Week 20 Against The World Thread

Discuss your favorite team: the Atlanta Falcons. As well as all NFL and pro football-related topics, including fantasy football.

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Re: Week 20 Against The World Thread

Postby fun gus » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:02 am

Last week, Dominique Davis was Russell Wilson.

This week, he's Colin Kaepernick.

In past weeks, he has been Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.

Davis, the Atlanta Falcons' No. 3 quarterback, is an athletic runner who has helped prepare the Falcons to face the read-option quarterbacks they've faced this season.

The Falcons, who face Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, have already played four games against teams that use the read-option principles that have helped make Kaepernick a national sensation. This week, Davis will be back running the read-option looks, this time as the long, lanky and fast Kaepernick.

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"He's fast and helps us get an idea of what to expect," Falcons corner Dunta Robinson said.

The 49ers run their offense different from the others, but the basic principles are the same: Pistol formation, read the outside end and quarterback and running back have a mesh point when the decision is made on whether to hand off on a zone-read or let the quarterback keep it.

"We have to be physical," Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "It's one thing to know what you are doing, but you have to be physical to get to the football and make the plays."

The key to slowing the read-option, Falcons players and coaches say, is playing your assignments. Don't get caught out of position. It takes discipline.

"If you try to do too much, you are in trouble," veteran Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said. "When we've had trouble, it's been guys trying to do more than what they should be doing."

The Falcons put Redskins quarterback RG3 out of the game when they played during the regular season. It was a hit by Weatherspoon on a run that did it.

"[Hits] add up," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "That's one thing that can slow it down -- hit that quarterback."

The Falcons did a nice job against Seattle's "Pistol" looks. The Seahawks didn't use it nearly as much as San Francisco does, but the Falcons used a front against it that looked a lot like the old Oklahoma 5-2 defense that was the rage in the 1970s. That is far different than how the Packers played the 49ers last week. Green Bay played a much looser defense.

Here's a look at that front. You can see it has the looks of a 5-2 scheme and the ends came up the field with a slow rush to help contain the read-option. They didn't charge, which hurt the pass rush some.

When the Falcons talk about not trying to do too much, one play stands out to show what they mean. It was Newton's 72-yard touchdown run against Atlanta in Week 14. Here's a look.

On the play, the key was Falcons end Kroy Biermann (red circle) doing a hard crash inside at the mesh point of the fake to DeAngelo Williams. He charged hard inside and that left a void outside. When the Panthers trapped safety Decoud with Greg Olsen and Weatherspoon got blocked, it left a huge hole for Newton to run through for the big play.

The Falcons have also had big problems with tight ends against read-option teams. In fact, tight ends have killed them in part because of false steps by the linebackers and busts in zone coverage. Seattle's Zach Miller had eight catches for 142 yards and one touchdown last week. In Atlanta's four games against read-option teams, opposing tight ends had 23 catches for 339 yards and three touchdowns. That could mean a big game for Vernon Davis of the 49ers.

Here's a look at Redskins tight end Fred Davis getting wide open off the read-option fake. Both inside linebackers took hard steps to the fake before getting into coverage. That left an easy throw to Davis (blue circle). If the throw by RG3 had been better, it would have been a big pay for the Redskins. But he threw a little behind Davis and it was only a short gain.

Miller had a field day last week. He spent the day getting wide open. Here's one of his big plays, a 23-yard gain. On the play, Miller (black circle) lined up in the slot left inside of Sidney Rice. After faking a handoff to Marshawn Lynch, Wilson bootlegged to his right, which caused the defensive action to move that way -- to the left of the defense. With the flow going that way, Miller ran a hard inside route and then snapped it off to the outside. There was a void there because Rice ran deep and cleared out Robinson and the linebackers couldn't get depth to make the play.

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is one of the best in the NFL at doing things to confuse quarterbacks. He did it to Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Drew Brees in games this season at the Georgia Dome. They were picked off 10 times in those games. You can bet he will have some new looks for Kaepernick to try and slow down the read-option runs, but more importantly the big plays down the field.

A quarterback making his first road playoff start can have some issues. When complicated looks are thrown his way, it can be even tougher. The read-option is the rage after last week.

But if the Falcons can slow it down, they will likely be on their way to the Super Bowl.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/2156 ... readoption
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Re: Week 20 Against The World Thread

Postby fun gus » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:37 am

Film Room: Conference Championships

by Andy Benoit

San Francisco at Atlanta

Falcons offense vs. 49ers defense

Now that all the silly talk about Matt Ryan’s poise in the postseason has (hopefully) been put to rest, everyone can (hopefully) look at the Falcons with an analytical eye. Their success against Seattle derived predominantly from their success on the ground. That was impressive; not many teams have run the ball down Seattle’s throat this year. The question is: can Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers recreate the magic against an even stingier Niners run defense? Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will certainly give it a whirl, but he shouldn’t count on it.

