By Abraham Gutierrez
After starting the season 2-0 for only the second time in 11 years, the triumphant Miami Dolphins make their 2013 home debut against a very dangerous opponent in the (1-1) Atlanta Falcons.
Opening kickoff for this interconference showdown is slated for Sunday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET.
The Jackson Thigh
Although the “Dirty Birds” were victorious in their home opener against St. Louis 31-24, the win was less than satisfying, especially for a former Ram.
Running back Steven Jackson, Atlanta’s most important offseason acquisition, injured his thigh following an eight-yard touchdown grab that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead in the opening frame.
The Rams all-time rushing leader (10,135 yards) was escorted to the locker room during the ensuing kickoff, and his return was listed as “questionable.”
However, the three-time Pro Bowler would not return to the game (thigh bruise), immediately raising concerns for Mike Smith’s offense as it prepares to face Miami’s fourth-ranked (points) defense.
Falcons on Offense
The importance of Jackson’s presence simply cannot be underestimated, as it allows Atlanta to become a multi-dimensional team.
Last week’s performance is a perfect example, as Jackson’s departure forced quarterback Matt Ryan to throw the ball 43 times and carry the load offensively.
Even with Atlanta’s electric receiving corps, this approach is unlikely to pay off on Sunday, as it faces a Miami “D” that’s tied for second place in the NFL with four interceptions.
Offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter will try to duplicate the success he enjoyed in his first season as Falcons OC. Last year, he took Atlanta to new heights, earning top 10 rankings in a number of categories that included:
Third-down efficiency (45.1 pct, 2nd), scoring efficiency (44.0 pct., 2nd), red-zone points scored (317, 3rd), red-zone scoring efficiency (90.5 pct., 6th), first downs per game (21.4, 6th), scoring offense (26.2, 7th) and passing offense (292.0, 7th).
After two weeks, the Falcons offense ranks 13th in points (24 ppg), 11th in total yards (380 typg), 6th in passing (318 pypg) and 26th in rushing (62.0 rypg).
Falcons on Defense
Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan enters his second season at the helm of the Falcons “D”.
Last year, his base 4-3 defense finished fifth in the league in the following categories: Scoring defense (18.7 ppg.), turnovers forced (31), red-zone scoring (46.1 pct) and interceptions (20).
Nolan certainly has his work cut out if he hopes to live up to last year’s numbers. After two weeks, the Falcons defense ranks 15th in points allowed (23.5 ppg), 27th in total yards surrendered (420 typg), 29th defending the pass (346.5 pypg) and 8th against the rush (73.5 rypg).
Falcons Key Offensive Players
- (QB) Matt Ryan: 58/81 (72%), 678 yards, 4 TDs, INT, long of 81 yards, 107.9 QBR
- (RB) Steven Jackson: 14 carries, 77 yards (5.5 avg.), long of 50 yards
- (WR) Julio Jones: 18 receptions, 258 yards (14.3 avg.), 2 TDs, long of 81 yards
- (WR) Roddy White: 5 receptions, 40 yards (8.0 avg.), long of 15 yards
- (TE) Tony Gonzalez: 7 receptions, 69 yards (9.9 avg.) TD, long of 16
- (RB) Jacquizz Rodgers: 13 carries, 16 yards (1.2 avg.) long of 7 yards
Falcons Key Defensive Players
- (CB) Robert McClain: 19 tackles, 17 solo, 2 assists
- (SS) William Moore: 15 tackles, 14 solo, assist
- (LB) Akeem Dent: 15 tackles, 9 solo, 6 assists
- (DT) Corey Peters: 8 tackles, 5 solo, 3 assists, 1.0 sacks
- (DT) Peria Jerry: 2 solo tackles, 1.0 sacks
- (DE) Osi Umenyiora: 1 INT, 68 yards, TD, long of 68 yards
- (CB) Robert Alford: 1 INT, 3 tackles, 2 solo, assist
Falcons Key Special Teams Players
- (K) Matt Bryant: 2/2 (100%), long of 38 yards
- (P) Matt Bosher: 12 punts (49.9 avg.), long of 63 yards, 4 inside opp. 20
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .