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  1. ***Mods, I know this is an article about the SB between the Pats and the Rams, but at it's essence it's about football and I think it applies to the Falcons. Given it's the offseason and things will be fairly slower, please don't move this unless nobody reads/interacts. Now that that is out of the way, Matt Waldman is one of my favorite Twitter follows when it comes to breaking down film and digging into the game of football. He's smart and understands it and knows how to give it to the casual fan so they can truly digest the game. He sat down with one of the contributors to his site and I think the conversation is one of the best I've read and I think it would be beneficial for this place as a whole. I also believe part of it applies to the Falcons and how we can/should look at this offseason and the related moves. Stoner: Vic Ketchman will forever be my spirit grandpa. Hightower and Gilmore played their ***** off. Great defense is not always sacks and turnovers. I feel bad for Wade Phillips and the Rams defense. Waldman: The Rams confused Brady, too. The Patriots defensive game plan forced more errors than the Rams’ plan. Folks want to blame Goff but we’ll get to that later because it is a simplistic conclusion and often rooted in a couple of plays, especially when one of them was arguably a bad no-call that could have tied the game late. Stoner: The Rams mostly played a great game on defense. Ray Ratto was dead-on about the Patriots with the important exception of his final sentence below. [Belichick] has known more ways to win a game than most of us have learned to watch on, and with every trend int eh sport going toward offensive pyrospectaculars and playbooks powered by dilithium crystals, he decided to force-feed America a three-hour tutorial on Chuck Noll and Don Shula and George Allen and Bud Grant. It was the early 1970s, and you were there. It is a lesson America didn't enjoy and one it will hate all the more in years to come, but Belichick, who has adapted to changing mores in the sport as much as any coach, dragged us all by our slackened eyelids back to a time when we though presidents didn't come worse than Richard Nixon and sports was designed solely as a lesson in denial of pleasure and a repudiation of style. This was him saying, “This is a game you’re too young to remember, but I’m not, and I know how to make you sit at this table and eat it until it’s gone.” “You’re ******* right. Every other coach is like: “this is the scheme we use” and Belichick is like: “this is the scheme that this situation calls for.” How can no one else get this?” Stoner: I see this criticism all of the time. It’s valid on some level, yes. I also think people underestimate the amount of knowledge necessary to do this. It’s like what you wrote in your “Can He Make Music,” piece. You need to be able to speak the language of whatever country you’re in and ALSO need to know how to communicate things lost in translation on the fly. Waldman: I know scouts who understand less scheme than I. And to think a coach trained in one language can adapt to another so fast is not realistic. I wish I were 20 years younger and had the kind of time I had 20 years ago, too. Stoner: Ray Ratto’s Deadspin piece is great, you’ll like it a lot. I keep going back to the Pepper Johnson piece, too. Especially when he said Bill literally signed Mike Vrabel just to pick his brain on LeBeau’s defense. And nobody else really does that, LMFAO! Going back to the scheme, it’s not just about knowing where the X’s and O’s are supposed to go. The techniques for each can be so different. Adjustments are so different. You know this but the example of zone versus gap have WAY different micro-adjustments just in the angles you take to reach the second level. Let’s look at stretch versus one-back power. What blow ups both of these plays? A strongside, tilted nose tackle and weakside linebacker gap exchange. These are WAY different rules to simply run the ball to the strong side and this is just for the offensive line, not the backs. Now imagine every team using vastly different terminology for this ****! Waldman: Good point. Stoner: Then you have to teach the technique. A scoop and a double-two LB has way different footwork and second-level aiming points. Then only after considering the scheme and technique, consideration of the opponent’s personnel creates even more changes. Does your opponent have a stud nose tackle? If so, you need to cut him down because he’s going to hold up the double team and well never reach the linebacker. Is the