Had the Falcons drawn the Giants during the first couple of weeks of the season, when they were busy stumbling and bumbling their way around on offense, life might have been simpler.
As it is, the Falcons come into Week 5 on the road facing a Giants team that seems to have found an identity. This team just stomped the Redskins, with Eli Manning presiding over five touchdowns by himself. Rashad Jennings and Andrew Williams run the ball well, the defense has looked at least competent and, of course, they get to play this next one at home. That's not exactly a recipe for success from Atlanta's perspective, given the way their defense has crumbled into a fine powder against the Bengals and Vikings. The latter was particularly upsetting, but we're moving along now.
The problem with the Giants is that they're able to hit one of Atlanta's major weaknesses via well-timed, quick-hitting passes. Manning has the arm strength to challenge cornerbacks downfield, yes, but it's those short outs paired with a strong ground game that have absolutely murdered our beloved football team. It doesn't help that William Moore is going to miss this game, and several more besides.
So can the Falcons stop the Giants? The answer is yes, but it's going to require Mike Nolan to shift his personnel and pull out a few tricks. It means keying in on the run—successfully, dangit—and taking away those timing routes that Matt Ryan has always used so successfully for them. It means having active, able defenders filling gaps and accounting for Jennings, Victor Cruz and hulking tight end Larry Donnell. We haven't seen much of that this season, but I remain ever hopeful.
For once, I'm not going to throw pressure out as the solution. It would be great to get an actual pass rush going more than once this season, yes, but Manning is a perpetually mistake-prone quarterback who can be counted on to force ill-advised throws into tight places. Atlanta being stout up front will depend more on the play of individuals and the unit, but successfully containing the passing attack has everything to do with the scheme, and Nolan's best bet is to drape defenders all over Manning's preferred options. The Falcons need to capitalize on the opportunities to get interceptions in this one, and I'll go so far as to say without a couple of turnovers, they're probably going to wind up giving up 30-plus points once more. We'll cover the pressure question more in Saturday's matchup post.
I'm getting gloomy here, so I'll turn it over to you. How would you stop the Giants?