Seahawks Insider

The 5 spot: Falcons in focus

Post by Eric Williams on Jan. 11, 2013 at 10:19 am with 17 Comments »
January 11, 2013 10:19 am
Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones (11) leaps into the end zone past Carolina Panthers' Haruki Nakamura (43) for a touchdown as Falcons' Harry Douglas (83) watches during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)
Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones (11) leaps into the end zone past Carolina Panthers’ Haruki Nakamura (43) for a touchdown as Falcons’ Harry Douglas (83) watches during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

D. Orlando Ledbetter, a veteran NFL scribe who expertly covers the Atlanta Falcons, has been good enough to answer five questions on that team heading into Sunday’s much-anticipated match-up with the Seahawks.

You can follow Mr. Ledbetter’s coverage of the Falcons on the web and via Twitter.

Check out the Q&A below.

1. With the Atlanta Falcons 0-3 in the postseason during Mike Smith’s tenure, how much pressure is on the team to validate their accomplishments and earn a playoff win after finishing 13-3 during the regular season?

A. There is a great deal of pressure. After last season’s 24-2 loss to the Giants owner Arthur Blank let the entire city know that the Falcons are not playing to just make the playoffs. He stated – emphatically – that he wants the Vince Lombardi Trophy and a massive parade down Peachtree Street. There is a great deal of pressure internally from the owner and externally from the national media as the Falcons attempt to establish their legitimacy as a power in the league.

2. Matt Ryan has a lot of weapons at his disposal, including Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones, what’s been the key to his success this season?

A: Matt Ryan is a gamer and student of the game. His 15 fourth-quarter comebacks and 22 game-winning drives during the regular season have been remarkable. He has progressed each season since being drafted third overall in 2008. Former quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave and former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey must be credited for helping him get off to a great start in the league. Now, since he’s seen every defense the league has to offer and knows how to read pro defenses at a high level, he’s able to move the ball around the field to his various weapons.

3. How much has Julio Jones improved and matured from his rookie season to this year?

A: He’s improved a great deal. He’s in sync with Ryan and knows where he’s supposed to be on the field. Last season, he was running around and getting by on his athletic ability.

4. Atlanta finished No. 24 in the league in total defense, but only gave up 18.7 points a contest during the regular season. How has the defense been successful in keeping teams out of the end zone?

A: It’s the classic bend-but-not-break unit. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has successfully used some schemes to confuse quarterbacks and force turnovers. They morph between 3-4 and 4-3 looks and when the ball gets down inside scoring range, the unit – led by linebackers Stephen Nicholas (116 tackles) and Sean Weatherspoon (114) — has been able to standup and get some stops.

5. What do you think the Falcons have to do well in order to win on Sunday?

A: They have to stop Marshawn Lynch or they’ll be sent home. It’s really that simple. They haven’t consistently stopped the run this season. They have five players with more than 10 missed tackles. If Lynch is able to run on them, Seattle won’t have to ask rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to do much at all. If Lynch is on the loose, the only hope for the Falcons would be to dominate the Roddy White/Julio Jones vs. Brandon Browner/Richard Sherman matchup.

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Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. Ambassador says:

    The element to this game that has been just below the surface is the match up of Atlanta’s coordinators vs. Seattle’s. Talent wise, the various units seem evenly matched, with some advantages here and there. I think the real battle is going to be Bevel vs. Nolan and Koetter vs. Bradley. I imagine both offenses have the advantage in this match up. Atlanta’s only because of the home field, and our loss of Clem. Yet I do think Bevel has a bigger advantage than Koetter does

  2. Sherman and Browner don’t have to ‘win’ their matchups with Jones and White, they just need to have a ‘draw.’ Ryan is going to throw for 250 yards or so, no matter what (especially with Clemons hurt). But if we can keep Atlanta from dominating in the passing game, we will win. It’s that simple. They don’t run the ball effectively. I wonder what has been going on with Michael Turner, because his first few years there he was a beast.

  3. OCHawkFan says:

    I go from extreme confidence to extreme doubt about the game on Sunday. My doubt mostly centers around the absence of Clemons. All the pro-Hawks article’s I read talk about the Hawks are 8-1 in the last 9 games, We blew out AZ, Buffalo and SF, etc. However, that team had an 11 sack Clemons anchoring the D. How different is the Defense without him? Can Irvin adequeately both rush the passer and defend the run? My feeling is that this will be a far different defense. Bottom line, I think this game comes down to Hawks running the ball, controlling the clock and keeping the Falcons offense off the field. Hawks 21 Falcons 17.

