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Powerful running games collide in Minnesota


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Powerful running games collide in Minnesota

By Doug Kretz

Scouts Inc.

Friday, December 19, 2008

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Atlanta at Minnesota

When: 4:15 PM ET

Watch: FOX

Preview

More scouting reports: Week 16

Scouts Inc. Position Advantage

QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST Coach

This is a matchup of two teams with identical 9-5 records that are fighting to make the playoffs. Atlanta hopes to make it as a wild-card team. Minnesota is leading the NFC North. Although each theoretically can afford one more loss, both would like to keep their fate in their own hands with a win. Both teams own dominating run games, but that's about where the similarities end. Atlanta appears to be set for the next few years with rookie QB Matt Ryan, but Minnesota looks a little shaky at that position.

When Atlanta has the ball

The Falcons have worked their way back to the top of the league in rushing offense and are tied with the Giants at 148.7 yards per game on the ground. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has done a great job of sticking with his philosophy of establishing a ground game to set up a quality passing attack. Normally this would be a matchup that would favor the Vikings, who lead the league in rush defense (71.2 ypg), but Pro Bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams might be lost for the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury suffered last week. With Williams out of the lineup we expect a large dose of Atlanta's power running game with Michael Turner between the tackles and Jerious Norwood as the change-of-pace back who will try to get outside on the ground and catch flare passes in space through the air. As soon as Minnesota thinks it is getting a feel for the pace of Atlanta's offense, Mularkey is apt to let Ryan run the no-huddle offense to take away the Vikings' ability to substitute, so look for mismatches with the Falcons' big receivers on Minnesota's undersized corners. The Vikings will try to pressure Ryan into some bad throws with DE Jared Allen coming off Ryan's blind side and will need to keep both safeties back to provide help over the top in the passing game.

When Minnesota has the ball

The Vikings dominated the Arizona Cardinals up front in Week 15 with a powerful ground game that attacked Arizona's undersized defensive front on the edges. With the third-ranked ground game in the league you can expect to see a lot of RB Adrian Peterson, who combines with Chester Taylor to form a duo that averages 4.5 yards per carry. They love to run left over LG Steve Hutchinson and LOT Bryant McKinnie, which means Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will likely overload the box with extra defenders to that side. Minnesota does not have as many explosive receivers as Atlanta, but Vikings WR Bernard Berrian is second in the NFL with an average of 20.6 yards per catch and can be a threat from anywhere on the field. Falcons FS Erik Coleman will likely roll his coverage toward Berrian in an attempt to prevent the big play. The Falcons do a good job of getting upfield pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their base four-man front, so expect maximum coverage on obvious passing downs to limit the windows Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson will have to throw through.

Matchup to watch

Falcons RDE John Abraham VS. Vikings LOT Bryant McKinnie

Abraham is ranked third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks and was consistently in Tampa Bay's backfield in Week 16, collecting three sacks. Abraham brings a wide variety of pass rush moves and has to be accounted for on every passing down. McKinnie protects the quarterback's blind side in Minnesota and is an excellent pass blocker. He knows how to use his massive size and long arms to make it extremely difficult for pass rushers to get around him. Abraham is quick and explosive but isn't the strongest or most powerful defensive end in the league and can't afford to let McKinnie get his hands on him, because Abraham won't win strength battles against McKinnie.

Keys to

Success1Bottle up Peterson: The Falcons know Peterson is the key to Minnesota's offense. With no ground game, the Vikings would likely struggle to move the chains and get the ball into the end zone. Jackson had one of his best games against Arizona when he threw just 17 passes but connected on 11 of them, including four touchdowns. He is definitely more effective when defenses have to focus on stopping the run, so the Falcons need to stymie Minnesota's ground game early to force the Vikings to throw the ball more than they want to.

2Yards between the tackles: With Minnesota DT Pat Williams out for this game the Falcons will want to run the ball at his replacement, Fred Evans. Williams is a massive space-eater who does a great job of controlling the middle of the line of scrimmage, and his absence will have an effect. Atlanta will want to control the clock and keep the ball out of Peterson's hands by methodically running up the middle. The more success the Falcons have with their ground game, the better chance they will have of finding holes in Minnesota's coverage as the back end inches forward to support the run.

3Success on punt returns: Since taking over the punt return chores, Atlanta WR Harry Douglas has given the Falcons a shot in the arm. He is averaging 13.7 yards per return and has a 61-yard touchdown to his credit. Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe has had issues with out-kicking his coverage, and the Vikings are giving up 16 yards per return and have given up four touchdowns on punt returns. For teams that rely on the ground game, field position can be huge, and a long return would give the Falcons a short field to work with.

