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Tommy Lawlor Game preview


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by Tommy Lawlor - http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

We get to face The 4-1 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at The Linc. It's only mid-October, but this game could turn out to be pretty important. A win would keep us at the top of the division and it would give us a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Falcons, a team that looks to be a serious playoff contender. Plus, we need to win a home game. Right now we're 0-2.

Andy Reid referred to the Falcons as the best team in the NFC the other day. My take? Not so much. Atlanta is a talented team, but they should be 2-3. The Saints missed a chip shot FG to win the game that kickers make 90% of the time. The Niners had Atlanta beat until CB Nate Clements got greedy while running back an INT. If he goes down or out of bounds, SF wins. He fought for the endzone and had the ball stripped from behind.

I do give Atlanta credit for finding a way to win these games. They have a certain toughness about them that comes from Matt Ryan. He isn't going to quit in a game, no matter what the score or circumstances. We saw that back in 2008. We had a comfortable lead on them in the 4th Qtr, but Ryan kept throwing and put a scare in us.

KNOW YOUR ENEMY

Last week: The Falcons went to Cleveland and beat the Browns 20-10 in an ugly game. RB Michael Turner ran for 140 yards. WR Roddy White beat CB Sheldon Brown for a long TD catch. Atlanta also got a defensive TD late in the game to seal the win.

On offense the Falcons are a ball control team. They love to run the ball and throw short passes. Here are some quick numbers:

1st in time of possession

2nd in rushing yards

3rd in 3rd down conversion percentage

Atlanta really controls the ball, but doesn't score a ton of points. One interesting stat is that Shady McCoy has 5 rushing TDs and Atlanta as a team has only 3. The Falcons have shown that they can win by playing this style of offense. It keeps their defense and the opposing offense off the field. It frustrates other teams to sit and watch so much.

The Falcons run a 4-3 defense. They rank 10th in yards allowed, but that stat is thrown off because of the offense staying on the field so much. Atlanta gives up 5.5 yards per play, which is 20th in the league. They are 2nd in the league in scoring defense, allowing only 14 points per game.

That's an impressive stat, but lets look at the QBs they've had to face: Dennis Dixon, Derek Anderson, Alex Smith, Seneca Wallace/Jake Delhomme. Atlanta did play the Saints. Drew Brees put up 24 points on them and it should have been 27. The Falcons are good on D, but their level of competition has skewed the stat sheet a bit in their favor.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Matt Ryan --- Good young player, but still inconsistent. Strong arm. Runs a little, but not much. Runs the offense in an efficient manner. At times will get confused by the zone blitz. Tough guy who will hold the ball as long as needed if he thinks a receiver is about to come open. Clutch player. At his best in key situations. Already has a couple of comeback wins this year.

RB Michael Turner --- Tough, physical runner. Thick lower body. Will break some arm tackles. At his best going N-S. Will struggle if you get penetration and make him go E-W. Workhorse back who will break the occasional long run.

WR Roddy White --- Quietly has become one of the best WRs in the league. Has the speed to go deep, but is also comfortable on underneath routes. Beat Sheldon Brown for a long TD last week.

TE Tony Gonzalez --- Outstanding possession receiver, but not a vertical threat like Vern Davis. Gonzo has pedestrian numbers if you take out his game vs the Saints. He's just 16-136 the rest of the year. No TDs. Long catch of 20 yards. He did play well vs NO (8-110-1).

OL --- The best blocker is RG Harvey Dahl. He's really good on LBs. We need Patt to battle him as much as possible and try to keep Dahl from getting to the 2nd level. LT Sam Baker isn't an ideal pass protector. Good run blockers as a whole. They play hard and block to the whistle. Or the echo of the whistle.

DE John Abraham --- Can be an elite pass rusher when he's on his A-game. Has 4 sacks on the year. Abraham can explode off the ball. There are times when he will disappear. Plays both sides and will drop back on zone blitzes.

DT Jonathan Babineaux --- The quickest of the DTs. Normally penetrates and is disruptive in the backfield. Doesn't have a TFL yet this year. Does have a pair of sacks.

MLB Curtis Lofton --- Team's leading tackler. He's a thumper. At his best on run plays between the tackles.

DBs --- Dunta Robinson is the best CB, but none of the Falcons cover guys really stands out on tape. SS William Moore is emerging as a playmaker, but just entered the starting lineup. The secondary does have 7 INTs on the year. There are no great individuals, but they seem to function pretty well as a group. Of course, you have to get back to the QBs they've faced. Are the DBs making plays or are the opposing QBs simply that bad?

STs --- Eric Weems is solid as KOR and PR. Matt Bryant is 12 of 14 on FGs. That's double the amount of attempts we have (not good for them). Atlanta had a punt blocked by SF and a FG blocked by CLE.

