The 1-3 Falcons have more questions than answers on defense

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Desmond Trufant wore a blank stare as he stood by his locker, obviously annoyed by the reality of losing another high-scoring game on his home turf.

But the Atlanta Falcons cornerback didn't let the frustration of the moment tarnish his outlook for the immediate future. Of course, Trufant knows the defense isn't nearly the same without Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot), Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal (ACL) or all-purpose free safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles). At the same time, Trufant refused to use that as a crutch to explain why the 1-3 Falcons surrendered 80 points in two consecutive home losses, including Sunday's 37-36 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Just got to keep going, keep pushing," Trufant said. "Really can't just make no excuses. Just have to be detailed. Small things turn into big things when it's in the game.

"The first quarter of the season is over. Didn't go anywhere how we wanted it to, but still got a lot of football left."

Indeed, the Falcons have 12 games remaining, so sitting in last place in the NFC South right now doesn't necessarily mean the season is a complete wash. However, surrendering 30.5 points per game isn't the ideal formula for winning football, even if you have an explosive offense capable of putting up 30-plus points every week.

One would think a team that had Matt Ryan throw for 793 yards and eight touchdowns the past two weeks and rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley score five of his six total touchdowns -- the most for a rookie through four games in NFL history -- would hold a decisive edge over its opponent. Instead, the Falcons became the first team since the 1966 New York Giants to lose consecutive games while scoring 36 or more points.

In other words, the defense has been rather offensive.

The Falcons go into their Week 5 road matchup against Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the Steelers with more questions than answers on the defensive side. They've found ways to shoot themselves in the foot, such as Trufant's dropping an interception he said he "should have" come up with and also picking up an unnecessary roughness penalty for a late push that kept a Bengals drive alive and led to a touchdown. Trufant was far from the only culprit, but he had no problem facing the media and owning up to his mistakes.

Folks will scrutinize the final series against the Bengals and the big-picture issue of not being able to close games. The Falcons found second-half success playing more man-to-man coverage yet switched to a Cover 2 zone look with the Bengals facing second-and-10 from the Falcons' 13 with 12 seconds left in regulation. The outcome was Andy Dalton's game-winning touchdown pass to one of the league's best receivers, A.J. Green, who was working against untested rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver. Oliver admitted he should have played a few yards back to keep Green out of the end zone.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn didn't go into much detail regarding giving up the final score. He did say "correct" when asked if the switch to the zone was the reason Oliver was in Green's area rather than Trufant or Robert Alford. Maybe calling a timeout and switching the personnel around might have been a better option, but hindsight is 20/20.

The bottom line is the Falcons have to figure out how to make plays on defense, no matter the player or years of experience. Finding a pass rush, with Takk McKinley registering three sacks and Vic Beasley showing signs of his old self, along with Damontae Kazee coming up with an interception off a tip, is a small gain to build upon. Yet the Falcons still have significant defensive strides to make.

"At the end of the day, we have to get these moments right," Quinn said of closing games. "Through our first quarter of the season, our record doesn't show that we have that part down, so we've got work to do. We're a good team and our record doesn't show it at this point.

"Those three tough losses, we're going right back to it to get to work, to get the things corrected that we would like to get corrected, to find the answers to play our best during those moments."