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Posts Tagged ‘Gonzalez’

All-22 Breakdown: Falcons Offense Needs the Vertical Strike

November 1st, 2013 Comments off

One of the main topics I hit in this past week’s game review and podcast (roughly around the 40-minute mark) was the Falcons inability to stretch the Arizona Cardinal’s defense, and how that must change if the Falcons want to beat the Carolina Panthers this weekend. It’s one thing to read or listen to what I’m seeing, but thanks to the power of screenshots and photo-editing software, I can now show you what I’m talking about.

The Falcons have become a one-dimensional offense thanks to their inability to run the ball effectively. But that hasn’t been a new development in Atlanta, as they were one of the league’s weakest rushing teams a year ago. But they were able to compensate with an efficient passing attack, thanks in part due to the big play potential offered by Julio Jones and Roddy White. A year ago, that pair of receivers combined for 35 catches of 20 or more yards, and 9 catches of 40 or more yards.

While the Falcons generated five 20-plus yard plays against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sans Jones and White, that number fell to two against Arizona. One of the reasons why the Falcons were able to beat the Bucs despite the running backs rushing for a combined 30 yards, was because they were able to generate those big plays in the passing game. The rushing attack only got worse against the Cardinals, with backs combining for a pathetic 14 yards. And without the big plays to compensate, it resulted last Sunday in one of the worst offensive performances of the Falcons and Matt Ryan in years.

I want to outline two plays using screenshots from NFL Game Rewind’s All-22 view to illustrate what I mean by the Falcons inability to get big plays. I think these two plays, if the outcomes are different would have a vastly different impact on the outcome of the Falcons-Cardinals game. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Falcons win the game, but they certainly would have made it much closer and more competitive. And more importantly, moving forward they have to do a better job of taking advantage of similar opportunities when they present themselves.

The first play I want to examine is the very first offensive snap the Falcons had in the second half. Had the Falcons executed on this play as I believe it was drawn up, it certainly would have started the second half with a bang and potentially made the game a one-score game rather than the three-score lead Arizona was able to build shortly after.

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Three Keys to a Falcons Victory in Week 8

October 26th, 2013 1 comment
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Tony Gonzalez

Here’s a look at three keys to victory in order for the Atlanta Falcons to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in their Week 8 road matchup.

Pressure Leads to Turnovers

The Falcons defensive line is coming off its strongest performance of the season, effectively able to control the line of scrimmage last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They got plenty of pressure on Mike Glennon and doing such were able to create an early turnover that led to seven points.

They will have to do much of the same this week against the Cardinals. Carson Palmer has thrown two or more interceptions in each of his last five games, and the Falcons will hope to make it six in a row. The Cardinals defense is one tough nut to crack, and given the Falcons injuries on offense, it will make it even tougher. Creating multiple turnovers can create additional opportunities for the offense to put points on the board.

The best way to create turnovers is to get pressure on the quarterback. That leads to rushed and errant throws, which defenders in the Falcons secondary can capitalize on to make big plays.

The Falcons should see favorable matchups against one of the league’s weakest offensive line. Osi Umenyiora has historically preyed on weak tackles, which the Cardinals sport in left tackle Bradley Sowell. Injury to left guard Daryn Colledge could also lead to backup Nate Potter starting, and the Cardinals also have a weakness at the other guard spot with Paul Fanaika being unexceptional.

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How the Falcons Offense Matches Up against the Bucs Defense

October 19th, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas Will Need a Big Week 7

The desperate Atlanta Falcons take on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a battle that will decide who resides in the basement of the NFC South division as the loser will reside in last place.

One of the bright spots for the Bucs this season has been their defense, which has played well despite their inability to win a game. The Falcons will be playing with a depleted offense this week, thanks to injuries to top wideouts in Julio Jones and Roddy White, as well as missing running back Steven Jackson for the fourth consecutive game. The Falcons are forced to dig deep in order to find a way to attack this Buccaneer defense.

