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Chris Spielman: Falcons have showed ‘zero confidence’ but should respond against Cardinals


Goober Pyle
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https://theathletic.com/1280643/2019/10/09/chris-spielman-falcons-have-showed-zero-confidence-but-should-respond-against-cardinals/

 

TEMPE, Ariz. — Chris Spielman only could chuckle at the trend he has seen in his network media obligations. When the former NFL linebacker turned broadcaster does interviews in the days before the game he’s going to call, the discussion mostly been about getting his analysis on why a team is struggling. Rarely do reporters ask him questions about teams that consistently win games.

With Spielman doing the color commentary for this week’s game between the Falcons and Arizona Cardinals on Fox on Sunday, he was offered up to The Athletic to speak to as an analyst. With the Falcons, yes, struggling, it was interesting to hear his take on how and why.

It’s funny how that works out.

Spielman, who also called Atlanta’s opener against the Minnesota Vikings, more than obliged, answering questions on what he sees as the problems for an Atlanta defense that ranks 23rd in the NFL, allowing 378.2 yards per game. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Atlanta ranks 27th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average)

The Falcons, who are practicing at Arizona State’s campus this week, will hope to turn things around after a horrid 1-4 start. Spielman explained why he thinks that, after a dreadful performance in a 53-32 loss to the Houston Texas, Atlanta will look much improved against the Arizona Cardinals.

When it comes to this Falcons team, defensively, what do you see that isn’t going right through these five games?

I think it’s consistency — from Game 1, when (Minnesota) was able to run the football and there was nothing you could do to stop them. That’s frustrating enough. Then all the way up to last week, you have (Deshaun Watson) throwing for 426 yards, and I think, from my count, and I don’t know what the official count is, but I think he had one quarterback pressure on him. This is against an offense that has given up (10) sacks in the previous two weeks.

Nothing’s clicking for them right now. They have good players. They just have to play with a little more confidence in what you’re doing and what is called, and being a little bit smarter. And maybe playing with a little bit more sense of urgency. It’s been my experience that an embarrassed unit usually responds well the next week. I’m looking forward to them responding against Arizona.

You mentioned you think this is a talented unit. Do you not see a personnel problem with the Falcons defense?

It’s easy to say that it sounds like these guys can’t play. But these guys have all produced in the past, whether it’s (Adrian) Clayborn, Grady Jarrett, Deion (Jones), Ricardo Allen. It’s not like these guys have not produced in the past. I think it’s a matter of being on the same page and having some good things happen to them.

I was watching the film a little bit, and I think, in certain situations, they can do some things to help themselves. Like not let inside receivers vs. any two-deep look run free off the line of scrimmage. I think that puts too much pressure on safeties. If you have stacked wide receivers on first and second down, I would jam the heck out of the guy that’s the front wide receiver.

I don’t know, I’m only basing it off of one game film, but I think that Dan Quinn hasn’t forgotten how to coach defensive football. He’s got to figure out, he says he will, and the players have to respond. It’s mostly up to the players to execute whatever defense is called.

I wanted to ask about Dan. Historically, he’s had aggressive defensive units. This year, for whatever reason, it hasn’t translated. After last week’s game, the (Texans) players said they were confident about what they had seen on film and that they would be able to exploit the defense. When you watched last week’s game, did you feel that everything was coming naturally for the Texans? That the Falcons were, in fact, being taken advantage of in those key matchups?

Here’s the thing, too. There’s tackling in space, right? We understand in today’s day and age of the NFL that everything is a matchup game. You find a matchup you like. If you’re playing a lot of zone — I’m a big believer in don’t cover dirt. If someone is in your area, then zone almost converts to a man type of coverage.

The other thing is that you have to eliminate yards after catch if you’re in a zone. Sometimes that can’t be helped in man coverage because if a (defender) is covering a guy and he misses a tackle, everybody’s back is turned and (the receiver) is off and running, right? In zone, once you see that ball is released, everybody’s gotta be rolling. You have to have somebody close to that guy. … You have to be able to make a play after he catches the ball in zone, I think. Those are the rules I have for zone defense. Everybody has to understand when the ball is thrown then you have to rally to the football.

The best pass coverage is a pass rush. And I’m not talking about sacks. I’m talking about disrupting the quarterback or making him throw by hitting him, and he throws the ball short. You can get a pick or something like that. I don’t know right now if that pass rush is where it needs to be for them to be successful to be able to help with their pass defense.

When it comes to Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley, those are their two defensive ends drafted to get after the quarterback. When you watch them and you see them drop into coverage, time and again, when they rush three and drop eight, would you think that’s not a good thing for this defense to do?

I don’t. I mean, there are times when you want to rush three and drop eight, depending on game plan and scouting report and where you are on the field and what you want to do. There’s a place for both.

There’s a place where those guys have to do what they’re paid to do. They’re paid to get after the quarterback. They were drafted to get after the quarterback. Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not defining a good game by Vic Beasley or Takk McKinley getting a number of sacks. Those are nice, I get it. But disruption, quarterback hits, pressures, did he affect the throw? Did he affect the read by the quarterback because he was in there quickly, or something like that? And those guys can be helped, too, by pressure up the middle.

