Raheem Morris identifies two biggest problems for Falcons defense 

Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris explains where Atlanta's defense needs to improve 

The Atlanta Falcons (0-2) have allowed their first two opponents to score a combined 79 points and rank No. 31 in yards allowed per game (476.5). Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris wasn't looking to sugarcoat the need for improvement and how quickly his unit most turn it around when he spoke to the media on Wednesday.

The most recent loss to the Dallas Cowboys (1-1) exposed the Falcons' biggest issues on defense and according to Morris, it comes down to two areas: Red zone defense and limiting explosive plays.

"In order to win the games, you have to stop people from scoring touchdowns," Morris said. "The common theme right now is we have to stop and slow down the run to now allow people to get mush yards down there and get close enough to run quarterback sneaks. When a quarterback is able to walk in on a zone-read from 1-yard out, when he's able to get two quarterback sneaks for two touchdowns, that's tough sailing however you want to put it."

Down 29-10 at halftime, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys scored 30 second-half points for a one-point win and it all started with the Falcons' inability to get pressure on Dallas' quarterback. The Falcons recorded just one sack in the 40-39 loss and four quarterback hits.

Morris said Atlanta's identity on defense starts with the ability to affect quarterbacks "mentally and physically" and they weren't able to do so to the level they would like to in Week 2.

"It all starts up front," Morris said. "In the second half we weren't able to provide enough pressure. We weren't able to create enough problems for Dak. In the second half, he made some big-time throws. He used the cadence to beat us a couple of times. He did an excellent job; I don't want to take away from Dak and what he was able to do but we have to affect the quarterback in a better way."

The Falcons rank last in the NFL in red zone defense by allowing opposing teams to score 90 percent of the time once they reach inside the 20-yard line. Opponents have scored on 9 out of 10 trips to the red zone.

Morris, who was promoted to defensive coordinator immediately following the end of the 2019 season, believes this area can be improved with a deeper focus on stopping the run. Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 107 yards, with a bulk of their success coming in the second half.

"In order to win the games, you have to stop people from scoring touchdowns," Morris said. "The common theme right now is we have to stop and slow down the run to now allow people to get mush yards down there and get close enough to run quarterback sneaks. When a quarterback is able to walk in on a zone-read from 1-yard out, when he's able to get two quarterback sneaks for two touchdowns, that's tough sailing however you want to put it."

The Falcons gave up 570 yards of total offense to the Cowboys with 445 of them coming from Prescott and his passing attack. Several times Prescott was able to create explosive plays for his offense with no pressure. One of the key momentum changers in the game occurred early in the third quarter when Prescott found wide receiver Amari Cooper down the field for a gain of 40 yards. The next play, he found rookie CeeDee Lamb over the middle for 37 yards. Three plays later, the Cowboys scored a touchdown making the score 29-17.

Morris pointed to those specific plays as things that can't happen as the Falcons look to tighten up their defense ahead of a critical Week 3 matchup with the Chicago Bears (2-0).

"The explosive plays are the ones that allow them to get down (to the red zone)," Morris said. "Those are the things we have to stop. That's part of our winning formula here, limiting explosive plays and our offense getting them."

Much of Chicago's success on offense has come through their run game. Running backs David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen have rushed for 199 yards through two games, making the Bears the 9th-ranked rushing offense. Where the team has struggled, though, has been in pass protection. Look for the Falcons to take advantage of this area and dial up the pass rush on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who has already been sacked five times this year.

Take a look at the best practice photos as we head into Week 3 in this gallery, presented by Quikrete.

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