FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Ricardo Allen hopes to return to pro football after spending last Sunday back in the Big Ten.
At least that's what it felt like to Allen, a fifth-year free safety whose Atlanta Falcons gave up 172 yards rushing on 38 carries in the opener.
That's way too many running plays to face in an NFL game. Allen knows it can't happen again.
"It took me back to my college times," Allen, a former Purdue standout, said. "That's one of those games, if you don't stop the run, one of the easiest plays in football is to just hand it off. If you can do that, you can control the clock. You can control the ball. You've got better chances just handing the ball off and going."
Allen can only hope the Falcons (0-1) don't dig another early hole Sunday night against Philadelphia (1-0). Atlanta trailed 21-0 midway through the second quarter at Minnesota, and the Vikings used the early advantage to play old-school offense.
It was an embarrassment for a defense that last year ranked second worst in third-down percentage, third worst in yards per carry, fifth worst in yards per game, and eighth worst in scoring.
With Allen, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones back at full strength after all three sustained major injuries in last year's 7-9 season, the Falcons had hoped for a quick turnaround, particularly after coach Dan Quinn made himself defensive coordinator.
"We didn't do what we needed to do," nose tackle Grady Jarrett said. "They executed well and kept getting outside. We need to address that if we want to have a good defense. We want to get better because teams will put that on film and attack that against us."
This week's challenge will likely be tougher. The Eagles have a dangerous run-pass option in quarterback Carson Wentz, whose offense piled up 436 yards in rallying Philadelphia from a 17-0 deficit to beat Washington.
Receiver DeSean Jackson, tight end Zach Ertz, receiver Alshon Jeffrey and running backs Darren Sproles, Miles Sanders and Jordan Harris give Wentz abundant options, but the Falcons' first concern is to try and contain the trio of running backs.
They can't afford another letdown on the ground.
"We understand what we have to do," Allen said. "That was one of the first times I've seen a team being able to come out and do that to us. We know what we've got to do. We've got to fight."
Quinn, as he's done since he arrived in January 2015, keeps harping on takeaways, but there's been no evidence over the last two years that his message is getting through. The Falcons forced just eight fumbles last season and ranked second worst with four fumble recoveries. They were ninth in interceptions, but seven of the picks went to Damontae Kazee, who has moved to nickel cornerback after filling in for Allen last year.
Atlanta was minus-3 in turnover margin last week.
"It was hard on us to have a performance like that when we have really high expectations for one another," Quinn said. "But like I said, as the teacher in me, if there's a way for us to have this lesson, I'd rather get hit right now, to get this lesson learned and applied, not seven or 10 weeks later.
"That lesson about the ball, it's real. We didn't get any to put ourselves into the plus."
Notes: Quinn said rookie RG Chris Lindstrom underwent successful surgery on his broken left foot. Lindstrom, the 14th overall draft pick, isn't expected to return until November. ... Return specialist Kenjon Barner (ankle) was added to the injury report. He joined OT Matt Gono (back), G Wes Schweitzer (shoulder) WR Russell Gage (concussion) in being limited at practice. ... DT Deadrin Senat (back) was a full participant.