The other day, Pats Pulpit carried an interesting piece about how pressuring Matt Ryan needs to be a top priority for New England, while also noting that it won’t be easy for New England to get home.
In case you’ve forgotten, the consequences for not getting after Ryan at all are pretty bad. Here’s Pat Pulpit’s Rich Hill:
Matt Ryan holds a ridiculous 131.1 passer rating when left unpressured, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), which is easily the top mark in the league. In 29 passing plays without pressure against the Green Bay Packers, Ryan went 22 of 27 for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 153.5. When the Packers pressured Ryan, he completed 5 of 11 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
As Hill astutely notes, you can’t really blitz the Falcons, because every player you leave uncovered becomes a chip shot throw for Ryan, and if it’s Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman, or Taylor Gabriel, that could very well be six.
This game could turn on pressure for either team, quite honestly. Both Ryan and Brady fare pretty well under duress, but Brady is especially susceptible to pressure in his face, which the Falcons may struggle to generate. The Patriots, meanwhile, will have to overcome a less-than-stellar pass rush to get to Ryan, who is a master at getting the ball out quickly this year and is playing behind one of the NFL’s most durable, effective offensive lines. The Packers only got to him a couple of times, and even the relentless Seattle Seahawks front seven found limited success. There’s also little question that Alex Mack, the team’s center and the most key cog for this line, will be healthy enough to suit up and start, so there goes that potential advantage.
Immobile Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was infrequently pressured and sacked just once a week ago against the Patriots, and while Chris Long, Trey Flowers, and Jabaal Sheard in particular are capable of getting pressure, none have been doing so on a regular basis. If the Patriots can’t get bring Ryan down or at least force some bad throws, they’ll be left hoping their offense can grind away the clock and score while the defense looks for turnovers. As the Falcons have shown us time and time again this year, that’s not necessarily a winning strategy, even if Atlanta’s certainly going to have a harder time with this Patriots attack than they did with a banged-up Green Bay team.
Expect a lot of scoring, is I guess what I’m trying to say.