(Photo credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
If the Atlanta Falcons expect to get back into the win column when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday, they will have to re-establish their running game following a 20-6 road loss to Detroit.
The Lions held the Falcons' (2-1) vaunted rushing attack, led by dynamic rookie BijanRobinson, to just 44 yards. And due to Atlanta's inability to get the running backs going, Detroit was able to take aim at second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was sacked seven times.
It showed just how important the Falcons' run game is to their success.
"We dropped back more than we had in a while," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said in Monday's press conference. "The run game is not going to be great every week. When we are not getting the counters off the run game and getting those going, whether that's in the play-actions, screens or movement passes, well, that does really make you one-dimensional."
Despite the disappointing showing in Detroit, Atlanta enters its matchup with the Jaguars (1-2) ranked ninth in the league in rushing (128.3 yards per game). Conversely, the Falcons sit 28th in passing yards (155 yards per game).
Through three games, Robinson is the team's leader in rushing (213 yards) and receptions (14 for 102 yards and a score). Wideout Mack Hollins has just seven catches, but he leads Atlanta at 114 yards.
Tight end Kyle Pitts is coming off his best game of the season (five catches for 41 yards) against Detroit, but he and second-year receiver Drake London, two of the team's most explosive players, have yet to take the top off defenses.
Smith felt the offense needs to connect on more big plays in the passing game.
"It's not for a lack of trying, but we've got to hit some more explosives," Smith said.
After winning its opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville has dropped consecutive games to the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence has completed 73 of 113 passes for 736 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, through three games. Tailback Travis Etienne is the team's leading rusher with 205 yards and a score on 49 carries. He's also caught 11 passes for 79 yards.
Tight end Evan Engram has made 18 receptions for 173 yards for Jacksonville but has yet to find the end zone this season. Former Falcon Calvin Ridley has 13 receptions for 173 yards and a score.
Smith wants his players and coaches focused on beating a talented Jaguars squad in England.
"We got to take a step back and all of us get in the bunker and see how we can get better." Smith said. "We are 2-1, thankfully. We got a big game in London against a team that's going to have the same mindset (as Detroit a week ago). ... We know what they're about. They are a talented football team with a really good coaching staff."
--Smith said the arm/shoulder injury to starting linebacker Troy Anderson on Sunday "didn't look good." An official prognosis was not yet made.
--Atlanta safety Jessie Bates III has three interceptions through three games. Former safety Thomas DeCoud (2012) is the only other Falcons player to accomplish that feat in franchise history.
--Jacksonville starting right tackle Anton Harrison injured his leg in the loss to the Texans and could be out for Sunday's game.
--Field Level Media