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Falcons looking for answers for rushing attack


Ice1974
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After finishing second in rushing in the NFL last season, averaging 152.7 yards per game, the Falcons currently are 19th at 102.9 yards per game.

With the success of the run game, we've been studied," Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey said. "We've played 3-4 teams, and 3-4 teams are designed to stop the run. That's the history of it."

The Falcons have played four teams that used 3-4 fronts -- Miami, San Francisco, New England and Dallas. Over the final 10 games of the season, starting with Monday night's NFC South showdown with the New Orleans Saints, they will see only one more 3-4 team, the New York Jets.

Against the 3-4, most teams struggle to control the hybrid defensive end/outside linebackers.

"You have an extra body in there to try to get the offense maybe running sideways," Mularkey said. "Instead of maybe having a natural crease in there, they are trying to make plays bounce. They've done a good job of that."

Running back Michael Turner has only one 100-yard rushing game this season, against Carolina, a 4-3 team.

After six games last season, Turner had three 100-yard games, including 220 yards against Detroit in his debut with the Falcons.

Turner has been slowed, and injuries in the backfield to fullback Ovie Mughelli (calf) and Jerious Norwood (right hip flexor) have hampered the rushing attack.

"They are trying to reduce your run game into a square box basically," Mularkey said. "We cannot allow that to happen. Whether if it's the design of the scheme or forcing some natural creases to happen based on backfield actions, that's what we are doing."

Running back Jason Snelling's role could increase in the coming weeks. He stepped into Mughelli's fullback spot and added a spark to the attack after Mughelli was injured in the San Francisco game.

"[snelling] stepped in there at San Francisco, and it wasn't like we couldn't call this play or that play," Mularkey said. "We called the same plays. Did he run them all [correctly]? No, because he didn't practice them, but he ran them well enough in that game."

Snelling had a 31-yard run against Dallas and is a good pass receiver out of the backfield.

The Falcons added running back Aaron Stecker on Tuesday to provide some depth.

Stecker, 5-foot-10, 213 pounds, is a nine-year NFL veteran who has played with Tampa Bay (2000-03) and New Orleans (2004-07).

In 120 career games (16 starts), the Western Illinois graduate has 381 carries for 1,511 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 161 receptions for 1,141 yards and three touchdowns and 167 kickoff returns for 3,880 yards and one touchdown.

As a member of the Buccaneers in 2002, Stecker was the team's main kickoff returner and had 37 returns for 934 yards, helping them win Super Bowl XXXVII.

He ended last season on New Orleans' injured-reserve list with a torn hamstring.

"I thought I had a chance to go back there," Stecker said. "Then they decided to go in a different direction. I've been working out for different teams here and there, waiting for the opportunity to get back in [the league]."

Stecker worked out for the Falcons last week, but the team elected to sign running back Antone Smith to the practice squad.

"I just happened that they signed me this week, and I get to go play on Monday night against the Saints after I played there for five years," Stecker said.

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This article made a lot of sense to me - and answered some nagging questions I've had about our running game.

I didn't realize Stecker would be playing Monday night though - not sure he was supposed to let that cat out of the bag :)

Same here makes a lot of sense when you think about it, don't be surprised if we start seeing Turner get rolling.

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Being very honest here: I understand football offenses FAR better than defenses. In basic terms, can someone break down the difference for me between a 3-4 and 4-3 front?? I hear the terms all the time but have never bothered to dig deeper. This article makes me curious.

The 3-4 defense declined in popularity over the years, but has found renewed use by modern professional and college football teams. The 3-4 defense is so named because it involves 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. There are usually 4 defensive backs. However, most teams since the 1990s have been using the 4-3 defense, primarily because football is fundamentally a "rush first" game, and the 4-3 defense's 4 down linemen make rushing more difficult by adding one more down lineman to fill gaps. By the same token, fast linebackers, sitting back to survey the offensive set, can key in on an inside ball carrier and "hit the gaps" quickly to offer help to the 3 down linemen when defending the rush. In pass coverage, the 4 linebackers are already in a "sitting back" position, able to see the patterns develop and cover the short/intermediate pass

The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins are the only NFL teams which have never used the 3-4 as their base defense. Conversely, the Steelers have used the 3-4 as their base since 1982, the season after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene and end L.C. Greenwood retired

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The 3-4 defense declined in popularity over the years, but has found renewed use by modern professional and college football teams. The 3-4 defense is so named because it involves 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. There are usually 4 defensive backs. However, most teams since the 1990s have been using the 4-3 defense, primarily because football is fundamentally a "rush first" game, and the 4-3 defense's 4 down linemen make rushing more difficult by adding one more down lineman to fill gaps. By the same token, fast linebackers, sitting back to survey the offensive set, can key in on an inside ball carrier and "hit the gaps" quickly to offer help to the 3 down linemen when defending the rush. In pass coverage, the 4 linebackers are already in a "sitting back" position, able to see the patterns develop and cover the short/intermediate pass

The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins are the only NFL teams which have never used the 3-4 as their base defense. Conversely, the Steelers have used the 3-4 as their base since 1982, the season after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene and end L.C. Greenwood retired

Thanks!!

