The way the Bucs played in losing at Arizona and Buffalo the past two weeks, coach Dirk Koetter reiterated his struggling team can’t afford to look at the division race beyond playing the Panthers on Sunday.
The only thing you can do right now is … get one win, Koetter said.
I showed the guys the division standings, and we are what we’ve earned to this point, the coach added. The fact that some other teams got beat in our division is in our favor, and it is a factor (that) we have not played division games and those games can move you up fast. … But we have to play better football.
While the Patriots were stable in keeping Patricia as the defensive coordinator, the Falcons lost Shanahan, the league’s best offensive coordinator in 2016, to the 49ers head-coaching job. The Falcons maintained all offseason that there would be limited change to the offense under replacement Steve Sarkisian.
But as Shanahan was pushing all the right buttons with scheme and personnel, it was unreasonable not to expect some drop-off with Sark. Digging deeper into the rushing attack, that’s the one aspect that has remained most intact.
Despite the lower rushing yardage rank, the Falcons are better than they were in 2016 in average yards per rush (4.8 vs. 4.6). The exceptional play of Freeman has been the saving grace for the entire offense.
Freeman had a huge first half in the Super Bowl, carrying six times for 71 yards. But in the second half, as the Patriots’ emphasis turned to stopping the run in order to get back in the game, Freeman was held to just 4 yards on five carries.