Smith liked tackling, hated penalties

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- One of the points of emphasis for the Atlanta Falcons going into this season was improving tackling.

In fact, coach Mike Smith said new tackling drills were introduced this offseason to get the matter corrected. But a tackling dummy doesn't compare to live action.

Smith gave his assessment of how his team tackled in Friday's 16-10 preseason victory over the Miami Dolphins.

"I thought that there were some very good examples of good tackling," Smith said following Saturday's practice. "I thought there were some examples of not bringing your feet. The very first play of the game, I didn't think that we tackled well. We took a poor angle and we had a missed tackle.

"But, for really the second time that we [had] gone out and done full-speed plays, I thought it was pretty good. I thought that the secondary did a very good job attacking the ball. I thought that they did a nice job in terms of illegal contact. We had one illegal contact and that was on a linebacker. So there were some positive things there. And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there were some things that we did do well. And [tackling] was one of them."

The culprit on the one missed tackle Smith pointed to was linebacker Joplo Bartu, who missed wrapping up Dolphins running back Lamar Miller on a pass over the middle. It led to a six-yard gain and helped set up one of two third-and-shorts for Miami on its initial scoring drive.

While Smith approved of the tackling overall, he wasn't the least bit pleased with the penalties. The Falcons were penalized nine times for 82 yards, but one of those penalties -- a holding call on rookie right tackle Jake Matthews -- wiped out a 76-yard touchdown run by Antone Smith.

"The big thing that sticks out is we cannot have nine penalties," Smith said. "Those nine penalties, it was 240 yards given up that would have been on our stat sheet. You start talking about the hidden yards in a game, it looks like a 10-yard penalty on the stat sheet. Well, it brought back a 70-something yard touchdown run.

"We had a 30-yard completion; we had a 20-yard completion (both negated by penalties). So we've got to play smarter in terms of the penalties. We can't go through and have these types of numbers as we go through the season."