ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07: Eric Weems #14 of the Atlanta Falcons dives over a tackler during a kickoff return against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on November 7 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Everything's a big deal in the playoffs. Recognizing that, we're doing away with the traditional Four Critical Matchups post in favor of four individual, more detailed looks at what lies ahead in the Falcons-Packers game. Joins us through Friday to catch them all.
Who would've thought that little Eric Weems would become such a big part of the Falcons' success this season?
Averaging 27.5 yards a kick return and 12.8 a punt return, Weems has taken one to the house in both of his special teams roles, and he's chipped in 14 tackles, a handful of them incredibly powerful stops of guys bigger than he is. He's a Pro Bowler for the first time, and it's fair to suggest he's put the Falcons in a position to succeed multiple times in 2010.
He's also familiar with the Packers.
If you'll recall, it was his kick return against the Pack that started winning Weems the attention he deserves in the first place. If not for a facemask penalty committed by a desperate defender, the returner could have taken it to the house. He also gave the Falcons a shorter field against a tough Packers secondary more than once.
That kind of performance is a critical one for the Falcons, who are going to be squaring off against one of the more disciplined defenses in the NFL. It's awfully hard to march 90 yards downfield with Green Bay sending six, including Pro Bowler Clay Matthews. That difficulty is compounded by the excellent coverage skills of the Packers' cornerbacks, who will be seeking to make Matt Ryan's day a miserable one.
It falls on Weems & His Special Teams to increase the Falcons' probability of success. Returns that put the Falcons on the 30 or further toward the Packers' end zone make things immeasurably easier for our beloved birds, and Weems is more than capable of delivering them against a merely decent Green Bay ST unit. Of course, getting the Packers backed up and needing to traverse a long field in a roaring Georgia Dome is also important, and the Falcons know they can make that happen.
It's not the flashiest matchup, but it's one that feeds into everything else we'll be discussing over the next few days. The Falcons have shown they know how to limit mistakes. Give them a short field to play with and they just might eliminate errors entirely.