nose tackle soft? Then we can ride him the direction he wants to go. Are the linebackers slow? If so, we can double the nose and put him in the lap of the linebacker. Guess what? All of this goes out the window if the defense decides not to really run this NT-WLB gap exchange. All of these considerations are all focused on just one offensive adjustment to the most common defensive adjustment used against the two most heavily used run plays. That’s a lot of shlt to know and that’s high school football 101 knowledge versus an extremely basic even front. Waldman: Football is an elegant game. There are so many elements at play but fans are continually trying to simplify and second-guess what’s happening. When I listen to a lot of analysts these days, their analysis often sounds like: “We understand that there are a lot of variables to take into account…yadda, yadda, yadda…but seriously, my emotional reaction to one play outweighs all of those variables and I have stats to back it up!” You’ve taken us in the weeds with one in-game adjustment that’s fundamental to almost all levels of football but there are folks out there who don’t understand this when they criticize a team for not altering its zone blocking scheme to account for a back that it had little intention of using this year who is better at gap. They aren’t seeing that it’s a consideration of the demands on 5-7 players versus 1. Stoner: I get why so many teams run zone instead of Gap. The rules for Zone are more consistent play-to-play for the offensive line. Gap schemes require a lot of memorization simply from the volume of options. Every run play is trying to accomplish something a little different. Waldman: Right. And for the backs, Gap is diagnostically easier on the back because the line is handling the diagnostic burden while Zone is more conceptually demanding for the runner because the scheme is designed to be easier for the line. Stoner: I agree. This game comes down to a really bad performance by Sean McVay — it was bad planning, bad game management, and McVay didn’t stick to his own offense. If Bill gives you something — in this case, the jet sweep — he is daring you to run it 10 times in a row until he stops it. Bill knows you won’t try it because offensive coordinators and good quarterback are often impatient. Waldman: The Seahawks knew Peyton Manning would be too impatient to nickel-and-dime his way downfield in its Super Bowl matchup. They gave Julius Thomas to Manning early, betting that physical play against Thomas would lead to mistakes and Manning would begin forcing the ball downfield. It’s exactly what happened and the Seahawks stifled and blew-out one of the most prolific offenses in football history. There is more to the article, but it focuses in more on Goff, Brady, and is truly not related to the Falcons. But the parts I highlighted I think absolutely do. Especially about the zone running. People here still complain about not being able to be a physical zone running team. That's just not true. But this also speaks to why some RBs struggle with zone running concepts, something that isn't discussed enough. You see once we started losing OL, the continuity is paramount in a heavy zone based running game. But once they have that continuity, they can pick it up quicker. Hence why Shanahan's have leaned on later round OL because it's more about consistency than true talent. It's also why you can take RBs later, so long as they truly understand the rules of zone based running and follow them to a T. Also, the first/last bolded parts are why I'm excited about DQ going back to being DC and why I was never a fan of Manuel. Belichick is good because he isn't so focused on relying on his "scheme" but instead looking at each opponent and figuring out what needs to be done to stop that particular opponent. That's what made DQ great. He didn't live and die with the 4-3 Under in Seattle. He dusted off the bear fronts that gave the Niners fits. As you see with the last bolded part, DQ can figure out great offenses. He's got the reigns now. Overall, don't cry over us sticking with the zone running scheme. Also, with the additions of Koetter, Mularkey, and Knapp, this gives the offense the variability that you see from the Pats (hopefully). Being able to match up and run schemes each week is key going forward. One offense doesn't beat every defense. One defense doesn't beat every offense. You have to be ready to beat that week's opponent. Even if it means going back to 1970s football and making it boring and ugly. At the end of the day, if that's what it takes to win the SB, do it.