  4. This is a bit off topic but I want to get my free agent wish list out there before the rush. Please sign up Micheal Johnson, DE of the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s all for now.

    This has felt like the loooooongest week. Go HAWKS!!!!

  5. Need to figure out a pass rush. as good as our DB’s are, they’re not going to be able to stay with these receivers if Ryan has a ton of time to throw.

    That, and keeping Gonzalez in check, are the keys to this game.

    I think our offense is going to be just fine unless we have an unfortunate bunch of turnovers, which hasn’t been the case for this group in a long while.

  6. I think this game will be decided by whether the Seahawks can consistently pound the ball and maintain possession with BeastMode, and whether the Falcons can complete passes in the middle of the field to Gonzales, Douglas, and Rodgers.

    If Kam and company give those receivers second-thoughts about coming across the middle, and we can keep possession for close to 40 minutes with our run game, we will be very tough to beat.

  7. NWPoseidon says:

    Pass Rush does not necessarily mean sacks and we have beat several top notch QBs without getting sacks.

    Tom Brady – 1 Sack
    Jay Cutler – 0
    Kaepernick – 1
    Romo – 1
    Bradford – 0

    While having Clemons out will more than likely hurt, all we really need is for Bruce and whoever replaces him to create disruption not necessarily sack Ryan. I think this is much more feasible than trying to beat Ryan like we did Rodgers by getting 8 sacks. I trust our D Line can create the pressure needed to win.

  8. Dave Boling says:

    Players and teams are so different year to year that it’s dangerous to make too much of trends, but in three playoff appearances, Matt Ryan has not exceeded 200 passing yards, and has a cumulative 3 TD passes against 4 Ints.

    When Earl Thomas and Texas played against Julio Jones and Alabama for the 2010 BCS title, Jones had just one catch for 23 yards. Alabama won, however.

  9. Does Matt Ryan choke under pressure?

  10. thanks for that NWPoseidon. People get a bit over-wrought about sacks sometimes, don’t they.

    Looking at Atlanta’s stats from last 3 games…

    34-0 WIN over giants
    270 passing, 82% cmp, 9.6 yd avg
    129 rushing
    0 turnovers
    sacked 1
    top 38 minutes

    31-18 WIN over Detroit
    279 yds passing, 78% cmp, 8.7 yd avg
    73 yds rushing
    0 turnovers
    sacked 1
    top 28 minutes

    22-17 LOSS to Tampa
    238 yds passing, 64% cmp, 5.4 yd avg
    65 yds rushing
    0 turnovers
    sacked 2
    top 28 minutes

    … suggests that the key to beating Atlanta’s offense is to force Ryan to:

    1) stuff their running game (like Tampa did to win)
    2) take away Ryan’s long ball (this is how Ryan beat NYG and Detroit)
    3) force Ryan to check down to shorter passes

    Pressure on Ryan is part of this, but there is no way I would sacrifice coverage to blitz this QB. That could be suicide against this offense. I say our intimidating DBs and our run stuffers up front will be more important to winning this game on defense than pass rush will be.

  11. Here is a great video someone put together of the St. Louis game at home. Take a look.

    http://levyllc.com/seahawks-v-rams-highlight-video/

  12. @jboard1: Awesome video

  13. Dukeshire says:

    Stevo – That’s a reasonable breakdown. Nearly every team in the league goes back only as far as their opponents past 4 games when breaking down film. And I agree with your analysis: contain Turner, no corners beaten deep, and check down all morning long…

    Seattle’s winning this game everyone. Get ready!

  14. People keep saying ATL has an ineffective running game, but Turner has 10 TDs on the year (to Lynch’s 11 TDs). Yes, he has less yards (880) but he has 50% less carries than Lynch. They just don’t bother to run a lot because they have such an efficient passing game. But I would not be surprised to see them come out running since (a) they figure we are gearing up to stop the pass, and (b) we have been gashed running a few times this year.

  15. Agreed on the sacks part, we just need pressure, and him to have to rush some throws. I just hope Bradley has dialed up some creative ways to bring pressure, because we will need it. Wonder if we see some of the bandit package this week.

    Ive also wondered a few times if they should bring Lane in to cover White and let Browner take Tony G.

  16. raymaines says:

    I’ve finally figured this game out. I’m predicting a 28-24 Seattle win.

    I can’t think of any good reason why Atlanta should score more than their season average (25.8) against this above average defense, and there is no logical reason to think Seattle would score less four TD’s against a weak rushing defense.

    Last weeks first quarter collapse worries me, but the Seahawk coaches are good at correcting mistakes. Go ‘Hawks!

  17. SkeleTony says:

    23-17 Seahawks. I think Longwell gets two FGs.

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