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It’s time to start taking the Atlanta Falcons seriously


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Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons opened up their game with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Each one was a warning shot to the rest of the league that it’s time to take Atlanta seriously as a title contender.

Any team that can score in bunches is a deadly proposition. That’s why fans, analysts and teams are hanging onto the notion of Pittsburgh and Green Bay being teams “no one wants to play” in the playoffs.

But why not the Falcons?

Behind offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and MVP-candidate Matt Ryan at quarterback they’ve orchestrated the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Take the pick of your stats: DVOA, yards per play, total points, points per game, the Falcons lead them all.

Or better still, turn on the tape.

Shanahan has developed one of the most dynamic and versatile offenses in the league. As I detailed earlier in the season, they attack from all varieties of formations and alignments to create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses and simple post-snap reads for Ryan.

Ryan’s own development has been impressive. A year ago, his first in Shanahan’s system, he often looked tentative; unwilling and unsure when to pull the trigger (and far too often throwing it to the other team when he did). This year he’s been as assured and precise as any quarterback around, carefully carving up opposing defenses as he led the league’s top passing attack (No. 1 pass offense by DVOA), and more willing than ever to let his receivers go make plays down the field.

The biggest area of improvement has been Ryan’s movement skills, both inside and outside of the pocket.

Shanahan’s inside/outside-zone running scheme (a carbon copy of the one his father ran to two Super Bowl titles in Denver) requires the quarterback to be a legitimate running threat to maximize the vast array of boot-action concepts that are littered throughout the scheme.

On their outside-zone run, a foundational play, the backside defensive end is left unblocked. If the quarterback isn’t a legitimate rushing threat, that end can crash down the line of scrimmage unopposed and make a play in the backfield. With Ryan’s new-found legs, he forces that backside end to sit down on the play, eliminating the defender from the play and making it a 1-on-1 contest for the rest of the offense. That’s good news when you have the likes of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

But beyond the bootlegs and rollouts, Ryan has shown better awareness, manipulating the pocket (sticking and sliding) to buy time and evade pressure.

His performance Sunday was the icing on what should be a MVP season. Earlier this year, I dismissed Ryan’s chances. I thought he was playing excellently within the structure of the system: getting the ball out on time, winning through scheme design and doing so with the help of more talent than any other top contender.

Well, I was wrong. All three of those things remain true, but Ryan has proven over the second half of the season that those are in conjunction with his own excellence, not the reason for it.

Improvement in the ground game has certainly been a difference-maker, with the offseason signing of center Alex Mack being the catalyst. The Falcons’ rushing attack has been a magnificent combination of speed, power, scheme and talent, with all of it clicking together at an average of 4.5 yards per carry (10th in the league). That, in turn, has led to the NFL’s best play-action attack. Not only do they run more play-action attempts than anyone in the league (26 percent of their offense), they run it more effectively than anyone else (10.5 yards per play).

It is a duel-headed monster that makes them just as difficult to prepare for as the Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots, and even tougher than the Packers or Steelers.

While the offense has continued to drop 30-burgers for fun, quietly, the defense has been improving. It isn’t an elite group, but it’s peaking at the right time, and in the right spots, to give the Falcons a shot at running through the NFC.

It’s not like the Falcons do much to shock opponents. It’s an execution defense that runs a base cover-3 style similar to the Seattle Seahawks and rarely deviates or diversifies their coverages (though they’ll use late safety rotations to disguise some things). Instead, they rely on playing sound football, not complicating things, rallying to the ball and letting their talent make plays.

Across the board, at all three levels, they have elite-speed and a number of hybrid players who can play multiple positions and take away some of the mismatches that offenses are constantly working to exploit.

Rookie safety Keanu Neal has been the most impressive piece. That’s partly because he’s playing a near-identical role to the one he played in college: matching up in man-coverage on tight ends, lining up in the box on running downs and rotating late to different spots on the field.

But it’s not just Neal. Even with top-five cornerback Desmond Trufant out for the playoffs, in Jalen Collins, Brian Poole and Robert Alford, the secondary is loaded with young players who are able to lineup in different spots. Or, more accurately, they can take whoever lines up in front of them without needing to move or communicate (the best way to prevent miscommunication and breakdowns in coverage).

The main issue is up front. If you can’t get a pass rush in the playoffs you have no shot. And for years now, the Falcons have struggled to generate enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

This year hasn’t been much different. They closed the regular season 21st in the league in pressure rate and 22nd in adjusted sack rate. If a team doesn’t drop the quarterback, they at least have to make up for it in pressures. The Falcons have done neither at a high level.

