- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Reflecting on the shameful statistic made William Moore shake his head in disgust.
The Atlanta Falcons safety simply can’t comprehend why his defense has allowed 11 plays of 40-plus yards through the first seven games. Those plays have amounted to 581 yards for opponents, including 312 for the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals combined.
The Buffalo Bills lead the league while giving up 12 such 40-plus-yard plays.
"Bugs me a lot, man, because those same 11 plays are the difference between being 2-5 and 5-2,’’ Moore said. "If we could get them back ... but you can’t. The best thing about them is you learn from them. You look back and it hasn’t been the same explosive play that has been getting us throughout the season. It’s been different plays. But I know for sure that we’ll crack down. It’s an attitude thing. And our guys will get it right.’’
Moore deserves credit for keeping a positive outlook despite how poorly the defense has played at times this season. But the explosive plays have been inexcusable.
If the Falcons continue at their current pace of allowing 1.57, 40-plus-yard plays per game, they’ll find themselves in unique company. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 25 plays of 40-plus yards yielded by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004 are the most by any team since the 2001 season.
The worst one was this past Sunday’s 80-yard touchdown given up to speedy Cardinals rookie running back Andre Ellington. Moore talked repeatedly of how the defense lost leverage on the play. There were at least two missed tackles. It was the cornerback’s job to set the edge for the defense. Robert Alford was at right cornerback on the play as Ellington dipped outside to the left. Alford appeared to get held by Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd.
Adding to the insult was the fact that Moore explained how the defense prepared for Ellington’s explosiveness in practice.
"We schemed it all week, with his speed,’’ Moore said. "We schemed his ability to get outside and bounce the play. That’s what we worked on all week as far as holding your leverage because he can start over here and end up over there. One play, that’s all it was.’’
One play too many, in the Falcons' case.