Falcons defense needs to tackle the issue

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith brought up his defense’s poor tackling effort against the New Orleans Saints, referring to path to football as part the reason for 14 missed tackles.

The subject came up again with defensive coordinator Mike Nolan following Sunday’s overtime victory over Buffalo. Nolan counted 14 missed tackles against the Bills, too, along with nine mental errors on defense.

"You want about half of that (seven missed tackles) because a missed tackle at the line of scrimmage is not costly,’’ Nolan explained. "The difficult thing in missed tackles is when it comes to a secondary player, that’s a critical play.

"Up front, you’ll have a half a dozen missed tackles in a game. But when you miss a tackle on the second and third level -- which is what we did the other day on the two long ones -- they're costly. They go for points. And that’s where things become explosive.’’

Against the Bills, the Falcons surrendered a 77-yard run to speedy C.J. Spiller that would have gone for a touchdown had cornerback Desmond Trufant not chased Spiller down from behind. On the play, safety Thomas DeCoud and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon were unable to corral Spiller up the middle.

Then on Spiller’s 36-yard touchdown run, DeCoud couldn’t get off a block in time to impede Spiller’s progress while cornerback Robert Alford and safety William Moore both fell to the ground and collided while attempting to tackle Spiller.

"The most important thing to tackling is your path to the ball,’’ Nolan said. "And I stress that all the time. We stress that in practice. We try to get as many guys around the ball as you can.

"Go back and watch the film on both plays. A play doesn’t become explosive until it’s after 10 yards. If you look a prior to 10 yards, there are several opportunities to tackle the ball carrier. And it both opportunities … we always work to have a nice little triangle on the ball carrier. But at the moment of truth, we aren’t tackling very well.’’

Nolan feels he is getting enough players around the ball, however.

"Those two plays (against the Bills), in particular, paint a picture that you can't stop the run, and we can,'' Nolan said. "But we have to do it. And you can't let things go to the house. Good teams don't. And we have to be a better team in that regard.''

Finishing tackles will be imperative again this week against the Green Bay Packers and physical rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who is ninth in the NFL with 822 rushing yards, including a long run of 56 yards.

The Falcons have allowed five individuals to rush for more than 145 yards or more this season: Tampa Bay's Bobby Rainey (163 yards), Arizona's Andre Ellington (154), Spiller (149), and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (145).