That’s improved somewhat of late. No defense in the league runs more games up front: stunts, twists and linemen exchanges, all in a bid to create more favorable matchups for the front and take advantage of its quickness.

It’s had a profound impact on second-year pass rusher Vic Beasley, who led the league in sacks and has gone from a sub-package player to a superstar in 12 weeks.

Beasley’s first-step quickness ranks among the top edge rushers anywhere. And while his in-line power doesn’t wow and his hand usage isn’t always textbook, the Falcons have done a nice job of accentuating his natural abilities by creating easier 1-on-1 matchups with interior linemen.

One of their most effective tactics is a tackle-end stunt that sees Beasley and his former Clemson teammate, Grady Jarrett, exchange gaps, particularly from a split front (two three-technique defensive tackles that widen the front). Both are explosive athletes who can overwhelm linemen with pure speed. By stunting Beasley inside, the Falcons are able to get him a “head up” rush on an interior lineman, and often his speed will allow him to arrive at the gap before a center or guard can even process it.

vicbeasleysackrams

It hasn’t just been the scheme. Beasley’s motor has always been exemplary, but even that’s improved. And his improved bend has turned him into a more dangerous rusher off the edge.

If the Falcons are to make a deep postseason run, they need Beasley to play as though he’s the best player on the field. Fortunately, that’s exactly the kind of talent he’s flashed in recent weeks.

With a swarming defense that complements the league’s most explosive offense, the Falcons have a combination that everyone in the playoffs should begin to fear.

 

https://www.all22.com/atlanta-falcons/time-start-taking-falcons-seriously

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I'm sick of these posts and here's why:

We look great statistically, our team has been performing and steadily improving throughout the season. This isn't the first time Atlanta has deserved respect after a great regular season, we were a force to be reckoned with in 2012 and ended up a play away from the Super Bowl. But here's the catch: Nobody gives a f*ck. And they shouldn't have to. Our rookies have improved, we know that, our offense is top of the league, we know that, we have depth and our backups are performing well, we know that. The rest of the league doesn't know. We've been on primetime twice this year. We went 11-5, finished the #2 seed, the 7th highest scoring offense but NONE OF IT MATTERS WITHOUT A RING.

We, as fans, take Atlanta seriously. But it'll be time to really take Atlanta serious as contenders once they win a ring. The Packers are taken seriously because they've done it before, the Giants offense looks miserable but they've done it twice so they get the respect - ****, even Seattle gets respect in this year's playoffs because of their history.

We have a great, young team. We have talent and depth. The NFC is wide open this year. We have to finish the mission and stop complaining AKA put up or shut up. 

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7 minutes ago, ChickenBiscuit said:

I'm sick of these posts and here's why:

We look great statistically, our team has been performing and steadily improving throughout the season. This isn't the first time Atlanta has deserved respect after a great regular season, we were a force to be reckoned with in 2012 and ended up a play away from the Super Bowl. But here's the catch: Nobody gives a f*ck. And they shouldn't have to. Our rookies have improved, we know that, our offense is top of the league, we know that, we have depth and our backups are performing well, we know that. The rest of the league doesn't know. We've been on primetime twice this year. We went 11-5, finished the #2 seed, the 7th highest scoring offense but NONE OF IT MATTERS WITHOUT A RING.

We, as fans, take Atlanta seriously. But it'll be time to really take Atlanta serious as contenders once they win a ring. The Packers are taken seriously because they've done it before, the Giants offense looks miserable but they've done it twice so they get the respect - ****, even Seattle gets respect in this year's playoffs because of their history.

We have a great, young team. We have talent and depth. The NFC is wide open this year. We have to finish the mission and stop complaining AKA put up or shut up. 

Who's complaining?

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The only team I loathe playing is Dallas in Dallas. At home we are pretty bad *** and loud as ****. The team feeds off our energy as proven by half the stadium leaving when it was 38-13 against the Aint's and getting to Marta and finding out it was 38-32. I'll even go out on limb and say if we make it to the Big Dance we can beat the Pats. It will require a high scoring game and at least 2 mistakes by Brady or 2 stellar special teams plays by the Birds. 

Edited by lidsville_falcon
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Quote

 

Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons opened up their game with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Each one was a warning shot to the rest of the league that it’s time to take Atlanta seriously as a title contender.

