Goober Pyle

The ‘different perspective’ from Raheem Morris that helped the Falcons beat the Saints

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https://theathletic.com/1366450/2019/11/10/the-different-perspective-from-raheem-morris-helped-lead-falcons-in-win-over-saints/

NEW ORLEANS — Ricardo Allen is a man of many words. This is one of the many reasons reporters flock to him after games and on multiple days during a week of practice. He’ll help explain coverages in detail. He’s honest with his replies, helping those who ask about certain specifics to gain a better understanding.

He’s insightful and, quite honestly, delightful to cover from a professional perspective.

Therefore, when Allen is direct with a one-word answer about an important topic, you immediately take note before asking some follow-up questions.

Allen was asked if Atlanta’s improved performance in the secondary, which held the New Orleans Saints to three field goals and a 6.6-yards-per-passing-attempt average in a dominating 26-9 victory, could be greatly attributed to Raheem Morris’ move from coaching receivers to defensive backs.

“Yes,” Allen said.

No other words needed to be said.

Before this outing, the Falcons’ defensive backs had found themselves out of position and failing to communicate properly. Against the Saints, the defensive backs were lined up early and remained in great position. While Drew Brees threw for 287 yards, he had to do so on 46 attempts, with many of those yards coming with the game in hand for the Falcons.

Rarely, especially as the game pushed into the second and third quarters, did shot plays develop down the field. This forced Brees, known to have a quick release, to hold the ball much longer than he is accustomed to. And while Brees can buy time in creative ways, those opportunities were at a minimum.

It’s hard to rush the passer when quarterbacks are able to throw to open receivers early in their progressions. When a secondary forces a quarterback to go through the second and third reads, defensive linemen have a chance to wreak havoc.

Atlanta took advantage in that department Sunday afternoon.

“The players did a great job, number one, of their communication,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “That’s really when you see the complementary football come to life when rush and coverage can be in sync. To see that take place, I thought, give the credit to the guys. They were really in tune and communicated and really brought the game plan to life. Excellent job by the front and the secondary. Obviously, to get some of the hits and the sacks, you’ve got to have good coverage to go with it.”

The Falcons entered the game with seven total sacks. They sacked Brees six times.

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver said Morris specifically helped with a couple of technique changes. Oliver also said Morris made some tweaks to certain details to go along with offering a different perspective on how to approach the New Orleans offense. While the bulk of Morris’ career has been on the defensive side, coaching receivers the past three-plus years has given him a wider perspective. Instead of working strictly with the defensive backs on defending the Saints, he went over how the Saints were going to attack them.

Therefore, the Falcons’ defensive backs were better prepared to counter what the Saints passing game had to offer.

“The different perspective, the different knowledge he has for the game — I feel like it helped the DBs out a lot more,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t anything the coaches previously weren’t doing, it’s just something different. That’s the biggest thing. All of them working together now, I feel like it helps us a lot more.”

That assistance helped the pass-rush group immensely. Here’s a look at the Falcons’ six sacks:

  • On the first, Atlanta sent five men, with De’Vondre Campbell coming around the left tackle’s edge. Brees tried to get the ball into the flat to Alvin Kamara but opted not to. That allowed Campbell some extra time to bring him down.
  • On the second, Brees dropped back to throw and decided against his primary read. This allowed Adrian Clayborn to work his blocker inside before bringing Brees down.
  • On the third, Brees faked a handoff but couldn’t find anyone immediately open. The pocket collapsed, with Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley sharing the sack.
  • On the fourth, the Falcons sent a three-man rush on third-and-14. Everything was covered, with Brees unable to find a window to throw the ball through. Jarrett was able to bring the quarterback down.
  • On the fifth, Brees dropped back and appeared set to let a pass rip. Instead, he decided against it and was dropped again by Jarrett.
  • On the sixth, Beasley did a great job of maneuvering through the offensive line to get to Brees. At this point, the Saints were playing catch-up, which gave the defensive line the kind of confidence it hasn’t had all season.

By this count, coverage played a key role in five of six sacks. And for a lot of players in Atlanta’s locker room, Morris’ move to the defensive backs room seemed to have been a major component in this development.

“I think he did definitely contribute a lot to the improvement you saw (Sunday),” defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said. “Being a wide receivers coach and then bringing that perspective over there to the DBs, and his energy and demeanor, really helped them.”

