Jump to content

Falcons’ two-minute defense has to be better; it’s that simple - The Athletic

Recommended Posts

by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic


The Falcons have to be better inside the two-minute mark. It’s that simple.

Directly following the Falcons’ loss to Detroit — yet another game that came down to the final minutes of the game — interim coach Raheem Morris said as much.

“It’s just our two-minute defense, just in general,” Morris said of the defense’s struggles to stop Matthew Stafford and the Lions. “Right there before the half, they got three. And right at the end of the game, they just scored six. We have to find a way to get better. We have to find a way to tighten up and be more stout, and we have to find a way to play defense in the second half and (before) halftime.”

This isn’t the first time issues inside the two-minute mark have arisen. In the week that followed a loss to Chicago in Week 3, which came on the heels of the disastrous loss to Dallas, Dan Quinn said that following two games in which the Falcons lost the game because of mistakes in two-minute situations the staff and players needed to tweak things then.

“That is really where our attention and our focus is,” Quinn said on Sept. 28, “to make sure that we can put our players in the best spaces to do the best job.”

So, this has been a running issue with the Falcons. Following yet another example of a faulty Falcons two-minute defense against Detroit on Sunday, I decided to take a look at some of the numbers, charting every drive the Falcons and their opponents had in two-minute situations through the first seven games of the season (this data also included drives that started just before the two-minute warning). What I found was the Falcons have given up 54 during those situations versus the 33 points Atlanta’s offense has scored during the same time. While many people will associate the two-minute time frames we are discussing with just the final two minutes of the game, I also included the two minutes played before halftime, seeing as the Falcons have given up short, points-scoring drives before halftime as Morris pointed out Sunday.

For example, on Sunday, the Falcons gave the ball back to the Lions with 29 seconds left before the half. With just five plays that spanned 43 yards, Detroit went to the locker room with three more points when Matt Prater hit a 50-yard field goal.

We all know how the game ended: Stafford mounted an eight-play, 75-yard, touchdown-scoring drive with 1:04 on the clock to win the game by one.

But similar situations have happened before: Dallas scored 10 points in the final 2:57 of the game. Right before the half, Carolina, took over on its own 11 and marched down the field to score with 28 seconds left. Even Morris noted after the one game the Falcons won against Minnesota that he wanted them to finish better: The Falcons allowed the Vikings score in three plays that covered 80 yards and 45 seconds in the final two minutes of the game.

“We have not played well in some of our fourth quarters,” Morris said. “Even in our win versus Minnesota, I talked about wanting to finish that game better. We have to find ways to finish games better and play better at those moments.”

Twenty-six percent of the points the Falcons’ defense has allowed have come during two-minute situations. And four of the Falcons’ first seven games have been decided by seven points or fewer. Against Detroit and Dallas, the difference was one point.

“We have to step up at the end of halves. We have to end the halves with the ball,” Morris said. “That’s what we have to do a better job of. It’s burned us a bunch this season.”

Another important percentage to look at is that 38 percent of the points the Falcons’ defense has allowed have come during the fourth quarter. Atlanta has given up double-digit totals in every fourth quarter except Green Bay and Carolina, and it could be argued that those two teams let up on the gas in the fourth quarter with their leads secured.

So, those are the numbers. But why does this keep happening?

For starters, it’s not just one issue the Falcons are having to fix. Morris said if it was the same issue popping up time and time again it would be a major problem.

“When you’re talking about situational football, it’s never really the same issue. … There’s different issues that pop up in different situations that we have to get better at, that we have to get more reps at, things that you can correct throughout the process of your time together,” he said.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich confirmed that thinking and went into a little more detail, saying, “It’s a little bit of everything” that the Falcons need to tighten up in the two-minute.

From a coverage standpoint, Ulbrich said the Falcons need to be tighter in their coverages, and they need to implement a few more looks than they have been in order to not be so predictable. From a rush standpoint, he said the players up front need to be more synchronized in their attack, mainly making sure players are in their proper rush lanes. But he noted all of these dynamics have to work together in order to really produce a sound two-minute stand.

“The last two days, although the preparation is short, (we’ve) shined a light on that part of our game,” Ulbrich said as the Falcons prepare to play Carolina on Thursday.

Safety Ricardo Allen was frank in that when teams get in these two-minute scenarios they know what’s going to happen. Opponents have to move quickly, and most of the shots they are going to take are going to be for big chunks of yardage downfield or to the sideline. When teams get inside the two-minute mark, there isn’t a lot of mystery. So, why can’t the Falcons stop opponents’ offenses from doing exactly what they want to do?

“In those scenarios you just need one play to happen,” he said. “You just need your defense to come up with one play. … (Against Detroit) if we just tighten down and make one play before half or at the end of the game, that’s a totally different game. We come out with that win. It’s making the play when it’s called for you to make a play.”

On Wednesday, Ulbrich was asked if there was a specific two-minute situation that he can think back to this season he thought the Falcons did exactly what they were supposed to do in that scenario. Without hesitation, he said the waning minutes of the first half against Minnesota jump out at him. Looking back to that moment, it highlights exactly what Allen was talking about: The defense came up with the one play it needed to. It had someone step up.

With 1:54 left until the half, Minnesota had the ball on its own 17. On the fifth play of the drive around the Atlanta 45, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner collapsed the pocket around Kirk Cousins and was able to get a hand on Cousins’ arm, causing the pass to come up short and offline and into the arms of Foye Oluokun. With just more than a minute to go, Matt Ryan took Atlanta down into the red zone to allow for an easy field goal for Younghoe Koo.

“That’s the results we’re definitely trying to look for,” Ulbrich said.

And the Falcons will need more of those moments to prove they have a formidable two-minute defense, because at times this season, they know they haven’t been.

“It’s something that we have to get better at,” Morris said. “It’s something we have to get better at in a hurry.”



Link to post
Share on other sites

You would think idiots would by now figure out that rushing three and dropping 8 into coverage doesn’t work.  The D Line cannot create pressure unless 5 rush, and the secondary is too confused/inexperienced/ dumb to hold zone assignments for more than 3 seconds.  

Dropping six is plenty.  More than that seems to just just create confusion out there

Link to post
Share on other sites

What is concerning is that we are here in Week 8 and still talking about this, which really is very telling about the ineptitude of the coaching staff. In fact, we could easily go back through the Quinn years and see the same pattern yet not the same players. So is it the players or the coaching philosophy? Yes, players contribute and has to be execute but if the game plan is faulty then what they are executing leads to the mess we are in. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunate story for this team for the last 3 seasons.

They just have to find a way.Ugly as it may be just find away.

Defensively I’d start with this.

I’d bring in a fresh voice into the room to explain it.He maybe saying the same stuff as our coaches are preaching but coming from a different perspective or voice it may resonate better results.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...