Know Your Enemy – Atlanta Falcons

Posted: September 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 11 Comments »

Atlanta Falcons
lost at Chicago, 30-12 … ATL/CHI Gamebook

OFFENSE – Built around QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner. Goal is to run the ball a lot and control the flow of the game. 2010 Falcons had 6 games where they scored less than 21 points. In 4 of those, Turner had fewer than 20 carries. Atlanta didn’t lose a game when he did have 20 or more carries. Focus on carries as much as yards.

The Falcons hoped to give their passing game a boost with the drafting of WR Julio Jones and the return of slot receiver Harry Douglas from injury. The goal was to get more explosive plays. Didn’t happen in the opener, but you can’t expect that to change overnight. Line has to block better. Ryan has to be more aggressive downfield. And the receivers have to make plays.

DEFENSE – 4-3. Focus is on stopping the run. Falcons like to rush the passer with their DL, but will mix in the blitz from time to time. Last year they only had 31 sacks as a team.

Falcons are a tweener team. Their defense isn’t built on size or speed. They find players they like and mix them together. They are a bit bigger in the back middle. MLB Curtis Lofton goes about 245. SS William Moore is over 220. FS Thomas DeCoud is over 200. Those 3 guys are better hitters/tacklers/run stuffers than cover guys.


WR Julio Jones – Falcons traded 37 picks to get him (or at least it seemed that way). Has big time talent.
DE Ray Edwards – Brought in to play the LDE spot.


The Falcons went 13-3 last year and were the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Green Bay came to town and beat them 48-21. Atlanta decided that they needed to improve the passing attack on offense and pass rush on defense. That led them to draft Jones and sign Edwards. We’re only a game into the new season so we can’t rate the moves yet.

I have a lot of respect for what GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have done with changing the Falcons from a dysfunctional organization into consistent winners. I still have concerns about whether the team is good enough to win it all. The Falcons are somewhat of a Marty Schottenheimer type team. They’re built to be conservative on offense and solid on defense. They win at home and play smart, sound, fundamental football.

You don’t win in the postseason by not making mistakes. You must be able to make big plays. Atlanta is 0-2 in the postseason under the current regime. They lost 30-24 to Arizona in 2008 and 48-21 to Green Bay last year. The Falcons were lit up by 2 passing teams (39 points per game). Their focus on running the ball and stopping the run hasn’t done them any good at playoff time. You must be able to rush the passer and cover (familiar theme?).

One of the things that I think hurts the Falcons is that they have a ton of solid players, but few blue chippers. QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, and DE John Abraham are the best 3 players for the Falcons. Compare that to Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Shady McCoy, Trent Cole, Asante Samuel, and Nnamdi Asomugha. I’m not talking about good players. I mean guys with dominant potential. Difference makers. The question for the Falcons is how good some of their young talent turns out to be. LB Sean Weatherspoon, CB Brent Grimes, and WR Julio Jones all have big time potential.

Falcons Depth Chart

Falcons Stats

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The Falcons did not look good in the opener.  Chicago took control of that game early on and Atlanta never had a chance.  The only Falcons TD was an INT run back 50 yards for a score late in the game (by DE Kroy Biermann, my favorite Falcon).  Matt Ryan threw an INT.  He fumbled the ball and the Bears ran that back for a TD.  Chicago scored another TD on a screen pass that started small, but went for 56 yards.  Weatherspoon had a chance to tackle Matt Forte, but instead just hit him.  Forte slid off the hit and kept trucking.  Mike Smith let Weatherspoon know that wasn’t acceptable.

Atlanta started new/young players at C and RG.  They were up and down.  The line gave up 5 sacks and Ryan was under pressure on other plays.  Ryan threw a lot of short passes.  The Bears got pressure with their front four and then played the Cover 2 behind that.  Ryan completed short throws and the Bears gang-tackled, giving up precious few RAC yards.

Turner only had 10 carries.  He did gain 100 yards.  A lot of that came on a 53 yard run.  He also fumbled once.  7 of his carries came in the 1st half.  Once Atlanta was really down in the 2nd half, they had to focus on the passing game and playing catch-up.  Get a 2-possession lead on the Falcons and they are out of their comfort zone.

