The New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons enter Sunday's matchup both looking for their first wins of the season.
The Giants lost their opener to the Broncos before falling in Washington on a last-second field goal and starting the season 0-2 for the fifth consecutive year. Atlanta, meanwhile, lost to Philadelphia and then to Tampa Bay, which scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of a three-point game until that point.
"This is a good team, they've got a lot of good players," coach Joe Judge said previewing the Falcons matchup. "They definitely improved from Week 1 to Week 2. We expect to see the best football they have to play. We expect to see an up-tempo type of game with these guys looking to take shots and be explosive. We have to have a good week of prep as a team and take that step forward. Our focus is on improving as a team."
Here are three keys to victory on Sunday:
Fundamentals in open space.
More than 50 percent of the Falcons' passing yards come after the catch through two weeks. Matt Ryan, who is one spot behind Eli Manning (57,023) with the ninth-most passing yards (56,231) in NFL history, has dynamic playmakers to get the ball to in 1,000-yard receiver Calvin Ridley, fourth overall pick Kyle Pitts, and triple-threat Cordarrelle Patterson (running, receiving, returning). Judge stressed the importance of not giving them "opportunities for open receptions."
Atlanta's Dean Pees is one of eight defensive coordinators in NFL history to coach in a Super Bowl with two different teams, doing so with New England in 2007 and Baltimore in 2012. He is also one of three individuals who has been the coordinator for three different teams in conference championship games in NFL history. First-year head coach Arthur Smith hired Pees to be his defensive coordinator this year as the Falcons transition from Dan Quinn's scheme. (Quinn was the head coach of the Falcons from 2015-2020 and is now the Cowboys' defensive coordinator.) And they can get after the ball. Last week, Dante Fowler Jr. strip-sacked Tom Brady and Foye Oluokun forced a fumble on running back Leonard Fournette
"You can see great eye control with these guys in open space, looking for bad fundamentals on ball security and they really look to attack it," Judge said. "There was the one they punched out on Fournette the other day. It was a great teaching clip for our team in terms of how they're structured and taught to attack that ball. There's going to be multiples in that defense. We've got to play very sound. It's got to start up front with protection, giving ourselves a chance to throw the ball and get it out, and then the run game, getting a chance to get this thing vertical and get it moving up the field or hit the edge, whatever ends up coming up within the game plan."
Clean up mistakes.
A dropped pass here and an offside call there prevented the Giants from standing at 1-1 instead of sitting in the 0-2 hole. Over the summer, the Giants preached the importance of learning not to lose before they can start to win. Through two games, they are still stuck on the former.
"I can't speak for everybody, but I believe everyone always tries to neutralize your strengths and take advantage of your weaknesses," Judge said. "The message I always have to the team that I believe is until you get something off tape, teams are going to attack it. … Once you show something (and) until you show that it's no longer an issue as a team, teams are going to attack it."
View photos of the Atlanta Falcons starters ahead of the Week 3 matchup against the Giants.