Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons’ biggest issue is injuries

Philadelphia's Jordan Matthews is laid out by Falcons safety Keanu Neal Sunday, a hit that likely will lead to a fine from the league. (Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

Philadelphia’s Jordan Matthews is laid out by Falcons safety Keanu Neal Sunday, a hit that likely will lead to a fine from the league. (Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — Let’s face it: If the Falcons went into the bye week with a three-game winning streak, a 7-3 record and a comfortable 2½-game lead in the NFC South, it just wouldn’t seem right, would it?

So they gave us pause again Sunday.

The Falcons were hammered on both lines of scrimmage, were gashed for 208 yards rushing and failed to run the ball effectively themselves. They lost to Philadelphia 24-15, so go into the bye week a bit battered and bruised, particularly around the ego. For my full column on the game, click here.

The Falcons will need to soldify a number of things when they return, but their playoffs hopes also may rest on the condition of some players after the week off. Here’s a few individuals down the stretch:

• Safety Keanu Neal: He likely won’t be suspended but almost certainly will be fined for a fourth-quarter helmet-to-helmet hit on Philadelphia wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Neal, known as a hard hitter but not a dirty player, broke up a pass with a vicious hit but didn’t get nearly low enough on the “strike zone” (Matthews’ chest) and, according to the Eagles’ player, “I definitely think it was a penalty. My helmet was bent. I had to change out my facemask and my visor.”

Neal was not penalized but it’s not uncommon for players to get fined after plays are reviewed by the league.

Neal, who’s rapidly become one of the leaders on the Falcons’ defense, said: “Never do I ever attempt to hit someone in the head. You guys know I’m a physical player but I’m not trying to hit the dude in the head. They didn’t (throw) a flag. I don’t think I hit him in the head. But I don’t know. I didn’t attempt to hit him in the head.”

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson and Eagles players and fans went ballistic when Neal was not flagged.

Neal: “I heard the reaction but I didn’t see a flag. I thought it was a clean hit.”

Judge for yourself:

— Desmond Trufant: The starting cornerback and the Falcons’ best defensive player missed the Philadelphia game because of an injury in the shoulder/pectoral area. The team has been mum on the nature of the injury but anytime there’s open discussion of “seeking a second opinion” from doctors, it’s never something as simple as a sprain. As a general rule, second opinions are for questions like, “Can he play with this?” And, “How much pain will be in?” And, “Will he need surgery?” So even if Trufant does return, how effective will he be as a shutdown a cornerback?

— Tight end Jacob Tamme: He has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, also undefined by the Falcons. Tamme may not be the single-most important weapon on the offense but his loss would put more pressure on rookie Austin Hooper, who caught a pass but had a drop against Philadelphia.

— Running back Tevin Coleman: The Falcons’ offense functions better when they can alternate Coleman and Devonta Freeman at running back, along with fullback Patrick DeMarco. Coleman’s breakaway speed is at another level. He has missed the last three games with a hamstring strain. But the bye week is well timed, and Coleman has been working out on the field and could be back for the first game back against Arizona.

With Coleman back, the Falcons’ offense could be fine. But if Trufant can’t return, the defense and the team will suffer.

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EARLIER: Falcons go into the bye week the wrong way

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15 comments
SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

You can call a helmet to helmet on every play. I thought the rule said if you used the crown of the helmet, their helmets hit side to side

MoreySims
MoreySims

no big deal---arthur can pay kenau's fine from his petty cash fund

GSPInc
GSPInc

Keep hitting like that. We will take the occasional penalty and the money you will end up earning playing like that will be able to cover the fines easily.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Keep popping them KeKe, you can afford it.

chonwang86
chonwang86

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slydawg
slydawg

Simple: Falcons are going nowhere in the NFC without defense.The best players on the current roster are just too raw and inexperienced. Plus,there is no real push in the middle of the defensive line.

Chop_Chop
Chop_Chop

@slydawg Might be good enough to win the division and make the playoffs, though. I don't think many realistic fans expected that when the season started.

UGA76
UGA76

@slydawg I know everybody else doesn't want to hear it but this team is still another very good draft and some maturity away from playing for championships. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Whaddaya mean the Dawgs???

At least they win State championships with impressive regularity.

Eric_C
Eric_C

Coleman is the key here.  The Falcons "need" him and his explosiveness against the tougher defenses...he is the reason they beat the Broncos, and almost beat the Seahawks on the road. 


On another note, Gabriel is becoming real linchpin in the offense...between Jones, Gabriel, and Sanu, wow. 

Eric_C
Eric_C

Agree on the injuries...might as well throw Bosher in there.  Bryant did an admirable job, but we don't necessarily want him punting.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

The team is good on offense and not so good on defense. In my mind-- I don't know how far you can go with that, let's wait and see.

Eric_C
Eric_C

@DarlaLewis It is frustrating about the defense because they show flashes of real toughness and physicality.  Hopefully, the younger guys will get it figured out before the end of the year.  There is a lot of upside.