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Falcons need to send more blitzes


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Falcons need to send more blitzes

By Doug Farrar, Special to Yahoo! Sports

Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the biggest weakness of the 2009 season for every team and explain how the franchise can address the issues. The series continues with the Falcons, who finished second in the NFC East (8-8) last season.

Biggest problem in 2009: A problematic pass defense

In 2009, the Atlanta Falcons put together their second straight non-losing season for the first time in franchise history. Quarterback Matt Ryan(notes) had a slight sophomore slump, but the acquisition of tight end Tony Gonzalez(notes) paid great dividends, and running back Michael Turner(notes) appears to be back in fighting shape after an injury-filled season. The offense is up and running, but the pass defense was a major issue last season. The defense ranked 25th in yards allowed per attempt at 7.5, and amassed a very disappointing 28 sacks (tied with the Seahawks and Buccaneers for 26th). John Abraham’s sack total went from 5½ last year after a 16½-sack performance in 2008, but he ranked 12th last year with 25 quarterback hurries. Head coach Mike Smith(notes) believes that the team’s subpar secondary led to a lack of coverage sacks, and likely had a great deal to do with all of Abraham’s near-misses. Cornerback Chris Houston(notes) was a particular liability in coverage – Houston was traded to the Lions in the offseason, and the Falcons signed former Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson(notes) to a six-year, $57 million contact to address the coverage problems.

“We did not play the pass as well as we’d like,” Smith said at the 2010 NFL scouting combine. “It’s something that we definitely have to address. Statistically, we were not close to where we need to be or want to be. I think that’s twofold. One, we address the pass rush, and No. 2, is that we improve our secondary play. I’m pleased with our young corners. Brent Grimes(notes) had six interceptions [last] season. Christopher Owens(notes) had an opportunity to play when our starter [brian Williams(notes)] went down. I think that we have three young corners who can play and can continue to grow, but they are very, very young.”

The good news is that the Falcons have drafted for success against the pass in recent years. This year’s first-round linebacker Sean Weatherspoon(notes) is a solid pass rusher and has extensive experience in dropping back and covering, which ties into Smith’s comments about effective defense being a matter of spacing his players out against more wide-open attacks. End Lawrence Sidbury(notes), last year’s fourth-round pick, played in just 25 percent of the team’s 2009 defensive snaps and is expected to do much more this season. The return of defensive tackle Peria Jerry(notes), Atlanta’s 2009 first-round pick who missed the last 14 games of his rookie season with a torn ACL, should help with the inside push and will free up potential pass-rushers. Corey Peters(notes), the first of two third-round picks this year, can help in the same way (or step in if Jerryâs injuries prove prohibitive). William Moore(notes), a 2009 second-round safety, also missed most of his rookie year with a hamstring injury and looks good in his recovery.

The 2010 solution: Bring the house, with better help

When rushing three, four and five defenders, the Falcons allowed better-than-average efficiency, which spoke to all their defensive problems. But according to Football Outsiders’ game-charting stats, that defense was at its best when sending six or more defenders on blitzes. That sounds like a risky strategy when your defensive backfield isn’t getting the job done, but the opposite can be true – the more pressure you put on the quarterback, the harder it is for that quarterback to get anything done – if your rushers actually get there. Against such pressure, opposing quarterbacks completed just 50 percent of their passes (37 of 73) for 412 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. With better coverage, future blitzes could be tremendously effective.

Atlanta’s Week 11 overtime loss to the Giants illustrated the feast-or-famine nature of blitzing with bad coverage. Eli Manning(notes) faced six or more Falcons at the line on seven pass attempts and completed just three passes. However, he also walked away with one of his three TD passes against the Falcons blitz.

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With 3:48 left in the first quarter, the Falcons brought six defenders for the first time all day (Fig. 1). The Giants went shotgun with three receivers, and Atlanta countered with a zone blitz out of a nickel defense. They had linebacker Curtis Lofton(notes) (50) lined up in the A-gap, but Lofton dropped into intermediate coverage as safety Thomas DeCoud(notes) (28) and linebacker Mike Peterson(notes) (53) rushed from the right side. The Giants picked Peterson up at the line, but only a great blitz pickup by running back Danny Ware(notes) (28) prevented DeCoud from taking Manning’s head off. There was no sack, but a deflection of Manning’s pass at the line by Peterson, who alertly moved inside after he was walled off at the edge, caused the ball to float harmlessly to the turf. This was a great example of how defenses with problems stopping the pass can use schematic creativity to overcome personnel deficits.

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But with 12:16 left in the fourth quarter, Atlanta’s red zone pressure got them in trouble, as did the defense’s inability to cover the field horizontally. The Giants had the ball on the Falcons three-yard line, and they went with a real power formation – I-formation in the backfield, an extra right tackle and two tight ends (Fig. 2). The Falcons read run at the snap – two of the three linebackers bit on the run look right away before dropping back into the end zone. The Giants put together a nice play design for a run-heavy defense, sending fullback Madison Hedgecock(notes) off to the right on a pass route and halfback Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) staying behind to deal with any pressure. Atlanta had no provision to cover Hedgecock, most likely seeing him as a blocking option only, and there was too much focus on tight end Kevin Boss(notes). That’s why the touchdown pass to Hedgecock was such an easy play.

