Injury-plagued Falcons take on skidding Giants
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The New York Giants have lost three games in a row, giving up more than 30 points in all three, but the Atlanta Falcons have their own concerns coming into Monday night's game in Atlanta against the Giants.
The Falcons (2-4) ended a three-game losing streak with a 34-29 victory over the Tampa Buccaneers, but Atlanta lost two key receivers in that game -- Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip). Neither practiced on Thursday, and it is unclear whether either will play against the Giants (1-5).
Earlier this week the Falcons placed running back Devonta Freeman on the injured reserve with a groin injury, and they have lost offensive lineman Andy Levitre for the season with a torn biceps.
The Falcons' defense also has been crippled by injuries, and Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said Thursday he can't remember being hit with so many injuries.
"Not that I can think of," Quinn said. "When it comes up you adjust and you put the best plan in place."
The loss of Freeman means larger roles for Tevin Coleman and rookie Ito Smith.
Quinn is not going to abandon the run game, though.
"We're looking forward to attacking it again and we like the plan that we're putting in place to ensure that we stay committed and have our opportunities to do it," Quinn said. "We felt more scheme-related and quite honestly some technique things that we felt like we could do better to get our run game to the standard that we have."
Tight end Austin Hooper, who had nine receptions against Tampa Bay, may be a bigger part of the passing game if Ridley and/or Sanu cannot play.
"When guys do down, other people have to step up and fill the void," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "He did that for us (Sunday), but he's done that for us even when those guys are up."
But the focus will continue to be on Julio Jones. Jones had 10 catches for 144 yards last week, and he ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards with 708.
The Falcons also lost their kicker when Matt Bryant suffered a hamstring injury. Atlanta signed Giorgio Tavecchio to take his place this week.
But the Falcons are at home, Ryan has been excellent in recent weeks and Atlanta is facing a Giants team that is reeling after starting 1-5 for the second straight season.
"You definitely can't dwell on the record so far, but you can use it as fire and motivation to not let any of that happen again and to play even better moving forward," Giants offensive lineman Will Hernandez said.
During the three-game losing streak, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has as many interceptions as touchdown passes, recording three of each. He has been sacked 20 times this season, including four times in the 34-13 loss to Philadelphia in their most recent game on Oct. 11.
He may be in for more harassment with Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett possibly returning after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
The one bright spot for the Giants has been rookie running back Saquon Barkley. He piled up 229 yards from scrimmage against the Eagles, collecting 130 yards on the ground and 99 yards in receiving.
But the Giants still scored only 13 points.
"I think I could be more efficient in the run game, continue to grow as a leader, pass pro, everything," Barkley said. "That's just kind of how I am. I'm very critical of all the little things and I think I can grow in every part of my game."
New York's other offensive weapon is Odell Beckham Jr., who had a season-low 44 receiving yards on six receptions in the loss to the Eagles. His 84.3 yards per game rank 13th in the NFL, and he has just one touchdown catch.
The Giants need to give Manning time to throw, and he might have it against Atlanta, which has not had much of a pass rush this season. Only four teams have fewer than the 10 sacks the Falcons have recorded this season.
One of those four teams is the Giants, who have only seven sacks, tied for the fewest in the NFL. That is not a favorable statistic when facing Ryan, who has been on a roll lately. He had 354 passing yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Tampa Bay, and has thrown 12 touchdown passes with no picks over the past four games.
Updated October 18, 2018