STRATEGY & MATCHUPS

Kevin Kolb will start for us at QB. I think the Eagles prolonged the situation just to give the Atlanta coaches something to worry about. Preparing for Vick and Kolb is quite different. Kevin and our skill players will present quite a challenge for the Falcons. The last 2 weeks they faced conservative offenses that played right into their hands. Now they face a wide open passing attack.

DeSean Jackson will have a major impact in this game even if he's not making a lot of catches. ATL runs plenty of zone. He can stretch that vertically and create room for the other guys to work underneath. We do need to feed DeSean the ball more than we have the last couple of weeks. The coaches have to design some specific ways for him to get the ball, whether screens, pass routes designed to get him open, or just running the ball. He needs touches.

There will be holes in the secondary. Kolb must find the open player and get him the ball, on time and on target. ATL is built to play with the lead or in close games. If we can score early and take control of the game that will change what they want to do.

The Falcons haven't faced a guy like LeSean McCoy this year. They've seen bigger backs. Dealing with him is going to be quite a change from Frank Gore and Peyton Hillis.

The biggest challenge for us is on the line. King Dunlap starts at LT. He'll face John Abraham most of the time. King would be completely overwhelmed if asked to win this battle alone for most of the game. We won't do that. We'll use RBs to chip block on the DE. We'll use TEs to chip and help double team the DE. We'll also use Jason Avant to help on that side. He's a good blocker and also becomes a good outlet receiver if he releases after blocking for a second.

The rest of the OL should be okay with their individual matchups. The Falcons have a good DL, but not guys that are dominant or anything like that. They'll win some battles, but I think our guys will do fine if they can control Abraham. I will be disappointed if our offense doesn't score at least 20 points in this game.

Trying to stop Michael Turner is certainly tough, but the timing works well for us. We just faced Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, also a pair of good power runners. Aside from the 1st Qtr in the WAS game, we've handled RBs pretty well the last couple of weeks. We need that to continue.

Losing Bunkley for this week isn't ideal, but it doesn't hurt as much as you might expect. Antonio Dixon is bigger at 325 pounds. He's the kind of guy that the Falcons OL doesn't always handle well.

Our LBs showed some progress last week. Moise Fokou brought a physical presence to the field that we needed. I hope we get more of that in this game. Turner is hard to tackle. We must gang tackle him as much as possible and make sure to wrap up. Stewart Bradley knows this offense from the 2008 game. Maybe that will help him to come alive and play well.

Last year we aggressively went after Tony Gonzalez. Turner and Ryan weren't playing so we could do that. I don't know if we'll scheme much for Gonzo or save that for situations like 3rd down. He and slot receiver Harry Douglas get a lot of throws in certain passing situations.

Roddy White is the guy we need we're more likely to be worried about. He's had 100 or more yards in 3 of 5 games this year. He can beat you deep or work you on the short stuff. Nate Allen will probably spend a lot of time looking to see if White is going deep as each play begins.

I do think we'll see a decent amount of blitzing in the game. Matt Ryan struggled at times vs CLE with some of their zone blitzes. He looked genuinely confused and held the ball a long time on some short situations. We had mixed results last week. We need to be better as the season goes along.

This is a very winnable game. I'm interested to see how we come out. We've been slow starters and slow finishers, but pretty darn good in-between. ATL isn't the kind of team you want to get behind. It is important to keep them out of the endzone early and for us to score some points and set a good tone for the game.

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Excellent write up from an opposing fans point of view. the only thing i would change, is two of our interceptions came from Drew Brees. So you can discredit some of our picks against the lesser competition, but we still showed up and created the INT's against on of those considered elite in this league.

Edited by birds_till_death
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Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking on this writers part. Some of it is really good, but most of it is just oh, well I think the Eagles are better than those other "crappy" teams.

It all boils down to this, good teams make plays, bad teams don't. We've made the plays.

Tommy is a pretty objective writer, but he is an Eagle fan...so there will be some of that bias of course.

I tend to agree with you.

"You are what your record says you are."

- Bill Parcells

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Not sure he should be saying that Atlanta's opponents have skewed the stats when you look at the teams the Eagles beat.

And how the rest of the Eagle Oline matches up well with Atlanta's Dline is a mystery.