Going forward, the Falcons will need to strike a balance between pressure and coverage. A more talented secondary will obviously help, but without consistent and effective pass-rush concepts, any cornerback or safety will get beaten.

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If they don't know what Division we play in and don't even know what our record was for the season last year - I **** sure don't think I'd listen to them trying to analyze our play for the year since they obviously don't know squat about our team.

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In totality not a bad article besides the obvious. How can they be on with the minutia of our D, and then get the simple stuff so wrong? I would like to see much more blitzing, and hopefully with improved coverage, we will.

i said the same thing.. He was right about the Defense but got the simple things wrong in this article.

I agree we should see more blitzing this year.... Not only should we have better coverage (DB's improved) but spoon is also a good blitzer.... We have good blitzing LB's.

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i said the same thing.. He was right about the Defense but got the simple things wrong in this article.

I agree we should see more blitzing this year.... Not only should we have better coverage (DB's improved) but spoon is also a good blitzer.... We have good blitzing LB's.

Yeah Nicholas and Spoon could get after some QB's. If Adkins starts coming around how nasty would it be to have Nichols,Spoon, and Adkins at LB's in certain pass rushing packages.

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Our blitz scheme was elementary. I know our secondary was weak, but I about 85% of the blitz calls BVG made were unsuccessful. We will never become a better blitz team until our scheme gets better.

The problem is that no team seemed confused by the looks we gave them. That is what concerns me the most about our DC. At the very least, he could give teams different looks that might have opposing QBs questioning a few things.

Edited by hakim24
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we had b2b winning seasons not non losing seasons and we finished 9-7. srry i know most of us know that

The guy even got that wrong in two different ways on one statement. The fact that we have had B2B non-losing seasons before but just not winning seasons and he got our record wrong.

A guy did the same thing last week in another article, I can't remember who it was, I'm wondering if it's the same man?

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Our blitz scheme was elementary. I know our secondary was weak, but I about 85% of the blitz calls BVG made were unsuccessful. We will never become a better blitz team until our scheme gets better.

The problem is that no team seemed confused by the looks we gave them. That is what concerns me the most about our DC. At the very least, he could give teams different looks that might have opposing QBs questioning a few things.

Thats the thing... Our scheme is suppose to be different.... We will be a cover 2 type team but we will play more man coverage... I expect BVG will bring a more aggressive scheme (going off how he sounded on an radio interview).... We will see tho.

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The premise of the article is a little bit off. I mean, the reason that a team has a high success rate on the blitzes is because they come unexpectedly. I don't even think Atlanta's percentage is all that good. The numbers certainly don't mesh up with what I thought I saw on the field last year. I would like to see those numbers prior to the last 3 games, I bet they weren't nearly as impressive up to that point.

The point is, if you start showing a lot more blitzes, teams are going to scheme to handle more blitzes. It becomes a lot more difficult to maintain a high success rate.

If the Falcons are going to blitz more this year, I hope they much better than last year, and that the same blitzes aren't run from the same defenisve formation over and over again. That got the Falcons in some trouble last year.

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The series continues with the Falcons, who finished second in the NFC East (8-8) last season.stopped reading after I saw that we finished 2nd in the nfc east at 8-8 when we went 9-7 and do not even play in that division

I didn't read jack when I saw 6 LBs in that second diagram.That's a 4-6-1 stack and smoke crack line up ain't it?

I'm almost 100% sure we had at least two safeties in on that play. Yahoo doesn't know a S from a LB. Sad. At least 26 message boarders could have done a better job.

Edited by FalconFanSince1970
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What I hope for is for Abraham to have double digit sacks, Bierman 8 sacks, then several different players on the team to get 3-5 sacks each-Sidbury, DeCoud, Nicholas, Spoon, Babs, Jerry, Davis then maybe, Atkins, Walker, Grimes, Owens, Peters, even JA98 [ I know, I know]

Obviously, not everyone I listed would do that, but having effective blitzers from every level would make this D much harder to pass against.

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The premise of the article is a little bit off. I mean, the reason that a team has a high success rate on the blitzes is because they come unexpectedly. I don't even think Atlanta's percentage is all that good. The numbers certainly don't mesh up with what I thought I saw on the field last year. I would like to see those numbers prior to the last 3 games, I bet they weren't nearly as impressive up to that point.

The point is, if you start showing a lot more blitzes, teams are going to scheme to handle more blitzes. It becomes a lot more difficult to maintain a high success rate.

If the Falcons are going to blitz more this year, I hope they much better than last year, and that the same blitzes aren't run from the same defenisve formation over and over again. That got the Falcons in some trouble last year.

i agree i beleive he was speaking of the giants game only, or we blitzed so rarely we did end up with the numbers the article showed. but with so much information wrong i can't think this article holds any merrit.

there are just to many things that are not accurate for me to beleive he studied the falcons consistently. like i said maybe 1 game because he is a giants fan and actually watched it.

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Yeah Nicholas and Spoon could get after some QB's. If Adkins starts coming around how nasty would it be to have Nichols,Spoon, and Adkins at LB's in certain pass rushing packages.

That sounds nasty dude. I think the use of the blitz will be more of a luxury than a nescessity like the aticle is suggesting. Nick, Spoon, and Adkins would prove to be dangerous with Abe and Beerman rushing on passing situations. I see alot of throw aways and sacks. If the opposing QB is a bonehead, which I am hoping for, then i forsee many interceptions too!

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