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 Atlanta's passing game presents challenges 
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Post Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Wrote this for the blog. Thought I'd post here as well for discussion. Last week broke down the reasons why the run game failed, this week I thought I'd do something on the up-coming opponent instead.

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The Falcons offense has a lot going for them. They have a good, accurate, smart QB in Matt Ryan, tremendous speed outside in Julio Jones and Roddy White, and great targets underneath to take advantage of that.

It's obvious to anyone that watches football what speed on the outside can do for your offense. It's more than creating big plays down the field to that receiver; it's about opening up the field for everyone else on your offense. Isn't that why Miami signed Mike Wallace? To open up the field for the TE's and other receivers?

The Falcons have a great formula and foundation in their offense that revolves around exactly this. Today, I want to demonstrate why Miami's LB's and slot corners are going to be busy all day with Atlanta's offense.

First, we have a 3rd down play to Tony Gonzalez. On this play you'll notice the speed of an elite receiver on the outside like Roddy White sucks in the safety, giving Gonzalez one-on-one coverage with a LB. The Falcons, by the way, love using this trips set in order to get great match-ups with their inside slot receivers, (in this case Gonzalez), while the slot corner is preoccupied with the outside slot receiver (Douglas in this play).


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As you can see in the first freeze frame, the safety is nearly 20 yards off the line of scrimmage by the time the ball is snapped. This gives Gonzales and Ryan a huge window to work against a LB. By the time the ball gets to Gonzalez, the safety is still nowhere near the play, about 14 yards from Gonzalez. This type of play is all over Atlanta's film, as I'll demonstrate with a few more examples.

The Falcons will likely be without Stephen Jackson this weekend, leaving Jacquizz Rodgers as the main tailback. Atlanta loves using Rodgers in a similar role to how the Patriots used Kevin Faulk for a number of years. They love throwing to him out of the backfield, and will use him in the screen game quite a bit.


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On this play, even though it's a short field, notice how far the safety is from the line of scrimmage when the screen develops...already 20 yards away, and 25 from Rodgers. Also notice the safety on the other side of the field. Even though this is zone coverage (given the CB's are looking at the QB the whole way), the safety is still worried about Roddy White, leaving a LB to coverage Gonzalez all the way across the field and away from the play. With Julio Jones running a 9 route to occupy both the corner and safety on the screen-side of the field, it leaves just one LB to try and deal with the screen pass.

That play went for 16 yards, despite it being inside the 30 yard line; unacceptable for any defense, and a huge chunk play for the offense on a short field.

This next example is a very similar one to the first one. This time it's a play action pass, but again the concept is the same. Julio Jones runs a 9 route to occupy the safety and corner, while Gonzalez then works that side of the field with a LB one-on-one. The window left open for Ryan and Gonzalez to work with is massive, and this is a near-impossible match-up for any LB.


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Let's look at one final play before we move on. This one goes back to Week 1 against the Saints. A couple of things to note before watching the play; New Orleans is in a quarters coverage, meaning each of the four DB's has a quarter of the deep 3rd of the field to cover. The corner on Julio Jones will stick with him down the field as Julio is again running a 9 route to open things up.


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As you can see in the freeze frame, the safety leaves a huge window (his coverage) open for the Falcons to get the ball to Harry Douglas working a deep crossing route. The safety is worried about Jones' over the top, and leans towards the sideline in order to help out his cornerback in case the ball is thrown that way. This leaves that huge window for Douglas, who will make a big play anytime you give him 10 yards in-between him and the next defender.

So why not play these crossing routes and take away these frustrating, methodical pick-ups?


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Against elite offensive weapons like Atlanta has, you have to give them something. You can't take away everything, but the play above is exactly what you can't allow.

You need to double cover Julio Jones. Period. It will open things up for Douglas, Rodgers and Gonzalez underneath, but it's the price you pay. Miami cannot give up big plays down the field and must rely on their LB's to be stout in coverage and not allow any yards after the catch.

The other thing from this play I want you to notice is that this is partially created by blitzing. Against weapons this good and a QB this smart, you can't afford to play one-on-one, man-to-man coverage across the field. I think Miami has to trust that it's 4 man front can create pressure, and play coverage this Sunday.

To back up this point, here are some numbers to digest:

Image

Ryan has excelled against lesser coverage this season. Even back to his Boston College days, blitzing him was the worst recipe you could have defensively.

Send four against Ryan, hope your LB's can play tight coverage and DON'T give up the big play. Do these three things, and defensively I think Miami has a chance to slow the Falcons down.


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Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:34 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
The key stat is under pressure.


Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:09 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
But they don't have Clabo anymore..


Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:23 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
They held up pretty good against St. Louis and their pass rush is as good, or better than Miamis. Miami has to come outt in a nickel package and stay there. Atlanta loves 4 WR Sets and will go to them often


Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:16 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Atlanta loves 4 WR Sets and will go to them often

Yep & Miami MUST pressure a better QB in Ryan or else he will look like the greatest show on turf with his passing game, injured players or not they have weapons to keep our defense on their heels the entire game.

Hopefully, Cameron Wake is ticked off from last week's performance and Dion Jordan is healthy enough to get more rushing snaps and although Vernon isn't doing a bad job (although the analysts disagree) as he does seem to get held a lot without getting the flag thrown, but Shelby just may now deserve a shot at starting or at least rotating a lot more Sunday. In a short amount of game action, he sure has been productive.


Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:37 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Dmitri Patterson is still nursing an injury. Our two rookie corners are still nursing injuries. Chris Clemons is nursing an injury.

We need all of them healthy to have success in slowing down the Falcons passing game. Jimmy Wilson's not cutting it.

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:54 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Ryan threw well under pressure from the Rams. I think this is a game where you forget the run, throw everything you have into coverage and let your front 4 beat theirs.


Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:08 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
NFLJunkie wrote:
Ryan threw well under pressure from the Rams. I think this is a game where you forget the run, throw everything you have into coverage and let your front 4 beat theirs.


Exactly my point in the article. Have to rush 4 and play coverage on the back end.

This is not a game to be aggressive in trying to beat Ryan. Bend but don't break, come up with a few big plays and hope your offense converts redzone opportunities.


Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:12 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
What worked well against the Colts was rushing four and playing coverage. In the second half, that paid off because whenever we blitzed Luck, he would tear us up.

However, Coyle got creative and did things like have the linebackers rush and the defensive ends drop back. He was only rushing 4 or 5, but he wasn't rushing the players you would expect to rush.

I believe the play on which Wheeler tipped a pass while blitzing was one of those plays in which the defensive ends dropped back and the LBs blitzed.

You can rush four and play coverage and be creative with it so that your defensive isn't vanilla.

If I were the Dolphins, I would double Jones, rush four and keep Gonzalez and White in front of defenders.

Cam Wake and crew will eventually get pressure and thats when turnovers can happen.

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:27 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Another factor is the weather. It could be raining Sunday and if that is the case, advantage Dolphins.

Wet footballs are heavier, don't travel as far and are harder to throw and catch. Although it is harder to stay with a reciever on a wet field.

The Falcons play in a dome, the Dolphins practice in the elements at times. Advantage Miami if it rains.

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 1:25 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
They have really backed off that rain forcast Rich. it looks like the low is going to hit tues and may end here on Weds. the cold front is weak and the low is still in the BOC.


Fri Sep 20, 2013 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Do we know statistically that these Matty Ice led Falcons struggle in the rain?

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
I am not sure about the rain element but last year Matt Ryan completed 72.5% grass; 66.2 turf. 14-4 td to int grass; 18-10 turf. 109 qb rating on grass; 93.1 turf. In 2010 and 2011 he did better on turf and much worse on grass but the sample size seemed to be smaller at least at a glance.

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Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:01 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
I tried digging these stats up before. I think prioir to 2012 they were atrocious on grass fields outdoors period. They did fairly well last season so it is probably a non-issue. I think there are solid statistics about dome teams on grass.


Sat Sep 21, 2013 11:52 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Sorta like Miami's past record & the myth of playing in games under 32 degrees and coming from sunny South Florida....


Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:25 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
If you look at the "stats" posted above, M RYAN fades into less-than-mediocre when pressured w/o a "blitz". But when you blitz him, he does very well. If ANYONE has the personnel to generate very significant pass pressure w/its "front 4", it's MIAMI. The very thing that MATTY doesn't handle well is MIAMI's strength...and this is true w/o any blitz at all. MIAMI is blessed w/some topshelf fast DTs to go w/its topshelf very fast DEs. You can't ignore MIAMI's DTs in your pass-protect scheme, or you'll pay for the privilege, bigtime.

So, who gets double-teamed? WAKE? VERNON on the other side? DION, on all snaps that he plays? And what about STARKS? Or ODRICK, who was fast enough to play DE for us, while being big enough to play DT?

No sir! MIAMI's "D" is NOT the type of "D" that MATTY enjoys playing against.


Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:12 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Is there a qb that thrives from just PRESSURE from only the front four?


Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:22 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
This game will come down who can score TD's instead of having to settle for FG's. It's about Miami's defense doing damage control. And finding ways to pressure Ryan with 4 pass rushers. Ryan is going to move the ball through the air. Limiting him to scoring 3 points on a drive is a victory. Another way to look at this is to see if Miami can score 28 points or more on offense. If Miami can run the ball and have long time consuming drives on offense it will reduce Ryan's opportunities by one or two series for the game. If Miami can score 28 points or more they should win because the defense won't give up that many points. Miami has given up an average of 15 points a game on defense. Atlanta's defense has given up an average of 23.5 points per game. Miami's defense has allowed its opponent to average 11.5 drives per game through 2 games. Miami's offense has averages 12 drives per game through 2 games.

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Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:51 am
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
We held them in check today though. Bend, but don't break defense. ATL was a PI away from going to SB last year and we just beat them. wow....


Sun Sep 22, 2013 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
Yeah Mak...I'm still stunned. but seriously...Carroll Manned up on Jones in a soft zone....if you had told me that I would have predicted 30-7 Atlanta. Can't believe Atlanta didn't throw him the ball every time. In any case, the man coverage and pressure by young Dion Jordan forced Ryan to throw early and Miami forced a few critical punts.


Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:14 pm
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Post Re: Atlanta's passing game presents challenges
After the start of the game and Gonzalez posting up on that first drive like a basketball forward blocking out his man for the ball, I thought we were going to get killed today. Miami found a way and how flipping exciting is it to be 3-0.

If they win next week in New Orleans, I am going to run out naked at midnight and bark at the moon!


Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:32 pm
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