  2. There are some misconceptions that are continuing to permeate around the board on just now much zone vs. man that we play; also how much we do and don't blitz. I went back and looked at every passing play of the last game and counted them up for everyone just so we can see it all laid out. For some reason people get to thinking that every time an offense begins to move the ball on us, we somehow went prevent or soft zone. Not true, so I've done a drive-by-drive description of what coverage we were in. Note, I only did this for passing plays and I didn't go too deep on how much nickel vs. base we played. I'll do my best not to make this a wall of text. Drive 1 Pass 1: Man - we played man cover-1 on the first snap of the game with a bracket by both linebackers on Kamara as we leaked out of the backfield. Pass 2: Cover-3 zone Pass 3: Cloud-3 zone Pass 4: Man Cover-1 result of the play was a touchdown Drive 2 Pass 5: BLITZ Campbell off the edge with man behind. Brees got it off quick to the RB in the flat. Duke is there to make a great stop. Pass 6: Man Cover-1. We had an alignment issue. No one was on Kamara who split out wide but Kamara didn't look for the throw, We got away with one. Pass 7: BLITZ Poole from the slot. Brees gets it off quick but we make the stop 4th down. Drive 3: Pass 8: Cover-1 Man Pass 9: Zone had the play diagnosed but poor tackling lead to a big gain. Pass 10: Cover-3 Mable Zone. Campbell carried Ginn of the seam on the deep over route. Bree threw it long, but safety was over the top in pretty good position to help. Pass 11: Cover-3 Drop. Tackle drops out into coverage turning it into a 3 man rush. Brees wasn't expecting it. Incomplete pass 4th down. Drive 4: Pass 12: Cover-3 Pass 13: Man coverage. Quick screen to Ginn who had a big gain but it was called back for holding. Pass 14: Cover-3 pass incomplete. Pass 15: Cover-3. Saints had a screen to Kamara, but being in zone had us in good position to stop it. Pass 16: BLITZ out of a 3 shell on 3rd and long. Campbell up the middle. Brees gets it out but we make the stop short. FG Drive 5: Pass 17: BLITZ Campbell up the middle. Ball out quick. Missed tackle leads to a big gain. Pass 18: BLITZ off the slot by Poole. Saints had a screen on. Roughing the passer gives them a 1st down. Pass 19: Cover-1 deep pass to Watson up the seam on Foye puts the Saints deep into the red zone. Interesting play because we were in nickel even though they were in 12. They cleverly spread the formation out to create a mismatch. Pass 20: Cover-3 around the goal line. They get called for holding, pushing them back. Pass 21: Cover-3 Drop (3man rush) short completion. Pass 22: Cover-3 drop again. Quick tunnel screen we get the stop. 4th down FG Drive 6: Pass 23: Zone, bust in the coverage. Alf slipped, got pushed, Kamara wide open underneath. Pass 24: Cover-1 incomplete pass. Pass 25: BLITZ off the slot, this time it's Oliver. Saints had it diagnosed perfectly. Screen set up right behind it but Kamara got caught up in traffic. We escaped again. Pass 26: Cover-3 Drop on 3rd and 15. Brees steps up and has Ginn on the deep out but he bobbles the pass going out of bounds. 4th down. Drive 7: This is the one that ended the half... Pass 27: BLITZ Campbell up the middle. Saints were getting a little tired of that one. Kamara leaked out immediately and got a good gain. Pass 28: Cover-1. Watson catches a crossing route over Oliver to set up the FG. END OF HALF 28 total passing plays: 13 Zone 8 Man 7 Blitzes
  3. I'm just gonna post the visual evidence. Not a whole lot of elaboration needed. This one's for the ones who contend that no one was schemed open last night. 3rd and Goal, 1st quarter. Sark dials up a spacing concept, good in short yardage. Instead of a flat route by the #3 receiver, he has #1 Julio running an out which draws double coverage, stretching the defense horizontally in the end zone, theoretically creating space underneath. Eagles played a lot of man down near the goal line. This is an ideal call out of bunch, which is designed to create space against one on one coverage. Eagles play the bunch side well but Matt never looks that way. Seems like his psr (pre-snap read) had him favoring the single receiver side to Hooper. But this here is the issue. He's locked in on Hooper the whole way. Hooper has a man draped all over him, even before he got bumped... but take a look at who doesn't have anyone near him at the bottom of the screen there. I remember a lot of critiques about running backs not used in the passing game or no one getting schemed wide open... well here you go. Walk-in touchdown and Matt never even looks his way. Looks like Bennett was in a peel technique-- or it's possible he just sensed something was up, but the linebacker who did have Free in man got lost in the wash. Can't ask for a better look than this.