How the Bucs decide to deploy their defense could really impact how the Falcons offense operates. The addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis has really enhanced a Bucs secondary that was among the worst in the league in 2012. The past two weeks Falcons opponents have opted to bracket and double Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez alongside Jones. Now with Jones out of the mix, it will mean Gonzalez will be the focus of the Falcons offense and opposing defense. The Bucs would be smart to try and have Revis shadow Gonzalez throughout the day whenever possible. But that will require the Bucs to ask to play Revis more inside. While Revis is capable, it will mean that the Bucs will have to make significant adjustments to their defense. If the Bucs choose to do that, a way the Falcons can attack him is by lining Gonzalez up as an inline tight end and trying to run directly at him. In the passing game, the Falcons can try to group their receivers in trips sets and try to create confusion in the Bucs secondary.

If not and the Bucs try a more traditional defense, it will feature a lot of using their safeties, Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, against Gonzalez. The Bucs haven’t faced many top tight ends this year besides Jimmy Graham in Week 2. Graham proceeded to catch 10 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, leading the Saints receivers. If that is the case, it’s clear that Gonzalez has the ability to exploit that matchup favorably for the Falcons offensive attack.

If Revis is shadowing Gonzalez, then it will leave the Falcons other receivers on islands against the Bucs lesser defensive backs. Starting cornerback Johnthan Banks has had his ups and downs this year as a rookie. But he could match up favorably against a receiver like Harry Douglas, who will be the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Falcons. Douglas isn’t very big, and Banks has good size to be an effective press corner. If the Bucs opt to employ Banks to try and press Douglas on the outside, then it will be hard for sixth-year wideout to get off the line of scrimmage and be effective. The Falcons could mitigate that some by putting Douglas mostly in the slot away from Banks, and against the smaller, less physical Leonard Johnson, the Bucs’ normal slot corner. If Revis is freed up from shadowing Gonzalez, then Douglas will be hard-pressed to get open against one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. The Falcons will try and find ways to feature Douglas with most of the defensive attention going towards Gonzalez. Douglas is at his best on shorter, quicker routes that are designed to get him in space and make us of his speed and explosiveness after the catch. The Falcons may try some screens with Douglas and shallow crossing patterns to try and feature this ability.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 5 Review

October 16th, 2013 Comments off

Sorry for this being over a week late as I just got busy with the day job and an epidemic of procrastination. To be honest, much of this game has faded from my memory at least in terms of specific instances and plays that I would normally point out. And rightly so, considering this was probably the most disappointing loss of the season for the Falcons.

In their second “must-win” game the Falcons failed to pull out the victory. And this game was worse because the Falcons had been thoroughly outplayed for much of the game, but turned it on at the end to seemingly steal the win. That is your typical Mike Smith-led Falcons team, that manage to win these types of ball games even when they aren’t the better team on that particularly Sunday. But then the defense had a major letdown (more on that later) and the Falcons had another loss on their hands.

Offensively, I don’t think the Falcons were bad by any means. They were able to convert in the red zone, a stark change from previous games. But it is concerning how many plays the Falcons had to run in several of those instances to get points. Their first red zone trip had a total of six plays inside the 20, their second had nine, and the final one had eight. An offense that is clicking should be able to score within three or four plays inside the red zone, as the Falcons did on two of their red zone trips. But the Falcons seemed to inch along inside the red zone, and got help with penalties on the Jets that helped keep them rolling. While the end result may look positive as far as the Falcons red zone woes, what you actually saw on the field is by no means promising.

At least as far as the red zone goes, I really wanted to see the Falcons try some fade patterns. I know the Jets were bracketing Julio Jones with safety help, and doubling Tony Gonzalez at times, but I still believe if Koetter had been more creative with how he lined guys up, there were plenty of instances where he could have gotten either player one on one in a favorable matchup. I did like the fact that the Falcons now seem to be regularly employing Levine Toilolo in the red zone, with three straight games where he has seen a target in the end zone. Obviously now, the Falcons don’t have Jones anymore. But I’m thinking in terms of trying to avoid these long, drawn out red zone trips, the Falcons should just go for the fade to Gonzalez (and now Toilolo instead of Jones) on first down. Gonzalez is money in traffic, and Toilolo with his size and athleticism is going to out-jump any defender in the league. And you should be confident that Matt Ryan has the touch to throw a catchable pass in the end zone, so I would like to see the Falcons going straight for the throat in these instances rather than plodding along in the red zone.