Koetter can count on his passing attack though. For most of the game last week, Ryan was marvelous in going through his progressions against coverage-based schemes and tremendous in quickly recognizing favorable matchups against the blitz. Seattle’s stifling corners challenged Roddy White and Julio Jones in ways neither receiver is accustomed to, but both ultimately made plays. This week, they’re facing less dynamic corners in Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, and Chris Culliver, but they’re also facing corners who have the benefit of two safeties over the top. (Seattle played just one safety deep most of the game.)

One of the biggest keys to Atlanta’s Divisional Round win was Tony Gonzalez, who had six critical receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown. Gonzalez will have trouble getting open against the more athletic Patrick Willis. But, as the Seahawks found out, the 36-year-old ex-power forward doesn’t need to be open in order to make catches.

The most intriguing part of this matchup will take place in the trenches when Ryan drops back. The Falcons try to protect their somewhat-lumbering offensive line with a lot of five-step timing in the passing game. But lately, that line has been superb in all facets of pass protection, and strong blitz pickups from Jacquizz Rodgers have also helped augment more time for Ryan and his smart pocket awareness. Koetter may be comfortable trying more seven-step plays. This week, the twists and stunts from Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, and company present the Falcons offensive line with its toughest test yet. If they pass that test, the Falcons will reach the Super Bowl.

49ers offense vs. Falcons defense

In the Divisional Round Film Room post, we highlighted how the Packers would likely play man-coverage against the Niners and leave a spy on Colin Kaepernick. Sure enough, they played the man coverage. But for reasons unknown, they did not spy the burgeoning star quarterback. Most of Kaepernick’s 181 rushing yards came from scrambles on passing plays. It’s highly unlikely he’ll find those types of running lanes again this week, for not only do the Falcons play zone coverage a vast majority of the time, they also use a lot of spy tactics, usually with Kroy Biermann.

Kaepernick’s rushing damage will have to come from read-options. As we covered last week, the Falcons have struggled at times against read-option teams. However, they were fantastic in read-option defense against Seattle. (Though it should be noted that Russell Wilson did not once keep the ball.)

Of course, when facing San Francisco, the read-option is by no means the only concern. Frank Gore, along with a monstrous front five and an assortment of crafty fullbacks and tight ends, gives the Niners arguably the best base rushing attack in football. For Atlanta, a versatile defensive line, fast and physical linebackers, and punishing downhill safeties make for a sturdy run defense. What makes this matchup particularly enticing is, unlike most run-game battles, it’s not just a matter of execution and strength; it’s also a matter of schematic design. The Niners have more run-game wrinkles than the Falcons can prepare for, but it’d be wise for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to spend time getting his players prepared for backside blocks on trap plays and for frontside pull-blocks on power runs.

Nolan also needs to get his guys prepared for trips formations. In the second half last week, the Seahawks destroyed the Falcons with deep-intermediate crossing patterns out of 3x1 sets. That was a great approach against the three-deep, four-under zone coverages Atlanta favors. Much of Seattle’s damage was done with two-tight end personnel. The Niners are even more potent in that sense, as Vernon Davis is a major threat in the seams while Delanie Walker can get open not just inside, but also on isolation routes outside.

The Niners do a tremendous job of creating favorable one-on-one matchups for receivers through formation alignment. In addition to diversifying their tight-end alignments, don’t be surprised if we see a lot of Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss on the same side of the field in an effort to get corners Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson on one side of the formation. That could distort and weaken Atlanta’s zones. It could also limit coverage disguises and post-snap rotations, thus simplifying the looks even more for Kaepernick.

Most of Atlanta’s schematic high points this season have involved coverage disguises. This week, Nolan may want to invest more of his disguises in blitzes. The Seahawks would not have come back if the Falcons had been able to get consistent pressure on Wilson. (Granted, there were instances where the Falcons got rushers in clean and Wilson still beat them with his feet.) This season, the Falcons have had some trouble generating pressure from a four-man rush. That won’t suddenly change now, especially given John Abraham’s ankle injury, but it’s still important to create pressure on Kaepernick. A viable option would be to use an overload concept that attacks San Francisco’s improving-but-still-unrefined right tackle, Anthony Davis.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/film-r ... mpionships
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Re: Week 20 Against The World Thread

Postby fun gus » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:46 am

Expect at least one closely officiated game: Terry McAulay is the referee for the Atlanta-San Francisco game, and Bill Leavy will be handling the New England-Baltimore game. Don't be surprised to see a few extra penalties. The debate is always whether the officials will call a tight game or let the players play. McAulay's games tend to see more penalties than average. His 16.3 penalties per game is tied for the second most among the NFL crews. Cornerbacks need to be cautious, because his crews watch pass interference closely. His crews ranked second with seven illegal contact calls, but only 11 pass interferences were called during his games. The Falcons were the least penalized team in the NFL -- 55 penalties called against them for 415 yards. The 49ers need to be on guard because they had 109 penalties, seventh most in the league. Offensive linemen also need to be careful because his crews watch blockers closely. McAulay's 52 holding calls tied with Ron Winter for the most among the officials. As a result, McAulay's games average 44 points a game, 1.7 below the league average.
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