  4. Greetings all! Hope all of my Falcon bretheren, and sisters are having a safe and happy summer. I know I am, but it's that time of year and I'm starting to get that itch -- no, not the kind I need to go to a clinic for -- but the kind that can only be satiated by watching full grown men knock the ever-lovin' sh** out of one another, so here I am. Now it's not very often I find something in a preseason game worth getting excited over, but I caught a nice little wrinkle Saturday and I wanted to discuss it a bit. It's called PUSH. As all of you know, DQ and MM looooove their man coverage, namely Cover-1 with a Rat in the hole. For anyone who needs a refresher, here it is. Very simple. You have press man coverage across the board. Free Safety playing deep middle and (usually) the Mike playing the Rat in the short underneath zone. Nick Saban calls this the best coverage in football. If you've been paying attention since DQ got here, Cover-1 is our bread and butter when we go man. Our defensive philosophy is to close the middle of the field. But even with as steady a coverage as this is, you simply can't run this on a regular basis without changing things up. Coordinators are just too good, and there are too many ways to beat tight man coverage: bunch sets, stacks, pick routes (I refuse to call them rubs)... it's just too easy to get receivers open if a team is going to sit in this all day. So, we answer this my making small changes to the responsibilities of our defenders. This is where the PUSH ALERT comes in. PUSH ALERT: what is the a Push Alert you're probably wondering at this point? We'll I'm glad you asked. It's basically a call built into the coverage that says we're going to trade off who we're covering in the middle of the play so that no matter how the receivers are stacked and try to pick us off, we'll answer by switching who is covering who... kind of like Banjo coverage (which hopefully I can get to later in the season) or a switch in basketball. Stay with me here if you're confused. We're about to get to the pictures. Here's the play in question. The Jags are running double curls at the top of the screen. Now at the bottom of the screen the routes were drawn up wrong. In the picture it's drawn up with Alf's man running the curl and Poole's man running the drag, but it's actually the opposite. It's Poole's man that is running the little curl and Alford's the cross. Note the stacked alignment of the receivers to that side. This is usually how you can get a receiver open because the off man has a free release and the defender covering him has to navigate through traffic. And here's what the Falcons are in, straight Cover-1 with the RAT in the hole. This time the RAT is Campbell. At the snap Poole gets an incredible jam on his man so much so that he can't even get into his route. I never could tell what that receiver was running, a hook or a dig? But you see (and you'll see it clearer in the gif) Alf has to run over the top to track that crosser, and Duke is struggling to get underneath to get to his man, the running back leaking out. But this is excellent coverage across the board. You can see Campbell has his eyes in the correct place, picking up the 1st crosser to help out Alf. Now this is where our alert comes in. Right in the middle of the play, the PUSH call is made. Campbell now picks up the crosser in man to man, and Alf is the new RAT. Now this is the part that screws with quarterbacks. Look at what Blake is looking at. To him, this is man to man across the board right. That crossing route has taken the Rat, Campbell and cleared him out of the middle of the field and Alf was in man to man so he isn't even supposed to be a factor. He's supposed to be running with #10 too. So, Blake is supposed to have an easy throw to his tight end who is matched on Keanu. But not so much. You see Keanu has fallen down (or pushed). Tight end is wide open in the middle of the field for an easy completion. But you can see Alf already sinking... And right here, he's just being an athlete. Just an incredible play. You know how it ended. Great play by Keanu to get up off the deck and finish the play. If anyone remembers the pick 6 on Brady from the Super Bowl, this is almost the same exact concept. This is a very simple defense. We show the same stuff over and over again, but there are a ton of adjustments and communication that allows the defense to stay dynamic and constantly have answers for what offenses throw at them. That's how the playbook stays so thick. I love this scheme. It's so simple on the surface, which allows your athletes to play fast, yet so complex when you start digging underneath which allows your playcaller to play chess.