I thought the Falcons did a nice job trying to stay balanced, even though their running game wasn’t overly effective. That was mainly because the interior of the Falcons offensive line got pushed around by the likes of players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Kenrick Ellis, and Damon Harrison in the middle. Joe Hawley, serving as the extra tackle was credited with the missed block on the goal line run by Rodgers at the end of the first half. A positive is that the Falcons pass rush held up okay relative to some recent performances with two sacks, 1 pressure, and 5 hurries allowed on 47 dropbacks.

While the Falcons got no contribution from Harry Douglas in the passing game, Kevin Cone made a key catch to extend a drive. And both he and Davis also contributed as blockers on Rodgers’ 19-yard touchdown run.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$19$0$0$0$0-$2$17.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$9$0$0$0$0$9.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$7$1$0$0$8.00
Jason Snelling$0$2$4$0$0$0$6.00
Julio Jones$0$0$5$0$0-$1$4.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$1$1$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$1$0$0$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$0$0-$2$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

Defensively, the Falcons struggled in this game. Obviously they gave up the scoring drive at the very end that lost the game for the team. The Jets really had no issues moving the ball the 55 yards necessarily to get into field goal range for the game-winning kick. Massaquoi had his lone pressure on Geno Smith on that drive, but didn’t have what it takes to finish the play. That has been a problem with Massaquoi all year. He has a decent first step, but doesn’t play with great balance to keep his feet and finish plays, constantly stumbling when he gets off the block. The pass rush in general was very lackluster. While they were able to dial up a bit more pressure in the second half, thanks to blitzing, the lack of pressure in the first half was key to the Jets getting out to their early lead. Smith had all time to throw, and the Falcons back-seven paid for it. Joplo Bartu had a tough day, looking overmatched by Jeff Cumberland in coverage too many times and missed a few too many tackles. He also got credited with blowing the coverage on the Kellen Winslow touchdown catch, as I think he was sucked up by the run action (Smith scrambling) and blew his assignment, which allowed Winslow to sneak to the back of the end zone.

The run defense started strong, as the Jets were successful on only 1 of their 8 running back runs in the first half. But they managed to be successful on 6 of 11 in the second half. The Falcons missed a bunch of tackles in this game as well.

It’s hard to point out players that played well, although I would point to Babineaux, Worrilow, and Trufant probably being the best. But none had strong performances, which is often the case when the Falcons lose.

On special teams, Shann Schillinger missed the block that led to the blocked punt. Thomas DeCoud missed the tackle on the 36-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.

PLAYER
DEF
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Corey Peters$2$0$0$2.00
Desmond Trufant$2$0$0$2.00
Osi Umenyiora$1.5$0$0$1.50
Jonathan Babineaux$1$0$0$1.00
Jonathan Massaquoi$1$0$0$1.00
Paul Worrilow$1$0$0$1.00
Robert Alford$0$1$0$1.00
Stephen Nicholas$0.5$0$0$0.50
Matt Bosher$0$2-$2$0.00
Asante Samuel$0$0$0$0.00
Thomas DeCoud-$1$0$0-$1.00
Omar Gaither-$1$0$0-$1.00
Robert McClain-$1$0$0-$1.00
William Moore-$1$0$0-$1.00
Joplo Bartu-$6$0$0-$6.00

Advanced Stats from Week 5:

Poor Throws (4): Ryan
Drops (1): Jones
Key Blocks (5): Blalock, Cone, Davis, Gonzalez, Reynolds
Sacks Allowed (2): Reynolds, Trueblood
Pressures Allowed (1): Konz (0.5), Rodgers (0.5)
Hurries Allowed (5): Holmes (2), Konz (1), Snelling (1), Trueblood (1)
Missed Blocks (8): Reynolds (3), Blalock (2), Konz (2), Hawley (1)