Any team that can score in bunches is a deadly proposition. That’s why fans, analysts and teams are hanging onto the notion of Pittsburgh and Green Bay being teams “no one wants to play” in the playoffs.

But why not the Falcons?

 

If Brady or Rodgers or even David Carr had scored like that last Sunday, you would have seen it five million times on the shows and they'd still be talking about it and talking about how that person sealed the MVP.

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11 minutes ago, lidsville_falcon said:

The only team I loathe playing is Dallas in Dallas. At home we are pretty bad *** and loud as ****. The team feeds off our energy as proven by half the stadium leaving when it was 38-13 against the Aint's and getting to Marta and finding out it was 38-32. I'll even go out on limb and say if we make it to the Big Dance we can beat the Pats. It will require a high scoring game and at least 2 mistakes by Brady or 2 stellar special teams plays by the Birds. 

you realize this team went 6-2 on the road, which is better than the 5-3 at home, right? Now factor in where some of those wins came, at Denver, at NO, at Carolina, at Oakland.....

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43 minutes ago, ChickenBiscuit said:

I'm sick of these posts and here's why:

We look great statistically, our team has been performing and steadily improving throughout the season. This isn't the first time Atlanta has deserved respect after a great regular season, we were a force to be reckoned with in 2012 and ended up a play away from the Super Bowl. But here's the catch: Nobody gives a f*ck. And they shouldn't have to. Our rookies have improved, we know that, our offense is top of the league, we know that, we have depth and our backups are performing well, we know that. The rest of the league doesn't know. We've been on primetime twice this year. We went 11-5, finished the #2 seed, the 7th highest scoring offense but NONE OF IT MATTERS WITHOUT A RING.

We, as fans, take Atlanta seriously. But it'll be time to really take Atlanta serious as contenders once they win a ring. The Packers are taken seriously because they've done it before, the Giants offense looks miserable but they've done it twice so they get the respect - ****, even Seattle gets respect in this year's playoffs because of their history.

We have a great, young team. We have talent and depth. The NFC is wide open this year. We have to finish the mission and stop complaining AKA put up or shut up. 

you know you could just pour out the bowl of cheerios that someone pissed in and make another one, right?

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25 minutes ago, papachaz said:

you know you could just pour out the bowl of cheerios that someone pissed in and make another one, right?

 

27 minutes ago, papachaz said:

you realize this team went 6-2 on the road, which is better than the 5-3 at home, right? Now factor in where some of those wins came, at Denver, at NO, at Carolina, at Oakland.....

I'd rather play at home.

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I was VERY impressed to see Freeman's 75yd TD run. I didn't think he had that kind of speed to run away from defenders. To do that in Week 17 is a really good sign. The Falcons need to be able to gain yards on the ground if they're going to win a Super Bowl. Having TWO RBs that can score from anywhere on the field is HUGE.

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4 hours ago, fuego said:

 

If Brady or Rodgers or even David Carr had scored like that last Sunday, you would have seen it five million times on the shows and they'd still be talking about it and talking about how that person sealed the MVP.

The interesting thing is what one of the commentators said.  He said, that you expected the Falcons to score, and beat the Saints bad in the first game, because of all of the injuries that they had.  Beating the Saints when their defense is striving proves that this team is for real.

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5 hours ago, ChickenBiscuit said:

I'm sick of these posts and here's why:

We look great statistically, our team has been performing and steadily improving throughout the season. This isn't the first time Atlanta has deserved respect after a great regular season, we were a force to be reckoned with in 2012 and ended up a play away from the Super Bowl. But here's the catch: Nobody gives a f*ck. And they shouldn't have to. Our rookies have improved, we know that, our offense is top of the league, we know that, we have depth and our backups are performing well, we know that. The rest of the league doesn't know. We've been on primetime twice this year. We went 11-5, finished the #2 seed, the 7th highest scoring offense but NONE OF IT MATTERS WITHOUT A RING.

We, as fans, take Atlanta seriously. But it'll be time to really take Atlanta serious as contenders once they win a ring. The Packers are taken seriously because they've done it before, the Giants offense looks miserable but they've done it twice so they get the respect - ****, even Seattle gets respect in this year's playoffs because of their history.

We have a great, young team. We have talent and depth. The NFC is wide open this year. We have to finish the mission and stop complaining AKA put up or shut up. 

Agreed Biscuit, we're gonna be good for a long time, have so much faith in our leaders who built this team,  Ive been around since the beginning and this is my favorite team.

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