What we're watching: Falcons


1. Getting off the field on third down. Last week, the 49ers converted 8 of 13 third-down opportunities against the Eagles, including 2 third-and-8s, a third-and-10 and a third-and-21. In 5 games, the Eagles’ opponents have converted 42.9 percent of their third-down situations, including a disturbing 15 of 45 third downs of 6 yards or more. In the Falcons, they’ll be facing one of the best third-down offenses in the league. The Falcons have converted 46.3 percent of their third-down opportunities in the last 4 games.

2. Stopping the run. After giving up 169 rushing yards to the Redskins 2 weeks ago, the Eagles did a good job last week of shutting down the 49ers’ Frank Gore. Gore averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against the Eagles. The defense will get another major run test this week against the Falcons, who are ranked second in the league in rushing and are averaging 36 attempts and 148.8 rushing yards per game. Michael Turner has had 2 100-yard rushing performances in the last 3 games.

3. Where’s DeSean? DeSean Jackson is one of the league’s most dangerous receivers, but the Eagles haven’t been getting the ball in his hands enough. He’s been targeted a team-high 36 times, but has just 18 catches. He’s been particularly invisible when Kevin Kolb has been taking the snaps. In Kolb’s 9 quarters behind center, Jackson has been targeted just 14 times and has only 4 catches for 37 yards.

4. The turnover battle. The Eagles and Falcons both have +7 turnover differentials. The only team in the league with a better TO differential is the New York Jets (+11). The Falcons have intercepted a league-high 10 passes, while the Eagles have thrown just one pick in their first 5 games, and that was Kevin Kolb’s Hail Mary toss at the end of the Redskins game. The Eagles are coming off a 5-takeaway game against the 49ers.

5. The blind side. Left tackle Jason Peters has been battling a knee injury most of the season and took himself out of the 49ers game in the first quarter. He was replaced by King Dunlap, who gave up 3 of the Eagles’ 4 sacks against the 49ers. If Peters can’t play this week, the thought of Dunlap going up against Falcons right end John Abraham is R-rated frightening. A much more appealing option is sliding left guard Todd Herremans outside and inserting Reggie Wells at guard.

To read our earlier posts, click here.