Tackles for Loss (1): Bartu
QB Sacks (3): Umenyiora (2), Peters (1)
QB Pressures (2): Babineaux, Massaquoi
QB Hits (1): DeCoud
QB Hurries (0)
Passes Defended (2): Peters, Trufant
Blown Coverages (5): Bartu (3), DeCoud (1), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (8): Bartu (2), Babineaux (1), DeCoud (1), McClain (1), Moore (1), Worrilow (1), Umenyiora (1)
Key Blocked (2): Gaither, Worrilow
Stops (6): Worrilow (2), Babineaux (1), McClain (1), Trufant (1), Nicholas (0.5), Umenyiora (0.5)

Why Trading for Josh Gordon Is a Smart Move for the Atlanta Falcons

October 9th, 2013 2 comments
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon

The Falcons are in a dire predicament in light of the news that Julio Jones is likely out for the season. Their offense is now without a No. 1 receiver, at least until Roddy White and his ankle and hamstring are fully healed. In the meantime the Falcons will have to be reliant on Tony Gonzalez to carry the offense from the tight end position. Not too dissimilar from the days under Michael Vick when Alge Crumpler was the de facto top option in the Falcons passing offense.

Can the team win that way? Perhaps, but it will be extremely difficult. In those days, the Falcons were able to get away with that style of play because it was buoyed by having one of the league’s premier rushing attack. Currently, the Falcons rank 25th in rushing yards per game and 17th in yards per carry. Much closer to average than back in 2004-06 where they led the league in both categories in each of those seasons.

Crumpler was also a much more effective vertical threat than Gonzalez currently is. In 69 games played with the Falcons thus far, Gonzalez has 23 receptions of 20 or more yards. In his final 62 games in a Falcon uniform, Crumpler had 50. That ability to provide big plays makes a dramatic difference in whether or not a receiver can carry an offense.

Even with the healthy returns of Roddy White and Steven Jackson, the best-case scenario for the Falcons offense over the remainder of the 2013 season will be reminiscent of the 2010 Falcons offense. It’s certainly possible, but given the state of the Falcons offensive line, that is more wishful thinking than anything. That 2010 rushing attack was dominant against some opposing fronts (4 games of 150+ rushing yards that season), but effective against most (12 games of 85+ yards). The Falcons have eclipsed 85 yards only twice this year: in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, thanks largely to a 50-yard run by ackson, and against the Miami Dolphins. A healthier Jackson isn’t going to suddenly morph Garrett Reynolds and Jeremy Trueblood into Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo in their primes.

If the Falcons have any chance of turning their season around and making a late push towards a wild card slot, they need to rely on the arm of Matt Ryan. But that arm will be limited if the Falcons do not have a vertical threat in the offense that can affect how opponents play the Falcons. Julio Jones’ mere presence of the field makes defenses play the Falcons differently. They have to respect the deep ball on all plays because of Jones. Jones forced defenses to bracket him with safety help over the top, because he is capable of running past every corner in the NFL.

In recent weeks, NFL teams have devised a new way of playing the Falcons which is by doubling Gonzalez as well. Coupled with the bracketing of Jones, defenses are forcing a beat up White, Harry Douglas, and the rest of the Falcons unproven receivers to beat them. And it clearly has worked against the Falcons. Without Jones to help keep defenses honest, it will only get worse.

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Falcons Lose to Jets on Last Second Field Goal

October 8th, 2013 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Folk celebrates the game-winning field goal