Atlanta did have 5 sacks on defense.  They looked solid, but the Bears OL is still a mess.   Atlanta tried to rush 3 and cover with 8 on some plays.  That was a complete failure.  Bears receivers were wide open and Jay Cutler had time.  He had 222 yards passing in the 1st half.  The Falcons blitzed some, but didn’t have a lot of success with that.  They seemed best when rushing 4.

The Falcons played good run defense in the 1st half (only allowed 13 carries for 22 yards).  Things were different in the 2nd half and Chicago finished 27-88.  One of the problems Atlanta had in the game was sloppy tackling.

Atlanta was hurt by misc factors.  They rarely had good field position.  They had 9 penalties for 65 yards (and Grimes got away with PI in the endzone on another play).  The Falcons had 3 turnovers and generated just 1, when the game was basically decided.  As I talked about earlier, the Falcons don’t have the firepower to beat a good team when they play sloppy.  They aren’t loaded with special players.

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I’ll get into strategy and matchups on Friday.

11 Comments on “Know Your Enemy – Atlanta Falcons”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 3:47 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    Great, great stuff as always. I’m looking forward to your look-in on strategy and matchups.

    From what I saw, it seemed like Atlanta had a good bit of success offensively when operating out of the no-huddle early in the game. Is this something you think they’ll look to employ, being at home and trying to wear out and prevent out DLine from rotating? It seems imperitive to get an early lead… take the crowd out of it, take Michael Turner out of it. As you stated, the Falcons pressed and their offense disappeared when they got into a hole.

  2. 2 Steve H said at 3:56 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    Omg Tommy, I know this is offtopic as all getout but I’m sure you’ve seen in your film review the play where Brian Rolle destroys the St. Louis center? I’m over at BGN watching that and I was absolutely floored when I saw that. Rolle sent that guy sailing like he was a child trying to block a grown man. Sign me up for the little ball of hate fan club.

    If anyone hasn’t seen it go over to the BGN site and set the week 1 film breakdown video to about 6:03. Brian Rolle is the linebacker towards the upper half of the field.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 4:10 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    I know i just saw that and I mean I love me some Casey but anybody for Sam Mills 2.0 in the middle? The best part of it is that he isn’t on some kamikaze blitz when he straight up tosses the center he is just shuffling and filling. AMAZING! Congratulations on fathering such a wunderkind Tommy.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 4:36 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    I think Page taught him some of that Bruce Lee s**t he learned.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 4:23 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    Tommy I thought you might like this if you haven’t seen it yet, I saw it in a Nick Fierro article about DRC:

    “We know we have to stop the run [first]. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you want to rush the passer.’ Well, yeah, but there’s certain things you have to do. It’s just like when you’re dating, there’s certain things you’ve got to do.” — DE Jason Babin, on creating pass-rush opportunities.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 4:53 AM on September 16th, 2011:


    How do you feel about Matthews upper body strength? I know you mentioned missing the ota’s and minicamps, but how much do you think he is affected by missing out on the Eagles strength and conditioning program? The reason I bring it up is that I saw a photo of Matthews recently, and thought his arms just looked weak. No tone, no bulk. Then B Rolle pops a guy 100# heavier with his hands and arms and sends him into embarrassment.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 4:57 AM on September 16th, 2011:

    Not to mention he had to pull out of the combine because of an injury during the bench press

  8. 8 Eric Weaver said at 2:54 PM on September 16th, 2011:

    I think the fast track of the dome will make it hard for the shaky Falcon secondary to stay with all the skill players.

  9. 9 Anonymous said at 3:09 PM on September 16th, 2011:

    If McClure and Douglas don’t play, I don’t know how they score 20 without D/ST TDs. As of now, that’s apparently up in the air.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 3:35 PM on September 16th, 2011:

    I will be absolutely giddy if one of the revelations this weekend is that the Rams are better than anyone realized.

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 6:02 PM on September 16th, 2011:

    Brilliant. And agreed.