vafalconfan Posted February 5, 2016 Share Posted February 5, 2016 SAN FRANCISCO — Dan Quinn wants to make this very clear: He doesn’t take pride in the Falcons’ Week 16 win over the Super Bowl-favored Carolina Panthers. “Nope,” he says. “Honestly, nope. I don’t take pride in saying we are good enough to beat them once.” Fair enough. But, beating Carolina once is more than anyone else in the NFL has done thus far this season. Quinn’s Falcons spoiled the Panthers’ bid for a perfect season, handing them a 20-13 loss in Atlanta that is the lone blemish on their 17-1 record. (He was also the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks team that eliminated the Panthers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs last year.) That makes him the only head coach in the league qualified to answer the million-dollar question going into Super Bowl 50: How can the 2015 Panthers be beat? As a caveat, on the road and within the division can be the trickiest kind of game, because the opponents know each other so well. And in this case, the Falcons were just two weeks removed from a humiliating 38-0 loss to the Panthers in Charlotte. “In fairness, for the second game, we were really pissed,” Quinn says. “In my opinion, they had celebrated and laughed at us, and that happened on our watch, and we didn’t like that. I think that was a factor, too. Emotionally, we were ready to go.” Regardless, the Falcons put on film a demo of how Cam Newton and the Panthers can be slowed and stopped. The Broncos, cornerback Aqib Talib assured, have watched and taken notes. And Quinn, with the assistance of a steno pad and pen, gave us a short tutorial while walking through the Super Bowl 50 Media Center Thursday morning with Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff. Atlanta’s success started where most winning defensive game plans start: By getting pressure on the quarterback. What’s interesting is not that they got pressure on Newton, it’s how they did it. Some teams are gun-shy about sending the heat against mobile quarterbacks like Newton, who can leak out of the pocket and burn you, but Quinn wasn’t deterred. They weren’t getting to the quarterback with just four rushers, so he regularly sent a five-man rush. “Whether you are a mobile quarterback or not, Cam or Russ [Wilson] or guys who have the ability to create, you better still hit them,” Quinn says. “You can’t, in my opinion, play so vanilla, just push it and spy ’em. You’ve gotta still play aggressive because otherwise you’re not being true to what you do.” All quarterbacks are affected by pressure, but as Pro Football Focus’ Neil Hornsby broke down for The MMQB, Newton’s production drops off markedly. He ranks third in the league in passer rating on dropbacks where he has a clean pocket. When he’s pressured, he slides to the 19th-ranked passer, with his passer rating dropping more than 40 points. “You nailed it,” Quinn says, when asked about those statistics. “To me, defensively, hitting him is way more important than disguising him. He knows what the coverage is, it’s just a matter of, can the route take the time to develop.” That was reflected in the Falcons’ game plan that day. They sprinkled in some man-to-man coverage, but for the most part used their staple Cover-3 defense with three defensive backs splitting the field into zones. The pass rush has to come alive when you’re playing a zone defense—and the Falcons got rookie Vic Beasley’s best production of the season against right tackle Mike Remmers. Since the Falcons had a good pass rush, the seam routes and deep routes the Panthers like to throw to tight end Greg Olsen didn’t develop, plus the zone defense presented Olsen from making the route adjustments that wily receivers use to get open against man coverage. “When you are playing man to man, [Olsen] is really good, almost like a wide receiver at saying, ‘OK the guy is outside; I’m breaking inside.’ ‘He’s inside; I’m breaking outside,’ ” Quinn says. “When you are playing a zone, there is no one for the guy to break off of, so he has to run his route, and you are able to play.” An example of how much Atlanta limited the Panthers' passing game: Of the seven pass attempts Newton had on third or fourth downs, he had zero completions. The first time the teams played, Ted Ginn Jr., had a pair of long touchdown catches, for 74 yards and 46 yards, that helped break the game open for Carolina. Getting beat deep is nothing more complicated than a lack of technique or a lapse in focus. Fixing that was sort of reflective of Atlanta’s overall approach on defense in the second meeting against the Panthers: Do what you do, just do it better. Quinn says they actually had less in the game plan for the second meeting. It’s tempting to over-prepare as a defensive coach, anticipating all the wrinkles the opponent might present that are different from any other opponent—like the designed quarterback runs that bolster the Panthers’ diverse ground game. But instead of getting wrapped up in the opponent, Quinn took his team into Week 16 emphasizing out-executing the Panthers on the things the Falcons do well. “It’s not easy to do, but it’s not complex mentally,” Quinn says. “It’s can we be at our best, not, we have to do all these different things to play these guys and you have to have the best game of your life. No, it’s just the opposite.” That would be Quinn’s advice for the Broncos. He was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks in both of the last two Super Bowls, one a win against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Based off of that, and what worked against the Panthers in Week 16, he recommends the Broncos stick to their core defensive principles. “Re-emphasize that,” he says. “They are a really good front. They know the importance of that. Maybe [they can use] some of the scheme we played, but the style and attitude they play with, I don’t think they are going to go too far away from what they do. That’s the biggest coaching point. You don’t have to play the game of your life and make up new stuff. You’ve got to do what you do really well.” * * * Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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