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