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I don't know. I think it just has to do with the talent that we are facing. After 6 games last year, Turner had dominated the Lions (0-16), Chiefs (2-14), and Packers (6-10). He got stuffed against the Panthers (12-4), the Bucs (9-7) and the Bears (9-7?). Even as the season progressed, we saw Turner struggle against good teams - and struggle is putting it lightly. The only impressive performances that Turner had last season was against the Panthers at home (24 for 119 and 4). The SD (31 for 120 and 1) and MIN (19 for 70 and 1) games were good as well, considering they were on the road, but outside of that, what did he do? Dominate lesser teams. He gained 25% of his yards in 2 games (first and last) - those 2 teams went a combined 2-30.

I think we can still expect Turner to take advantage of weaker defenses (Carolina at home 2009), but the difference in terms of talent that we are playing is a lot. Instead of playing the defenses of the Lions, Packers, Bears, and Vikings, we play the defenses of the Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins - all which finished in the top 10 for defense last year. And to add to the fact that he already struggles against good teams, is his weight issue. I remember he was listed at 256 on NFL.com before training camp and figured he would just lose that weight by the time the season started...apparently not. He clearly looks less explosive and isn't making the plays he would have last year. There have been multiple times when I see him get to the outside and get excited only to see him be slow and tackled.

Give Snelling more of a chance. I don't want to be jumping to conclusions, but Turner seemed to have let go a bit after posting a great season, despite being a back up for so long. He needs that drive back.

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The 3-4 defense declined in popularity over the years, but has found renewed use by modern professional and college football teams. The 3-4 defense is so named because it involves 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. There are usually 4 defensive backs. However, most teams since the 1990s have been using the 4-3 defense, primarily because football is fundamentally a "rush first" game, and the 4-3 defense's 4 down linemen make rushing more difficult by adding one more down lineman to fill gaps. By the same token, fast linebackers, sitting back to survey the offensive set, can key in on an inside ball carrier and "hit the gaps" quickly to offer help to the 3 down linemen when defending the rush. In pass coverage, the 4 linebackers are already in a "sitting back" position, able to see the patterns develop and cover the short/intermediate pass

The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins are the only NFL teams which have never used the 3-4 as their base defense. Conversely, the Steelers have used the 3-4 as their base since 1982, the season after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene and end L.C. Greenwood retired

well said!

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Being very honest here: I understand football offenses FAR better than defenses. In basic terms, can someone break down the difference for me between a 3-4 and 4-3 front?? I hear the terms all the time but have never bothered to dig deeper. This article makes me curious.

You know when you see the defensive guys lined up -

In our lineup - you see Abe on one end - maybe Bierman on the other, Anderson and Babs in the middle.

Behind them are the linebackers - you see Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton and maybe Stephen Nicholas.

4 men on the front line - 3 men on the back, which is a 4 -3

The other guys behind them are the DB's - safeties and corners.

If you then look at the way the offense is lined up opposite them - you'll notice that our guys are lined up across from their guys like this

T G C G T

X X X X

X X X

The offense being the tackles on the outside (L/R) - the guards on the inside and the Center in the middle. Forget the others for now (WR, TE)

In the 4-3 - the two guys in the middle are Defensive Tackles and their job is to handle one gap each - meaning one guy handles the gap between the center and guard on one side and the other guy does the opposite.

This leaves the 2 guys on the end to get past the tackles and rush the passer or get in the backfield for the runner. Of course - when you have a guy like Abe - they usually also have a TE come over to chip him - to help block his ability to get through.

In a 3-4, they only line up 3 guys in the front row and 4 guys in the back. This means that instead of 2 guys taking up a gap each - one guy in the middle - the Nose Guard - takes on 2 gaps - so he's got to be bigger and stronger than a DT in a 4-3 lineup. Because in this setup - there are only 3 guys on the line filling up the gaps and the linebackers are usually the guys coming around for the QB.

Hope that didn't confuse you more.

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The 3-4 defense declined in popularity over the years, but has found renewed use by modern professional and college football teams. The 3-4 defense is so named because it involves 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. There are usually 4 defensive backs. However, most teams since the 1990s have been using the 4-3 defense, primarily because football is fundamentally a "rush first" game, and the 4-3 defense's 4 down linemen make rushing more difficult by adding one more down lineman to fill gaps. By the same token, fast linebackers, sitting back to survey the offensive set, can key in on an inside ball carrier and "hit the gaps" quickly to offer help to the 3 down linemen when defending the rush. In pass coverage, the 4 linebackers are already in a "sitting back" position, able to see the patterns develop and cover the short/intermediate pass

The Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins are the only NFL teams which have never used the 3-4 as their base defense. Conversely, the Steelers have used the 3-4 as their base since 1982, the season after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene and end L.C. Greenwood retired

Oops - didn't see you had responded. nice!

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