As the Falcons prepare for the Raiders, the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov look at the issues facing the team and the biggest concerns this week in Oakland.
OAKLAND — Here are 5 things to mull over before today’s 4:25 p.m. kickoff between the Atlanta Falcons (1-0) and the Oakland Raiders (1-0) at the O.CO (Oakland-Alameda Country) Coliseum.
1. RED ZONE FLOW: The Falcons red zone flow must improve. They scored just one touchdown on four trips to the red zone last week against Tampa Bay. Matt Bryant made field goals of 29, 34 and 29 yards. They’ll need touchdowns to keep the folks in section 105 – otherwise known as the Black Hole – quiet.
2. GROUND AND POUND. The Falcons rushed for just 53 yards last week and quarterback Matt Ryan had 10 of those yards. The Falcons have not rushed for more than 100 yards over the past six games. The Falcons’ scheme is predicated on running the ball. The play-action fakes are not effective if there is no real and legitimate rushing threat. The defense, which will be without rookie linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, must slow down the Raiders, who rushed for 167 yards in their season-opening victory over the Saints.
3. IRVIN HAPPY IN OAKLAND. Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin, who repeatedly said he wanted to play for the Falcons told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group that he’s happy with his decision to sign with the Raiders. The Falcons, banking on Vic Beasley developing into a player, elected to spend their big free agent bucks on the offensive side of the ball last season.
4. THE BLAKEMAN GROUP: The game will be officiated by Clete Blakeman’s crew. R: Clete Blakeman (4). FJ: Steve Zimmer (33) U: Barry Anderson (20). SJ: Jon Lucivansky (89). HL: Mark Hittner (28). BJ: Lee Dyer (27). LJ: Julian Mapp (10). RO: Larry Nemmers. Blakeman was the Super Bowl 50 referee and he was also involved in the deflategate game. He was also involved in the controversial coin toss in the Arizona and Green Bay playoff game. Blakeman, who played quarterback at Nebraska, is a lawyer who practices personal injury law in Omaha.
5. SERIES RECORD: 14th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-6. The Falcons won the last meeting in Oakland 24-0 back in 2008. Raiders quarterback JeMarcus Russell was 6 of 19 for 31 yards and had a passer rating of 19. The Falcons have won the last three meetings.
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24