So yesterday I watched the tape of the Falcons game against the Saints, one of the Falcons 3 losses on the season. Tonight I watched both match-ups Atlanta had against another division rival, Carolina.
Carolina and Atlanta split the season series - though the Panthers came very close and arguably should have swept the Falcons .. they kind of self destructed the last 1:45 or so in their first meeting at the Georgia Dome.
I figured the Panthers would be a decent gauge to see how the Falcons handle two big strengths the Seahawks have..
- Carolina runs the read option
- Carolina has a strong running game.. with a big back (Tolbert), and two other backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.. who only played 1 of 2 games)
In watching both games.. a lot of the same things I noticed in their game against New Orleans, came up again. We're all very well aware that the Falcons are a dangerous team offensively, that much was seen in their first matchup against Carolina and the 2nd half against the Panthers in their Week 14 rematch. Their Week 4 game against the Panthers had something that was rarely seen for the Falcons in 2012.. a running game. Michael Turner had a fantastic outing in this one.. as he gashed the Panthers for 103 yards on only 13 carries and had another 68 yards receiving (though 60 of those came on one play). Either way.. Turner was a force to be reckoned with in their first match-up.. the second match-up though? Not even remotely. Turner had just 14 yards on 7 carries, his back-up Jacquizz Rodgers actually did more on the ground with 21 yards.. but did pitch in 6 receptions (more on this later).
The first meeting against the Panthers was a back and forth affair throughout the first half.. as the Panthers started off strong on D and put together a beautiful scoring drive with their first possession. Once again, LB Stephen Nicholas was picked on throughout by a tight end (more on this later).. and when the Panthers ran the read option, about 80% of the time it gained at least 4 yards. Of course, having Cam Newton definitely doesn't hurt.
The Falcons meanwhile had a field day picking on safety Haruki Nakamura in this one.. as Roddy White routinely beat him like a drum.. White had 169 yards receiving on 8 receptions.. two of those were for scores, and the most notable came when the Falcons trailed 28-27 late and were pinned back at their own 1.. White beat Nakamura clean on a go route for a 59 yard gain.. a couple plays later, Matt Bryant is kicking the GW 40 yard field goal.
In this meeting and their second one, the Panthers were able to generate pressure on Matt Ryan.. more often than not, by just rushing 4 guys. Charles Johnson had a monster outing against the Falcons in the first meeting, as he had 3.5 of the Panthers 7 sacks that day. In round 2, the Panthers were only able to sack Ryan 2 times.. but had steady pressure on him throughout.. again.. the majority of the pressure came on the interior of the Falcons line. I think Brandon Mebane could be quite disruptive come Sunday.. enough to where it may open up rush lanes for Bruce Irvin, and whoever else we plan on shooting off the right side of the Falcons line.
I've said all along the key to winning this isn't going to be slowing down Matt Ryan. Case in point against the Panthers.. Ryan did this:
Week 4 vs CAR - 25/40, 363, 3 TD, INT
Week 14 AT CAR - 34/49, 342, 2 TD, INT
Really not a lot of discrepancy in either game.. and Week 4 actually saw the Falcons blowing a 10 point 2nd half lead at home.. whereas in round two, Atlanta fell behind 23-0 before finally losing 30-20.
The key to winning will unquestionably be.. how well Seattle runs the football. Here are the Panthers team rushing totals in each game:
Week 4 AT ATL - 35 carries, 199 yards, 2 TD
Week 14 vs ATL - 32 carries, 195 yards, 2 TD
On tape.. the Falcons defense is going to give up a lot of yards.. where they tighten up is inside their own 30.
This is a defense that FEASTS off turnovers as well. Mike Nolan also seems to play it pretty conservative until obvious passing downs, and then he turns into Dick LeBeau Jr. Nolan's Falcons showed all kinds of exotic blitzes on 3rd and long.. sometimes sending as much as 7 guys against Cam Newton.
I also noticed, in each game.. the Falcons as a whole are a very suspect tackling team.. this could play a huge role in the outcome Sunday as we all know.. the Seahawks stable of RB's aren't exactly easy to bring down..
For the Seahawks defense.. Atlanta is going to throw a whole different variety of formations at them. In the 3 games I watched, I've seen a good 25 formations. They range from stance, to motion, to which WR's are where.. it's really a fun offense to watch and Gus Bradley is going to have his hands full. The one thing I saw on tape that concerns me is the Falcons ability to throw screen passes. I don't think we faced many teams this season that run the screen as effectively as the Falcons do. They loved running screens with the aforementioned Jacquizz Rodgers.. and Ryan beat the Panthers on a blitz with a screen to Michael Turner to the tune of a 60 yard touchdown.
Either way, I can see the Seahawks offense replicating a lot of what the Panthers were able to do on offense come Sunday. The more I see from the Falcons defense, the less I believe they will be able to hold the team under 200 yards rushing. Which bodes extremely well for us come kickoff.