G’day Falcons fans, and welcome back to the contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. I’ll analyse the best case scenario for the Falcons, with what are, in my opinion, a few keys to victory, while dunlagh will play devil’s advocate and look at how the game will turn out if we play at our true worst.
Hey guys, sorry for the late post, dunlagh and I were both excruciatingly busy this week. I’m getting sick of writing how last week was pretty awful and that there’s a million areas we need to fix up, so this week I’m not going to! Let’s just pretend we’re coming into this game fresh, 4th quarter fade outs ignored. I’m not going to be dwelling on the past 4 weeks hugely, but rather my focus will be the last 2 matches we’ve played against the Packers – The Georgia Dome regular season win (!) and the Georgia Dome playoff humiliation that I will never forgive the Packers for as long as I live (aaww...). You can believe that most of the Falcons, especially Roddy White, have been waiting for this rematch for a few months. This week, the best case scenario comes if we generate pressure, tighten the zone and feed Turner early.
Generate pressure: As has been mentioned numerous times in the week, we’ve yet to record a sack since the Chicago game, which barely counts because the Bears essentially have Sam Baker and Harry Douglas lined up at every OL spot. We brought in Ray Edwards in the offseason to add more spark to our D-line, but so far we haven’t seen too much from him. He’s been very good against the run, and has had a few ‘nearly’ moments, but has yet to make any real game changing impact. The return of Babs this week cannot be understated, as he is a DT who draws the centre and guard on nearly every snap. Peria Jerry has been ok in his absence, and he along with Corey Peters should benefit greatly from consistently only having to face one man. Throw in Abe, Edwards and Biermann, and on paper our D-Line could get it done against a Packers O-line sans Bulaga. Don’t let the Predator’s questionable fool you, he’s going this week.
However, last year the only real difference is we didn’t have Edwards. Babs was healthy ad his QB wrecking self, Abraham was in 2nd best career form and Biermann and Peters were getting pretty good push themselves, and at the very least doing their job with minimal errors. Yes, our pass rush wasn’t great (it was actually one of my consistent negatives of the game) but at least we were getting back to the QB a few times a game. Then the Packers came to town. In the week 12 game, Abraham recorded the only Falcons sack, and then in the playoffs (with more than enough chances to get there keeping in mind how long the D was out there) Abe was again the only one credited with a sack (Kroy and Babs each had a half). 3 sacks through 2 games, on 71 drop backs by Rodgers, is hardly impressive. Yes, Rodgers is great out of the pocket too, but lets see if we can at least flush him out a few times. 30 yard gains are harder to come by on the ground than in the air. If the Falcons can sort the D-line out against a Packer O-line missing a key player, we might see a little less of this and a little more of this.
Tighten the zone: Last season, Aaron Rodgers came into the dome and put up huge numbers. In 2 games, Rodgers went 57/71 for 710 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions. Interestingly, his longest pass was in the first game, which went for 35 yards. I think it’s safe to say that everybody here wants BVG’s head, or for him to at least adjust during a game, and if there’s any week that will highlight his ability to change the game plan it’ll be this one. The sheer talent the Packers have at WR makes it hard to line up in man coverage, but with the few additions we’ve made to the secondary in the offseason I’d like to see at least an attempt to play man coverage on 3 receiver sets. Our zone is perfect for getting picked apart by quarterbacks with time, and very few can extend plays like Rodgers. If we can generate pressure, we can see the results. Whilst not recording sacks, and not having that much pressure at all, a lot of our picks have come off tipped passes from forced throws over the middle. We haven’t had a great push, but when we have it seems our secondary is ready.
Our zone seems to work best when a quick throw comes out, so the players haven’t had a chance to spread so far. Most of the plays that have had me yelling at the TV this year are ones where the QB extends the play for a few seconds, before just launching it to an unguarded receiver, who catches it on his chest before being swarmed by 4 or 5 defenders. There is no danger of the pass being picked, or even going incomplete. Yes it minimises the YAC, but if that’s Van Gorder’s plan to beat the Pack then we’re in trouble. If we can force quick throws, or hold Rodgers up enough for the D-line to get pressure, then the defence as a whole functions better. I don’t think there’s so much cause and effect as there is 2 areas of one group that need to step up. If we can stop allowing QBs to have an easy safety valve catch about 25 yards deep, then both the tackle box and the secondary defence will improve no end.
Feed Turner early: Last season, Turner had 33 carries for 149 yards and 2 TDs against the Packers. In the first game, Turner carried the ball 23 times for 110 yards and 1 score. The second time around…eeesh. 10 carries for a massive 39 yards and a 12 yard touchdown – it wasn’t exactly a career day for the burner. The more I think about it, the more I can’t figure it out. We were 7-0, then 14-7 up. We had the ability to play from the front (albeit it briefly). Yeah turnovers and stagnant drives were too frequent, but 10 carries just isn’t enough. That being said, I don’t want a repeat of last week’s performance, where we insisted on running the ball despite the 11 men, head coach, defensive coordinator and half of the Seattle fanbase lined up in the box. If we can get Turner going early then a) chances are we’re in front and b) it forces the Packers to honour the run. We might see Ryan last a game without bullet holes and a helmet in his shoulder! Huzzah!
A win this week puts us 3-2, and all of the worrying on here will go away (at least for a week). A loss puts us 2-3, which is hardly insurmountable, and as long as we don’t roll over like we did last November I’ll be fairly happy. If we can correct our issues and put up any sort of challenge against Green Bay, it could be a step in the right direction. The more the week has gone on, the more excited I’m getting for the game, so I hope that all the Falcoholic fans are out in force either defending the dome or on here (hopefully staying upbeat whatever happens). Apologies for the lateness this week, we'll be back on schedule next week. As always, be sure to check out the Worst Case Scenario here, and thanks for reading. Go Falcons!