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  1. Let me start off by saying that I am not in love with the Falcons' defense right now. There's a lot of ugly going right now, still a few sloppy fundamentals, still too many yards surrendered, BUT there are some things going on that I do like. There's actual teeth to this defense and I can see it coming together. With that I'd like to take a look at the key defensive play of the Monday night game vs. the Saints. 1st and 10 Atlanta's 11 Yard Line: Now this is the route combo. Pay no attention to the top of the screen; it's just window dressing. The read is to the bottom of the screen. Fleener, the tight end, is running the vertical up the seam, which is supposed to swab out the underneath coverage and the two receivers at the bottom are running that in and out concept which usually creates something like a natural pick vs. man coverage and leaves one of them wide open. It's actually a well designed play. Now this is what Brees is reading. As you know, quarterbacks are always looking for pre-snap indicators to give away the coverage. This empty spread formation means that the defense can't hide or disguise anything. The single safety high (Allen) to the right of the screen and Keanu playing shallow tip off the Cover-3 Buzz. It could be man except 'Spoon to the left of the picture is over a wide receiver -- which there's just no way 'Spoon is getting left man-to-man to cover an NFL receiver, even with safety help -- so it's zone all the way. Ball is snapped, and this is one of those calls that Quinn ran a lot in Seattle. The cover-3 look with a linemen peeling off in zone to close the middle of the field. Here it's Babineaux... Now I wanted to examine the play from this view to focus on Deion Jones and give you just a little insight into what it's like to be a linebacker in coverage. LOOK AT BREE'S SHOULDERS IN THE PIC DIRECTLY ABOVE... Now look at Brees's shoulders in the pic below. In zone, defenders -- safetys, especially -- are taught to read the shoulders of the quarterback. It's kind of hard to see, but note how Jones has his eyes on Brees the whole way. He's staying with Fleener (#82), but he's "feeling" him, he's not hard focused on him, not turning his back and running with him up the seam. Instead he is reading Brees. Now look at Brees's left hand start to come off the ball. This is when you are supposed to break. Quarterback's shoulders point, hand comes off the ball, linebacker, you break! Look how hard Deion Jones breaks before the ball is even out of Bree's hand. This is the virtue of zone coverage... And this is the play. Poole played it beautifully. I honestly have no idea what Brees was looking at. It was zone all the way. Brees for all his greatness is very arrogant with the ball. Most of the time it works to the tune of some of the most prolific offensive statistics the game has ever seen, but not so much this time. Maybe he was expecting a matchup type zone where it plays like man, and instead got a spot drop, but whatever natural pick he was expecting didn't happen and Poole held his ground and made a beautiful play on the ball... Blurry, but you get the idea. And look how much ground Jones has covered... From here, it's just the good ole tip drill that gets worked on every day... And it's deuces... Now I love defense... I mean, I really love defense. It hurts my eyes to see teams get drug up and down the field and games finishing with 60 total points scored, but I have to remind myself that they call it "growing pains" for a reason and this defense is still a work in progress. I did not see enough of this kind of play Monday Night, but this is just a little glimmer of what these guys are capable of when they play disciplined and decisive and something I expect to see more of as the season progresses.
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