdowns and just one interception. The team's franchise star is well aware of Gipson, who leads the league with six interceptions. "He's been opportunistic," Ryan said. "I think when those guys have had good coverage, he's been able to make some plays over the top and make some plays in pass coverage himself." Keeping the ball away from Gipson and the entire Cleveland secondary is a must for the Falcons to win on Sunday.
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons CB Robert McClain
Filling in for injured Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (wrist), McClain gets his second start of the season. He'll try to help the team's secondary against a Browns' passing attack that averages 244.3 passing yards per game. "They have multiple weapons all over their entire offense," McClain said. "We have to contain those weapons and force a lot of turnovers to help us win the game."
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons WR Roddy White
One week after topping 10,000 career receiving yards, White looks to continue adding to his Falcons legacy against a ball-hawking Cleveland secondary. "Those guys get interceptions," White said. "They knock balls down, and they rush the passer really well. We're going to have to be consistent and make plays." Sunday will be White's third-career game against the Browns. He has 10 receptions for 200 yards (20.0 avg) and two touchdowns in two games against Cleveland.
Number of the Game: 80
The Falcons have turned up the heat on defense in their last two wins, forcing five turnovers. Falcons head coach Mike Smith alluded to the significance of winning the turnover battle in the NFL. "When you win the turnover battle in this league, you're going to win 80 percent of the time," Smith said. "To win the turnover battle you have to take it away on defense, and you've also got to take care of it on offense. We have improved over the last four or five weeks as a defense." If the improvement continues in Week 12, the Falcons could be 5-6 by late Sunday afternoon.
**Three Keys to Victory:
1. Do Your Homework: Cleveland's defense is loaded with talent, including linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Desmond Bryant. The duo has combined for nine quarterback sacks this season. Falcons left guard Justin Blalock says film study will be extra vital in Week 12. "They have a really good front," Blalock said. "We got our hands full as far as studying goes this week. We'll have to put in some extra time to make sure we're on top of all the schematics they're doing."
2. Not Overlooking Josh Gordon: Returning from a 10-game suspension, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon adds big-play ability to Cleveland's offense. Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael said the team isn't overlooking Gordon's time away from the game. "He's a crazy-good athlete," Ishmael said. "He has good hands, size and speed. He's going to be a lot to handle."
3. The Fan-Base Factor: Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester said it best when describing the influence of the Falcons fan base: "Hopefully, we can get our crowd to come out and support us and rally it up," Hester said. "We do a lot of big things when our fans are around, giving the great support that they've been giving."