Now, there’s an extra stress added because if Kyler Murray sees any type of man coverage or two-deep look, he’s going to take that throwing lane and turn it into a running lane pretty darn fast. That’s more pressure added to an Atlanta defense that needs to find its way still.

Switching to the offensive side, what do you think the biggest problem is for Atlanta when it comes to being able to run the ball and getting consistent production out of it?

I can speak to Game 1 and last week’s game since those are the ones I watched. And it’s simple. If you get behind — what did they run the ball, (seven) times against the Texans in the second half? Well, that’s why. You’re playing from behind all the time. For the most part, it’s very difficult to run the ball consistently in the NFL. Teams can do it, but you have to be able to, and I know it’s cliche, but there has to be some kind of balance.

The only way you are balanced is if you are playing in a game that’s close or if you’re playing from ahead. It’s not balance when you’re always chasing. That puts a lot of pressure on offensive linemen and a lot of pressure on the quarterback. You can’t make mistakes. For offensive linemen, for example, all they’re doing is absorbing blows.

The difference of the mentality of an offensive lineman is when you are running the ball and you are effective running the ball, all of a sudden they get to become the hitter as opposed to being the constant hittee — in a backpedal waiting for some big guy to smash them. And you just sort of sit there and absorb it. That’s your job.

Matt Ryan, he’s putting up good numbers. Obviously, like you said, they’re playing from behind. And you saw the first game. When it comes to decision-making and those turnovers, do you think these are things, based on his history, that he’ll be able to correct and avoid as the season continues?

Matt Ryan’s credentials speak for itself. Matt Ryan is a top-tier quarterback in this league. But a lot of it is you’re always playing catch-up. You’re always trying to make big plays. They have guys who can make plays. It’s obvious, right? There might be as good of a trio in the league, but I don’t know if there are any better than Julio (Jones), Mohamed (Sanu) and Calvin (Ridley). And they have a pretty good tight end (Austin Hooper).

All the pieces are there. I just think it’s a team that’s playing — and I could be wrong, this is just me on the outside looking in — with zero confidence. And then I watch interviews and read your articles, and I keep hearing guys (saying), “Well, we all gotta do your job. Do your job.” So what you’re telling me is you’re getting behind and you’re almost getting to the point of trying too hard. When you try too hard, you start chasing plays.

When you start chasing plays, you chase plays away from what you’re supposed to be doing because you’re trying so hard to help your team. I’m not saying guys are trying to be selfish. I’m just saying I believe it when they’re saying everybody has to do your own job before you do somebody else’s job.

That’s definitely been an emphasis the last few weeks, and for whatever reason it hasn’t shown up.

Every city, it’s interesting. Nobody ever — reporters, everyone — wants to talk to me when things are going good for a team. Everybody wants to talk to me about what’s going bad. It’s every city. Every problem is magnified by a thousand.

I was talking to a guy from the Giants, and he said, “What’s the national feeling of the New York Giants?” Well, nobody in Cleveland cares about the New York Giants because the Browns have their own problems. Nobody in Cincinnati could care less about the Giants because the Bengals have their own problems. Because you (cover) the Falcons and we’re seeing all the Falcons players (struggle), rightfully so, it’s magnified down there with all their problems.

If you look at the Vikings last week, getting beat and playing horribly against the Bears, it really should’ve been 42-10 against the Giants because they looked like the team everyone expected them to be. Everything is magnified, and that goes for the players. I remember as a player, when we weren’t playing well, it was like, “Oh my gosh, everybody thinks we’re not playing well.” But nobody outside of Atlanta cares because they got their own problems.

Here’s the thing. It’s still early in the season. I know that Dan Quinn can coach. I know that Dirk Koetter can coach offense. Now, it’s just a matter of, “All right, we’re playing with zero confidence and we just had a team embarrass us.” I’m going back to my original statement that it’s been my experience in playing this game, talking to many people over the years and actually calling games in the NFL for the last four years, that an embarrassed team responds and a prideful team responds. I expect the Atlanta Falcons to respond this week against the Cardinals.

 

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

Here’s the thing, too. There’s tackling in space, right? We understand in today’s day and age of the NFL that everything is a matchup game. You find a matchup you like. If you’re playing a lot of zone — I’m a big believer in don’t cover dirt. If someone is in your area, then zone almost converts to a man type of coverage.

The other thing is that you have to eliminate yards after catch if you’re in a zone. Sometimes that can’t be helped in man coverage because if a (defender) is covering a guy and he misses a tackle, everybody’s back is turned and (the receiver) is off and running, right? In zone, once you see that ball is released, everybody’s gotta be rolling. You have to have somebody close to that guy. … You have to be able to make a play after he catches the ball in zone, I think. Those are the rules I have for zone defense. Everybody has to understand when the ball is thrown then you have to rally to the football.

