Atlanta Falcons Falcons used “Big Tackle Three” to stop Eagles’ run game
8:08 am October 30, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter
FLOWERY BRANCH — It was abundantly clear early on Sunday that the Falcons’ coaching staff didn’t spend the bye week out on the golf course.
They were in the office, concocting a way to improve their run defense and stop the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Falcons entered the game giving up 143.8 yards rushing per game, but held the Eagles to 92 yards rushing on 24 carries (3.8 yards per carry) in their 30-17 victory.
In obvious run situations, the Falcons used three defensive tackles — Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker and Peria Jerry — to knock back the line of scrimmage. Babineaux, normally the “quick tackle,” lined up at defensive end.
“In the bye week, we looked at a lot of different combinations and we had an opportunity to put some things up on the board and get some dust, so to speak, in the bottom of the chalkboard,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday. “We put different things together and looked at some different combinations.
“We went into this game with a little bit of a different strategy and I thought that it helped us in our run defense.”
Defensive tackle Corey Peters subbed in and out for Jerry during the second half. He played 20 of 63 snaps (32 percent) in his first game back from a preseason stress fractured foot injury.
“He gives us some flexibility in terms of moving guys around on our defensive line,” Smith said. “Not necessarily always playing left and right. It gives us some flexibility and helps us in our rotation.”
The Falcons’ rush defense average dropped more than seven yards to 136.4 yards per game. Before Monday’s play, they ranked 26th in the league.
In addition to playing the extra tackles, defensive end Kroy Biermann was used in multiple roles. He served as the “spy” defender on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. His job: attack Vick if he decided to run.
Biermann, who finished with seven tackles and one sack, performed well against the fleet quarterback, who ran for 42 yards.
“I thought he put good pressure on the quarterback,” Smith said. “He had one sack, had an opportunity for another and he chased the quarterback out of the pocket one time and he gained like two yards on a pass play. So it ended up not being a registered sack, but it was a heck of a play.”
Before the Philadelphia game, the Falcons had given up at least 116 yards per game. Four weeks before, Carolina rushed for 199 yards. Denver’s Willis McGahee and Washington’s Alfred Morris both rushed for more than 100 yards against the Falcons.
In the game leading into the bye-week, Oakland rushed for 149 yards, the second-most against them this season. Those numbers led the coaches to the chalk board to come up with a remedy.
“It was the best performance of the season,” Smith said. “I thought we were tackling much more crisply. Our angles to the ball, our pursuit angles were much better.”
After the coaches put together their plan, they presented it to the players, who took the entire bye week off. A back-to-basics practice last Monday was critical.
“It was very remedial, that practice,” Smith said. “We wanted to get back and break down football into its simplest form. It basically comes down to blocking and tackling.”
The Falcons did everything but break out tackling dummies.
“We spent a whole lot of time breaking down different components of the different types of tackles,” Smith said. “I thought that our coaching staff did a good job on our Monday practice. It was probably just 45 minutes of remedial, eight-grade football. Some times, we need to get back and do that.”
The players brought into the fundamental review.
“Some times you can’t see the forest because of the trees,” Smith said. “We needed to step back and work on some fundamentals after our bye week.”
Defensive John Abraham was pleased with the unit’s effort.
“There weren’t many missed tackles,” Abraham said. “A lot of the big runs in weeks prior came from missed tackles. We did a good job of wrapping up.”
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"