Keys to

Success1Protect the pocket: The Vikings will run the ball and will generally be successful. However, there will be times when they must throw to take pressure off the ground game, and the Minnesota offensive line has not done a great job in pass protection this season. The Falcons have one of the most explosive pass rushers in the league in DE John Abraham, and if he is able to pressure the pocket he could not only produce sacks but also force bad throws and interceptions.

2Limit big plays in the passing game: The Falcons will also force-feed the ground game run but they also possess explosive weapons on the perimeter in WRs Douglas, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White. Minnesota can't afford to let one of them break free for a long touchdown. The Vikings' safeties are better in run support than they are in coverage, and they must to do a good job of containing the speed Atlanta has on the outside.

3Stick with the run: The Falcons average more than 35 rushing attempts per game, and Mularkey and head coach Mike Smith are not going to give up on the run if it doesn't succeed initially. While Mularkey is not afraid to go to the pass when needed, he will consistently return to the ground game to keep defenses honest. If Minnesota can contain the Falcons' ground game with its base defense it will be able to devote more players to coverage on the back end.

Scouts Edge

This promises to be a very entertaining game as we watch the two leading rushers in the NFL battle it out. While both teams are apt to rely on their running game they will need to throw the ball effectively as well. It is likely that the passing game will prove to be the difference, and that favors the Falcons. Expect Ryan to come up with a big game after suffering through one of his worst performances of the season in Week 16.Prediction

Atlanta 24

Minnesota 21

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This is a HUGE game. If we win it'll be the first road win over a winning team that we have. That added to the fact that it's in the Metrodome this is a great test for a young team going into the playoffs. If we win it'll say a lot about this team. It'll also be the first time a NFC South team has beat a winning team on the road I think.

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Ya know, an in-depth analysis like that has a lot more credibility than the "Swami" (who was 2-4 last week) making picks out of his a**.

Exactly. That and the vike trolls throwing out the rush defense stat and that is why they are guaranteed to win.

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"...Mularkey is apt to let Ryan run the no-huddle offense to take away the Vikings' ability to substitute.."

I might be wrong, but didn't the officials stop play to allow the defense time to make substitutions when we were trying to run the no-huddle in one game?

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"...Mularkey is apt to let Ryan run the no-huddle offense to take away the Vikings' ability to substitute.."

I might be wrong, but didn't the officials stop play to allow the defense time to make substitutions when we were trying to run the no-huddle in one game?

You are partly correct. Opposing defenses are allowed time to make a substitution if their opponent makes one.

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You are partly correct. Opposing defenses are allowed time to make a substitution if their opponent makes one.

thats the key. if we arent substituting in the no huddle, the refs cant aid the opponents. If we come in and start a series with Williams or Allen on the sideline, I would expect to see the no huddle to try to keep them sitting.

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Powerful running games collide in Minnesota

By Doug Kretz

Scouts Inc.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Comment

Email

Print

Atlanta at Minnesota

When: 4:15 PM ET

Watch: FOX

Preview

More scouting reports: Week 16

Scouts Inc. Position Advantage

QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST Coach

This is a matchup of two teams with identical 9-5 records that are fighting to make the playoffs. Atlanta hopes to make it as a wild-card team. Minnesota is leading the NFC North. Although each theoretically can afford one more loss, both would like to keep their fate in their own hands with a win. Both teams own dominating run games, but that's about where the similarities end. Atlanta appears to be set for the next few years with rookie QB Matt Ryan, but Minnesota looks a little shaky at that position.

When Atlanta has the ball

The Falcons have worked their way back to the top of the league in rushing offense and are tied with the Giants at 148.7 yards per game on the ground. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has done a great job of sticking with his philosophy of establishing a ground game to set up a quality passing attack. Normally this would be a matchup that would favor the Vikings, who lead the league in rush defense (71.2 ypg), but Pro Bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams might be lost for the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury suffered last week. With Williams out of the lineup we expect a large dose of Atlanta's power running game with Michael Turner between the tackles and Jerious Norwood as the change-of-pace back who will try to get outside on the ground and catch flare passes in space through the air. As soon as Minnesota thinks it is getting a feel for the pace of Atlanta's offense, Mularkey is apt to let Ryan run the no-huddle offense to take away the Vikings' ability to substitute, so look for mismatches with the Falcons' big receivers on Minnesota's undersized corners. The Vikings will try to pressure Ryan into some bad throws with DE Jared Allen coming off Ryan's blind side and will need to keep both safeties back to provide help over the top in the passing game.