This has been one of the biggest issues. Guys just covering dirt because "it's their job". This is basic football stuff we're talking about. 

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"When you start chasing plays, you chase plays away from what you’re supposed to be doing because you’re trying so hard to help your team. I’m not saying guys are trying to be selfish. I’m just saying I believe it when they’re saying everybody has to do your own job before you do somebody else’s job"

 

Bingo

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

I watch interviews and read your articles, and I keep hearing guys (saying), “Well, we all gotta do your job. Do your job.” So what you’re telling me is you’re getting behind and you’re almost getting to the point of trying too hard. When you try too hard, you start chasing plays.

When you start chasing plays, you chase plays away from what you’re supposed to be doing because you’re trying so hard to help your team. I’m not saying guys are trying to be selfish. I’m just saying I believe it when they’re saying everybody has to do your own job before you do somebody else’s job.

All comes back to hero ball, which is exactly what I've been saying is the problem for this team. Guys are either trying too hard and dropping their assignment because they're trying to make up for someone else or they aren't trying much at all. It equates to being a sloppy defense.

Also wonder how much of what we've seen is due to the Bob Sutton influence and complicating things on defense. People are talking about how we're too simple schematically, but truth is, we're doing more different things this year than in years before. Players are just messing up a ton. And a lot of that falls on coaches too, but in the end...the team is filled with guys who have either given up or are trying way too **** hard to make up for everyone else. It's the opposite of brotherhood. It's over. Blow it the **** up.

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I'm at the point where I want more embarrassing loses to bottom feeder teams to prove how bad we really are and quicken the extraction process.

Winning a few meaningless games against bottom feaders may extend Quinns tenure and knock us out of a top 5 draft pick.

Let's get this crap over with, we know quinn is done and most likely TD needs to go as well.

Also who are we kidding this team IS a bottom feeder team, we are not going to face any team this year and expect to win. WE are in the same realm as the Cardinals,Redskins, Dolphins

We are a bottom 5 team in the NFL 

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

an embarrassed team responds and a prideful team responds

He's right, but we're not a prideful team at this point, which he would know if he had watched all 5 games (he admits he hasn't).

We were a prideful team as of game 2, when we responded and beat Philly.

But ever since then we've been continually embarrassed, and we've stopped responding. The defense is lifeless. It's dead, Jim.

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3 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

If you’re playing a lot of zone — I’m a big believer in don’t cover dirt. If someone is in your area, then zone almost converts to a man type of coverage.

 

 

This is my biggest problem with Devondre Campbell. There will be a WR/TE 2-3 yards away from him, but you will see Campbell just sitting in his zone staring at the QB. It drives me insane. There has to be some type of instinct to kick in and know that you cant let the opposing WR just hang around free

Edited by Drvillain
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41 minutes ago, Drvillain said:

This is my biggest problem with Devondre Campbell. There will be a WR/TE 2-3 yards away from him, but you will see Campbell just sitting in his zone staring at the QB. It drives me insane. There has to be some type of instinct to kick in and know that you cant let the opposing WR just hang around free

Nope. Been his issue since he was at Minny. 

Quote

WEAKNESSES

Linebacker instincts missing badly. Too many snaps where he does the offensive lineman's job for him by running himself out of position and becoming an easily blockable target. Is slow to diagnose what is happening and is consistently behind on the play relying on athleticism too often. Needs technique work and additional coaching. Doesn't keep pads square consistently when scraping down the line. Sits and waits on the second level rather than using natural burst to play downhill. Below average at leveraging his run fits. When dropping into coverage, looks like he's occupying space rather than looking to squeeze top or routes. Needs to read quarterback's eyes more and drift into passing windows.

Nothing's changed. This four years ago. Still doing the same things. Went from promising rookie to undeveloped vet. 

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4 hours ago, DriveHomeSafelyAtlantaWins said:

He's right, but we're not a prideful team at this point, which he would know if he had watched all 5 games (he admits he hasn't).

We were a prideful team as of game 2, when we responded and beat Philly.

But ever since then we've been continually embarrassed, and we've stopped responding. The defense is lifeless. It's dead, Jim.

True. I have not seen pride or heart.. If we win against the cards it won't mean much to me since we have to come home to the rams, seahawks.. it's gonna get ugly.

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4 hours ago, MAD597 said:

I'm at the point where I want more embarrassing loses to bottom feeder teams to prove how bad we really are and quicken the extraction process.

Winning a few meaningless games against bottom feaders may extend Quinns tenure and knock us out of a top 5 draft pick.

Let's get this crap over with, we know quinn is done and most likely TD needs to go as well.

Also who are we kidding this team IS a bottom feeder team, we are not going to face any team this year and expect to win. WE are in the same realm as the Cardinals,Redskins, Dolphins

We are a bottom 5 team in the NFL 

MLB Cardinals already embarrassed an Atlanta team this week; waiting for NFL Cardinals to do the same. Right now I'm not sure we can beat anyone left on our schedule.

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