The Atlanta Falcons dropped another heart-breaker when a last second field goal by kicker Nick Folk lifted the New York Jets to a 30-28 win. The Falcons had been successful with taking a late one-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but their defense failed to get a stop to deliver the team a win. Atlanta’s record falls to 1-4 as they enter their bye week.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 36 of 45 passes for 319 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The Falcons running game was led by Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 43 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries. Jason Snelling added 13 yards on 7 carries. Tony Gonzalez led Falcons receivers with 10 catches for 97 yards, on his way to be the second player in NFL history to catch a pass in 200 consecutive games after Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Julio Jones added 8 catches for 99 yards. Snelling had five catches for 10 yards and one of Ryan’s touchdowns. Levine Toilolo had the other on his way to 2 catches for 15 yards. Matt Bryant attempted no field goals as the Falcons found greater success in the red zone. They were able to convert touchdowns four times on five trips. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average 49.5 yards, but had one punt blocked. Harry Douglas returned a pair of punt returns for 22 yards, while Rodgers only returned a single kickoff for 23 yards. The Falcons generated 363 yards of total offense and were able to convert on 6 of 12 third down attempts, while converted on 1 of 2 fourth down attempts. They did manage to turn the ball over once, on a Ryan fumble.

Defensively, the Falcons only allowed 288 total yards from the Jets. Much of those yards came on the ground, as the Jets were able to generate 118 rushing yards. They sacked quarterback Geno Smith four times, but weren’t able to force any turnovers of the rookie passer. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles); Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Omar Gaither (4 tackles); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Osi Umenyiora (6 tackles, 2 sacks); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 41 “Anonymous Osi”

October 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back with guest star Tom Melton to discuss the Falcons Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots. The questions we wish to answer this week are: 1) Are the Falcons approaching must-win territory in the coming weeks? 2) Will the Falcons youth movement in the wake of injuries is going to cost them this year? 3) Do the Falcons have enough balance on offense and can they turn things around in the red zone? 4) Just how awesome is Tony Gonzalez really? 5) How effective is the Falcons pass rush and whether the Osi Umenyiora signing is working out? 6) Was Mike Smith’s gutsy 4th down call the right move? 7) Did Mike Nolan’s scheme cost the Falcons the game? … We give our thoughts on the upcoming matchup against the New York Jets, as well as assess the play of the offensive line, receivers, young tight ends, and also look around the league at Josh Freeman’s situation in Tampa Bay.

Ep. 41: Anonymous Osi [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and contributes to Draft Headquarters.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 4

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

‘Sad Arthur Blank’ should be a meme somewhere

Last week, I tried to make the compelling case for why the Falcons 1-2 start wasn’t as dire as many believed.

I’ll have a much harder time trying to make the same argument now that the Falcons are 1-3.

Honestly, losing to the Miami Dolphins on the road wasn’t that shocking to me. Losing to the Patriots at home, however was. I just expected the Falcons to play much better than they did on Sunday night.

Their looking out of sync against the Dolphins, I chalked up to the injuries and being on the road. I can still partially blame injuries for their looking out of sync against the Patriots, but they typically look much sharper at home.

My immediate reaction won’t be to write off the Falcons this season. From the research I did (called Pro Football Reference), 109 teams in the “Parity Era” (1995-2012) have started the season 1-3, and only 17 of them went on to make the playoffs, giving the Falcons about a 15.5-percent chance. Given that you have a 37.5-percent chance to begin win that is not promising.

One of those teams that did manage to make the playoffs despite a 1-3 start was the 2002 Falcons. After their 1-3 start, they didn’t lose their next eight games (seven wins, one tie) to get into the playoffs on a wildcard. Two of their three opening losses came against playoff teams.

Currently, all three of the Falcons losses come against teams that I suspect will make the playoffs, as the chances a team that starts the year 4-0 makes the playoffs is 82.6-percent over the Parity Era. And we know at least two of our opponents, depending on the result of the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints game tonight will be 4-0. And it’s loser will still be in the driver’s seat to finish the year strong and be playing in January.

The Falcons definitely have some work to do. And the honest to goodness truth is that this team is not nearly as good as we thought they would be. They still have the capacity to be a good team, but time is running short.

Their offense needs to get in sync, and their defense got exposed thoroughly for the first time against what had been a struggling Patriots offense.