When Minnesota has the ball

The Vikings dominated the Arizona Cardinals up front in Week 15 with a powerful ground game that attacked Arizona's undersized defensive front on the edges. With the third-ranked ground game in the league you can expect to see a lot of RB Adrian Peterson, who combines with Chester Taylor to form a duo that averages 4.5 yards per carry. They love to run left over LG Steve Hutchinson and LOT Bryant McKinnie, which means Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will likely overload the box with extra defenders to that side. Minnesota does not have as many explosive receivers as Atlanta, but Vikings WR Bernard Berrian is second in the NFL with an average of 20.6 yards per catch and can be a threat from anywhere on the field. Falcons FS Erik Coleman will likely roll his coverage toward Berrian in an attempt to prevent the big play. The Falcons do a good job of getting upfield pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their base four-man front, so expect maximum coverage on obvious passing downs to limit the windows Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson will have to throw through.

Matchup to watch

Falcons RDE John Abraham VS. Vikings LOT Bryant McKinnie

Abraham is ranked third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks and was consistently in Tampa Bay's backfield in Week 16, collecting three sacks. Abraham brings a wide variety of pass rush moves and has to be accounted for on every passing down. McKinnie protects the quarterback's blind side in Minnesota and is an excellent pass blocker. He knows how to use his massive size and long arms to make it extremely difficult for pass rushers to get around him. Abraham is quick and explosive but isn't the strongest or most powerful defensive end in the league and can't afford to let McKinnie get his hands on him, because Abraham won't win strength battles against McKinnie.

Keys to

Success1Bottle up Peterson: The Falcons know Peterson is the key to Minnesota's offense. With no ground game, the Vikings would likely struggle to move the chains and get the ball into the end zone. Jackson had one of his best games against Arizona when he threw just 17 passes but connected on 11 of them, including four touchdowns. He is definitely more effective when defenses have to focus on stopping the run, so the Falcons need to stymie Minnesota's ground game early to force the Vikings to throw the ball more than they want to.

2Yards between the tackles: With Minnesota DT Pat Williams out for this game the Falcons will want to run the ball at his replacement, Fred Evans. Williams is a massive space-eater who does a great job of controlling the middle of the line of scrimmage, and his absence will have an effect. Atlanta will want to control the clock and keep the ball out of Peterson's hands by methodically running up the middle. The more success the Falcons have with their ground game, the better chance they will have of finding holes in Minnesota's coverage as the back end inches forward to support the run.

3Success on punt returns: Since taking over the punt return chores, Atlanta WR Harry Douglas has given the Falcons a shot in the arm. He is averaging 13.7 yards per return and has a 61-yard touchdown to his credit. Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe has had issues with out-kicking his coverage, and the Vikings are giving up 16 yards per return and have given up four touchdowns on punt returns. For teams that rely on the ground game, field position can be huge, and a long return would give the Falcons a short field to work with.

Keys to

Success1Protect the pocket: The Vikings will run the ball and will generally be successful. However, there will be times when they must throw to take pressure off the ground game, and the Minnesota offensive line has not done a great job in pass protection this season. The Falcons have one of the most explosive pass rushers in the league in DE John Abraham, and if he is able to pressure the pocket he could not only produce sacks but also force bad throws and interceptions.

2Limit big plays in the passing game: The Falcons will also force-feed the ground game run but they also possess explosive weapons on the perimeter in WRs Douglas, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White. Minnesota can't afford to let one of them break free for a long touchdown. The Vikings' safeties are better in run support than they are in coverage, and they must to do a good job of containing the speed Atlanta has on the outside.

3Stick with the run: The Falcons average more than 35 rushing attempts per game, and Mularkey and head coach Mike Smith are not going to give up on the run if it doesn't succeed initially. While Mularkey is not afraid to go to the pass when needed, he will consistently return to the ground game to keep defenses honest. If Minnesota can contain the Falcons' ground game with its base defense it will be able to devote more players to coverage on the back end.

Scouts Edge

This promises to be a very entertaining game as we watch the two leading rushers in the NFL battle it out. While both teams are apt to rely on their running game they will need to throw the ball effectively as well. It is likely that the passing game will prove to be the difference, and that favors the Falcons. Expect Ryan to come up with a big game after suffering through one of his worst performances of the season in Week 16.Prediction

Atlanta 24

Minnesota 21

Who wins the position battles?

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thats the key. if we arent substituting in the no huddle, the refs cant aid the opponents. If we come in and start a series with Williams or Allen on the sideline, I would expect to see the no huddle to try to keep them sitting.

As far as depth is concerned, that could be a potential problem for the Vikings considering Pat Williams is out with injury.

But having Pat in there would work towards the Falcons advantage for running a two minute drill.

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