a blog by La Kifo
Today marks the first day of the trial number 51, the case of The High Flying Falcons v. The Seasoned Patriots.
OPENING STATEMENT FROM THE DEFENSE: The defending champions of this realm come to speak of defense. The Atlanta Falcons have a tricky defense. Dan Quinn, former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, has some quality accomplishments on his resume. They are young, and have an explosive pass rusher in Vic Beasley. The defense is tricky because of Beasley, and his pass rush ability. Rushing their four with Beasley on the edge becomes an intense chess match. Last week against the Packers in the NFC championship, the Falcons had less of an impact crashing the pocket because of Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons have a greater ability to rush the passer than they showed in the NFC championship and they still came away with one meaningful sack (They had two sacks, one essentially forced a punt, the other was followed by a large completion for a first down). The pass rush does not work with out Vic Beasley, the Falcons preserved him a bit in the divisional round. I can't exactly remember if they did again the championship but I think they did, so if they keep that pace, the Patriots will certainly take advantage going up tempo, deep pass plays, or play action. They might be saving him for the Superbowl, I don't know.
Disregard the pass rush though, which is the biggest challenge the Patriots offense faces in this game, you get to the Line Backers and Secondary of the Falcons. The Falcons defense saw the most amount of pass attempts during the regular season, I don't know if that means anything other than a lot of teams were down big time against them or the secondary is their weak spot. When you look at the season totals, the defense looked like they seriously struggled in coverage. 28th in Pass Yards Allowed, 28th in Pass TD's allowed, interesting enough the defense surrendered 7 less first downs through the air than the offense did. To clarify, the Falcons defense gave up 232 1st downs, passing. The "all time best", "Unstoppable" offense gained 239 first downs through the air. The Falcons do score a lot of points but do they actually have the defense to fend high level offenses off. Now, to be fair those stats could be incriminating, the Falcons had the number one scoring offense in the league. So let us look through each game quickly.
The first eleven weeks was the heart of the Falcons schedule. They went 6-4 in ten games before their bye playing, in order, Tampa Bay (9-7), @ Oakland (12-4), @ New Orleans (7-9, but it is Drew Brees), Carolina (They had a bad year but it is the defending Superbowl champs early in the season), @ Denver (9-7, Best defense in the league), @ Seattle (10-5-1), San Diego (5-11), Green Bay (10-6), @ Tampa (9-7), @ Philly (7-9, back when Philly was hot). There is essentially one easy game there and it is San Diego at home. The Chargers defense is bad and Phillip Rivers had such a bad year pundits have begun or will to question his physical ability, but they still competed with teams. Philip Rivers is a competitive guy, and the Chargers beat the Falcons by showering their secondary. The San Diego game is the only game you would expect them to handle easily. Tampa Bay at home opening week is a hard match up because of their passing attack. At the Saints is not an easy game because the Falcons secondary is suspect. The Falcons almost lost in New Orleans because of that very deficiency. Not only was the defense a factor in the loses they suffered in this stretch, but the wins too.
The impressive wins the Falcons had in the first eleven weeks were, at Oakland, week two. At, Denver and Green Bay at home. In all three of those games, the Falcons held their opponents to under 300 yards passing.
In closing, the Falcons defense is tricky because they have some gaping holes the Patriots are designed to exploit. I think the Patriots are going to see four rushers at least on every passing down. I expect man coverage on the outside, and at least once or twice a nickle blitz. We will have to see if the Falcons secondary is up to the task of going one on one against the Patriots receivers. As I will make clear to the jury, this is a match up the Falcons will lose as they have lost throughout the season against lesser competition.
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