I have nothing good to say about our oline as far as pass protection goes. Above average in the run dept...but we are the Eagles so I'm not sure that matters as much as it should

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The one thing I have to say about our defense is we match up well with the eagles offense. We are built for the spread type offense that's why we draft so many players from the big 12. Moore lofton spoon. We have to.be built for that playing the saints 2 times a year. We are gonna do what we do every week. Make kolb dink and dunk it down the field and beat us with long drives. So far no one has been able to do it. Let's break down the games. Sf ... opening drive semi long drive for a td. Scored on a blocked punt. Shut out the rest of the game. Cleveland.... about a 50 yard drive set up by a cribbs kr. For a td. And a fg off a Ryan fumble later in the game. Other than that. Nothing. Saints.... first td was a 5 yard .3 play drive off a long punt return.2nd td was the 80 yard pass to Moore. The only big play this year. And the third was a short drive off of the fluke punt hitting decouds foot. So if the eagles offense is gonna do damage its gonna have to be kolb making good short plays. Doubt we will let Jackson run around deep all day. But if there gonna get a big play it will be early. After that lights out.

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Good view but he doesn't realize that we can play the high scoring game also. Look at the NO game, our offense can be explosive if need be. We like to wear teams out. Also he is underestimateing our dline. And our secondary plays te ball well. Our run d is built to rally to the ball ideal fr a back like mccoy

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Trying to stop Michael Turner is certainly tough, but the timing works well for us. We just faced Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, also a pair of good power runners. Aside from the 1st Qtr in the WAS game, we've handled RBs pretty well the last couple of weeks. We need that to continue.

Thats why teams average 125 yards per game on the ground vs them right?

Also i really hope that the Eagles think their only concern on our O-Line is Abraham.... Babs, Jerry, and Bierman are going to get some too this weekend.

Edited by Peria
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This was not the best write up I've seen. He likes to take any decent stat and try to explain it away. Should he have done the same for the Eagles? I think overall - he actually under valuated the Falcons.

But, we'll see.

The fact is - the Saints wouldn't have even gone to overtime for that chip-shot if not for the amazingly strange fact that a ball just happened to hit DeCouds foot and put them in the red zone. The fact is - we still had to take the ball down against their defense for the win. Missing that FG did not give us a win. We earned our win.

The fact is - Nate Clements didn't lose the ball - Roddy took it - and then we had to start all over at our own 7 yard line with 1 minute and 22 seconds left in the game against that same defense for the win.

The fact is - we play who we face - and you can't start removing game stats to make them look better.

We are and we should be 4-1, regardless of what someone thinks we should be.

I didn't see them mentioning the defensive rankings of the teams we have played and controlled the ball on - or the defensive rankings of the teams they played. hmmmm.....

Little double standard stuff there.

Further - and I think everyone may start realizing this with this game. They are a 4-3 team - not a 3-4.

There is a big difference in QB reads and our line has struggled with the 3-4.

I think our line will do fine in this game and Ryan will eat them for lunch when they blitz.

But, we'll see. The game is played on the field.

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This was not the best write up I've seen. He likes to take any decent stat and try to explain it away. Should he have done the same for the Eagles? I think overall - he actually under valuated the Falcons.

But, we'll see.

The fact is - the Saints wouldn't have even gone to overtime for that chip-shot if not for the amazingly strange fact that a ball just happened to hit DeCouds foot and put them in the red zone. The fact is - we still had to take the ball down against their defense for the win. Missing that FG did not give us a win. We earned our win.

The fact is - Nate Clements didn't lose the ball - Roddy took it - and then we had to start all over at our own 7 yard line with 1 minute and 22 seconds left in the game against that same defense for the win.

The fact is - we play who we face - and you can't start removing game stats to make them look better.

We are and we should be 4-1, regardless of what someone thinks we should be.

I didn't see them mentioning the defensive rankings of the teams we have played and controlled the ball on - or the defensive rankings of the teams they played. hmmmm.....

Little double standard stuff there.

Further - and I think everyone may start realizing this with this game. They are a 4-3 team - not a 3-4.

There is a big difference in QB reads and our line has struggled with the 3-4.

I think our line will do fine in this game and Ryan will eat them for lunch when they blitz.

But, we'll see. The game is played on the field.

Andy Reid referred to the Falcons as the best team in the NFC the other day. My take? Not so much. Atlanta is a talented team, but they should be 2-3. The Saints missed a chip shot FG to win the game that kickers make 90% of the time. The Niners had Atlanta beat until CB Nate Clements got greedy while running back an INT. If he goes down or out of bounds, SF wins. He fought for the endzone and had the ball stripped from behind

^

Da fella is right an eerybody knows it.

Edited by sticktracy
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Not a bad write up, even though it's very biased. I do have two problems with the content though.

He misled the readers on one thing saying our secondary has 7 INT's. As a defense we have 10 INT's in 5 game. I'm not sure if this was a typo or if he purposely excluded the INT's by non-DB defensive players. But your LBers and DE are not coming up with INT's if your coverage is not good.

He downplayed our offense by saying we move the ball but don't score a lot of points. We are 10th in scoring. The Eagles are 7th, a whopping 1.8 more points per game. I'm not sure how they have this dynamic passing game that can score a ton of points while ours can move the ball but can't score.

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