Allen said that with Morris, there was additional “open criticism” during the week of practice. While there always has been room for players to call each other out or to express different viewpoints to coaches, it was more pronounced this week. Oliver said more players were holding themselves, and each other, accountable.

Again, Morris’ move was credited for this difference, which players said showed throughout the week leading up to the game.

“It naturally comes with him,” Allen said. “He is going to say what needs to be said. He’ll never say it in a way to be rude or to come at you. Everybody understands exactly who he is. He’s a real funny guy. He’s personable, he connects with all the players. But he will also tell you the truth. That’s what we respect as players. Tell us the truth. We want to know.”

It would be a knee-jerk reaction to assume that the secondary is now fixed with Morris coaching the unit. It’s one game, a sample far too small to warrant such a declaration. Plus, it’s a rivalry game. Crazy things tend to happen when divisional opponents who hate each other meet.

But at a minimum, it’s a good sign that Atlanta’s secondary showed improved communication and technique, especially against an offense that is able to put up chunk plays at any moment. And Morris played a vital part in finally getting this group on the same page.

“He understands exactly what offenses are trying to do to us,” Allen said. “We tweaked, we buzzed, we mixed up a couple of little coverages. A lot of it came through him because he was teaching us what the offenses were trying to do. We played the game plan like that.”

 

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2 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

Allen said that with Morris, there was additional “open criticism” during the week of practice. While there always has been room for players to call each other out or to express different viewpoints to coaches, it was more pronounced this week. Oliver said more players were holding themselves, and each other, accountable.

This! This is what we needed. So happy to see this happening.

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2 hours ago, mtldirtybird said:

ya and not sitting in cover 3 all game and playing the wrong players in the wrong scheme goes a long way

Bruh, we played a ton of Cover 3 this game. It was almost all Cover 1 and Cover 3. Very simplified, just more disguised pressure. This is how you can tell when people just throw around the buzzwords they hear.

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1 hour ago, Francis York Morgan said:

Bruh, we played a ton of Cover 3 this game. It was almost all Cover 1 and Cover 3. Very simplified, just more disguised pressure. This is how you can tell when people just throw around the buzzwords they hear.

When your DL is stomping the OL, the back end coverage is irrelevant

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5 hours ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

The move to have Ulbricht call the defense was nearly five weeks ago.  Transitioning to fewer odd man fronts and moving Morris required the bye week

That’s not a good excuse, this move should have happened during the off season. 
 

I still have no idea why he thought it was a good idea having coaches coaching out of position.

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1 hour ago, Ezekiel 25:17 said:

That’s not a good excuse, this move should have happened during the off season. 
 

I still have no idea why he thought it was a good idea having coaches coaching out of position.

People may disagree but Manuel was a darn good DB coach for us. I think him getting promoted to DC and then scapegoated out of town  hurt us a lot. Some of the things Allen is praising Morris for; being direct, energy, humor, communication, etc. Those were all strong suits of Manuel.

I feel like not keeping him in the building was a real loss of moxie for the defense and DBs in particular.

 I’m glad Morris did so well for us though. This defense was night and day. (Except they did play pretty well vs the Eagles so it’s not like they haven’t been this good before).

 

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11 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

Allen said that with Morris, there was additional “open criticism” during the week of practice. While there always has been room for players to call each other out or to express different viewpoints to coaches, it was more pronounced this week. Oliver said more players were holding themselves, and each other, accountable.

This is the biggest part, especially for guys like Oliver and Sheffield. They were getting abused but probably not given real tools on fixing it, instead just hearing what they did wrong. You saw from the first half to the second half, Oliver was a different player. That's credit to Morris. Sheffield balled out. The coverage overall was just consistently clean and they challenged the LOS every snap almost. 

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8 hours ago, Francis York Morgan said:

Bruh, we played a ton of Cover 3 this game. It was almost all Cover 1 and Cover 3. Very simplified, just more disguised pressure. This is how you can tell when people just throw around the buzzwords they hear.

But they also ran some Cover 2/Man finally. But the heavy difference was more man and actually disrupting routes at the line. No more lining up then bailing. The Saints WRs had to fight all game. They aren't used to that and it worked. 

