The NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons‘ most glaring weakness is about to grow even more fragile.
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Doctors have confirmed that the pectoral injury to Desmond Trufant requires surgery. The Falcons announced Tuesday that they have placed the Pro Bowl cornerback on season-ending injured reserve.
The hits kept coming for Atlanta on Tuesday. The Falcons will also lose defensive end Adrian Clayborn for three to five weeks as he undergoes surgery to trim a partially torn meniscus, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.
In a corresponding move, the Falcons added former Titans third-round cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
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Trufant had been holding out hope that he could play through the injury sustained in Week 9.
The loss of the fourth-year cornerback, Atlanta’s premier defensive star, is a severe blow to the team’s Super Bowl chances.
As impressive as the NFL’s No. 1 offense has been this season, Dan Quinn’s pass defense ranks dead-last in the league. Despite a significantly improved pass rush, the secondary has already allowed more passing touchdowns (25) through 11 games than they did all of last season.
“I was telling the defense, this is the type of team, they are a front-runner. They are a front-running team,” he said, via ESPN.com. “If you go out there and make some stops, they eventually are going to be dying down.”
After starting the season 4-1, Atlanta dropped to 2-3 in their last five contests, averaging six points fewer per game over that stretch.
Matt Ryan played better than his numbers would suggest, but the Falcons had no chain-moving running game and failed to exploit the Eagles’ weakness at cornerback. With the exception of Taylor Gabriel’s devastating double-move on Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard touchdown, Ryan got little help from the supporting cast behind Julio Jones. Although Ryan and Jones connected on a series of passes with high degrees of difficulty, the All-Pro receiver suffered a key third-down drop and failed to pull in a back-shoulder throw in tight coverage with the game on the line.
The Falcons have nothing about which to hang their heads entering the Week 11 bye. Their mettle has been tested as much as any division leader in the league this season. They should welcome back a healthy Tevin Coleman and Jacob Tamme after the bye, rounding out an offense that was one-dimensional Sunday for the first time all season. With New Orleans and Carolina each suffering last-minute, heart-breaking losses in Week 10, Atlanta still has a commanding lead in the NFC South.
Credit Doug Pederson with astute game management late in a tight contest. Mathews’ two-point conversion gave the Eagles a six-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining. Pederson then opted to play it relatively safe with a 48-yard Caleb Sturgis field-goal attempt on fourth-and-1, extending Philadelphia’s lead to two scores — thus preventing another cardiac comeback attempt from Ryan. Regardless of the tight race in their own division, the Eagles are right in thick of a wide-open NFC wild-card picture.
McKelvin was burned badly by Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 76-yard score and dropped a gift interception that could have iced the game. The corner, however, was able to snag the game-ending pick, after which he called out Atlanta for calling what he believed was the same play.
“They actually ran the same play back-to-back,” McKelvin said. “Don’t do that. That was just a bad mistake. They ran the same play back-to-back, and I made a play.”
After giving up 25-plus points in back-to-back games, the Eagles shut down another high-flying offense. Jim Schwartz’s defense has held seven of nine opponents to 305 total yards or fewer.
“Week 2, we played Pittsburgh … they were saying that they were one of the high-powered offenses coming into this game, they’ve got Antonio Brown — that was no different to this game,” said McKelvin. “They ended up coming in here being the No. 1-ranked offense in the NFL, and we’re one of the top defenses in the NFL, so, defense wins. That’s how I see it.”