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Falcons Fall Short in Comeback Against Patriots

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib breaks up the potential game-tying pass to Roddy White in the final minute

The Atlanta Falcons mounted a late comeback, but ultimately fell short in a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots. The Falcons were down 17 points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and were in a position to tie the game with under a minute on the clock. But wide receiver Roddy White could not extend for Matt Ryan’s pass on fourth down with 41 seconds in the game, and the Patriots prevailed.

Matt Ryan looked a bit off on the night, but finished with a career-high 421 yards while completing 34 of 54 pass attempts. He also threw a pair of touchdowns with one interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers had a team-leading 32 yards on 7 carries (4.6 avg) while Jason Snelling added 26 yards on 8 carries (3.3 avg). Tony Gonzalez had an excellent night, catching 12 passes for 149 yards (12.4 avg) and both of Ryan’s touchdown passes. Julio Jones (6 catches, 108 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 56 yards), and Harry Douglas (5 catches, 68 yards) also made notable contributions in the passing game. Matt Bryant connected on all three of his field goal attempts from 23, 45, and 25 yards. Matt Bosher had a trio of punts for an average of 45.7 yards, with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned one punt for six yards, while Rodgers had a single kickoff return for 29 yards. The Falcons continue to struggle to convert in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on only one of six trips there. While they managed to convert 5 of 8 third down attempts in the first half, that fell to only 1 of 6 in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a season-high 448 total yards, including 288 in the second half. The Patriots were able to convert 7 of 13 third downs and scored touchdowns on 2 of 3 red zone trips. They also gave up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, largely thanks to a 47-yard scoring run by LeGarrette Blount. Akeem Dent led defenders with 8 tackles on the night, including one for loss, although an injury forced him to exit from the game late. Robert Alford (4 tackles); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 QB hits); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (4 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles);Corey Peters (5 tackles); Desmond Trufant (6 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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Falcons vs. Patriots: Six Intriguing Matchups

September 27th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

The Falcons hope to respond after a disappointing loss last week as they face the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, who has earned a reputation as the league’s best schemer. With questions surrounding Falcons head coach Mike Smith and whether the Falcons coaching staff is pulling its own weight, they will have to be up to the task of trying to match wits with Belichick.

In looking at the past two Patriots games, here are three favorable matchups to watch out for on Sunday night for each team.

Advantage: Falcons

Julio Jones vs. Aqib Talib

Last week, the Patriots asked Talib to shadow Vincent Jackson and he was very effective doing so. Jackson was limited to just three catches for 34 yards. It is likely that the Patriots will do something similar this week hoping that Talib can have a similar effect against Jones, who is clearly the Falcons No. 1 target. Jones has been targeted on nearly half (43-percent) of Ryan’s 81 attempts this year. It should be noted that even at his peak in 2009, Roddy White never exceeded 36-percent. If Talib is effective in containing Jones, it will make the Falcons offense much less effective. But that will be a tall order for Talib. It has been no secret the first three games of this season that Jones has been best and often sole offensive weapon in the passing game, yet no Falcons opponent has really been effective at slowing him down. Talib and Jones have only faced each other once, back in Week 3 of 2011. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was able to catch a pair of passes against Talib for 25 yards on three targets in that game. The Falcons coaching staff, knowing that the Patriots No. 1 defensive priority will be limiting Jones’ impact on the game will have to find ways to get him the ball despite the shadow that Talib creates.

Tony Gonzalez vs. Patriots LBs/Safeties

If Talib shadows Jones throughout the game, it should allow Belichick free to mix up his coverages in regards to tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez has yet to really have a breakout game this season and this week he could be poised for such. The Pats have yet to really face a formidable tight end through the first three weeks of the 2013 season. A year ago (per Football Outsiders) the Patriots were weak against the tight end, ranking 29th in DVOA. Note that the Falcons, who also struggled to cover tight ends, ranked 21st last year. The Patriots may not put a single player on Gonzalez, but rotate multiple players. Normally, safety Steve Gregory and linebackers Jerod Mayo and Don’ta Hightower tend to draw most of the assignments against opposing tight ends. But the Patriots may try using athletic rookie linebacker Jamie Collins as well in the hopes he may be better suited against a veteran like Gonzalez.

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