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2 minutes ago, vel said:

But they also ran some Cover 2/Man finally. But the heavy difference was more man and actually disrupting routes at the line. No more lining up then bailing. The Saints WRs had to fight all game. They aren't used to that and it worked. 

Cover 1 is man. Unless you're just saying Cover 2 Man? The slash confused me since we've run some Cover 2 all year. The lack of bail coverage was good for sure, but I get what you're saying. I think the biggest difference was technique more than playcalling.

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Sort of a contrary opinion to the "Quinn is a figurehead" notion, it seems to me that the secondary issues all season long have been communication issues.  That one video highlighted the failure of Tru and Allen to switch off when Tru's man motioned to the other side of the field.  Stuff like that, not knowing whether we're in zone or man, etc., has been plaguing this defense all season long.

Now, it certainly is possible Quinn can't coach defense and he's the problem and now they've come in and run a new scheme that Ulbrich or Morris or a combo of the two installed, and now the players are playing up to their abilities because they're being used properly.  That's possible.  And in part, it makes some sense.  We didn't see a lot of Vic in coverage, for example, the past couple of weeks.

But it is also possible that stuff like running zone blitzes was being used by Quinn to cover up coverage errors on the back end and try to generate rush.  And given that it is mainly communication issues, AND that the defense looks a whole lot more like what Quinn has historically run now, I'm wagering the real problem was the position coaches weren't preparing the players to do what Quinn wanted them to do, and Morris is.  

Granted, I also don't think it's that simple.  For one, the play calling itself seems improved, which is likely a factor of having Ulbrich concentrate on it fully whereas Quinn had to deal with all the in-game stuff as well as play calling.  I guess my point is, I wouldn't buy into the too-convenient view that Quinn can't coach and these other guys are bailing him out.  They are bailing him out, but I'd bet it's by doing exactly what he wants in exactly the way he wants it done.

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4 minutes ago, vel said:

But they also ran some Cover 2/Man finally. But the heavy difference was more man and actually disrupting routes at the line. No more lining up then bailing. The Saints WRs had to fight all game. They aren't used to that and it worked. 

 

3 minutes ago, Francis York Morgan said:

Cover 1 is man. Unless you're just saying Cover 2 Man? The slash confused me since we've run some Cover 2 all year. The lack of bail coverage was good for sure, but I get what you're saying. I think the biggest difference was technique more than playcalling.

Whether man or zone, I think Vel has hit on the difference.  Even in our zone scheme, when the corners play bail coverage, they are supposed to press first.  Disrupt the timing, then bail.  And we just haven't seen that all season.  Guys get free releases off the ball.  It really doesn't matter what you play on the back end -- if the receivers can just run free every snap they'll eventually beat you.

There is a time to play off coverage, so I'm not saying "press on every play."  But we have been pressing on very few plays up until now, and it was fantastic to see us get back to it.  Make them earn it.

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3 minutes ago, JDaveG said:

 

Whether man or zone, I think Vel has hit on the difference.  Even in our zone scheme, when the corners play bail coverage, they are supposed to press first.  Disrupt the timing, then bail.  And we just haven't seen that all season.  Guys get free releases off the ball.  It really doesn't matter what you play on the back end -- if the receivers can just run free every snap they'll eventually beat you.

There is a time to play off coverage, so I'm not saying "press on every play."  But we have been pressing on very few plays up until now, and it was fantastic to see us get back to it.  Make them earn it.

Agree like **** with that

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8 hours ago, Ezekiel 25:17 said:

Yepper!! Was just about say, did anyone else notice Kazee was BACK at safety where he belongs??? 
 

tried to tell y’all folks! 

You didn't need to tell us. Quinn is famous for moving players out of position. Kazee should've never been moved from safety. 

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3 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

You didn't need to tell us. Quinn is famous for moving players out of position. Kazee should've never been moved from safety. 

Ironic considering Kazee was a nickel coming out and advocated for moving to CB since safety was "boring."

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1 minute ago, Francis York Morgan said:

Ironic considering Kazee was a nickel coming out and advocated for moving to CB since safety was "boring."

He's a better safety than corner, sometimes players don't know their strengths. 

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15 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

He's a better safety than corner, sometimes players don't know their strengths. 

I don't disagree. I'm just saying Quinn was the one who initially moved him to safety. Agree that Quinn takes too long to rectify mistakes though. This is a hefty slice of humble pie. 

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