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How might the Falcons defense try to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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It’s not as simple as “get to the QB.”

NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, the Patriots offense may be the toughest challenge this young Falcons defense has faced all year. While they ranked third in points behind the Falcons and Saints, this is a unit that is highly efficient and has a multitude of ways in which it can kill you. Brady has been masterful at not turning the ball over and using his weapons effectively all year.

That said, Andy Benoit of the MMQB has suggested a method of defending this offense that might surprise some fans. At the heart of it is a statement that may flummox Falcons fans:

Here’s the thing: at it’s heart, this idea has some serious merit, despite my own personal misgivings with only rushing 3.

First, the Patriots offense is designed to get the ball out of the hands of the QB quickly. Trying to consistently generate a pass rush is not going to work, and rushing 5 or more to try to get to the QB also leaves several of your guys in one-on-one coverage, which the Patriots offense is designed to beat.

Likewise, staying in Cover-3 is not any better. This Patriots offense knows how to exploit the zone and to get linebackers matched up on smaller, faster receivers. It’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s exactly what Pittsburgh’s defense tried to do (to no avail).

Instead, what Benoit is suggesting - and what I think Quinn may actually do - is to play more man coverage while using one or two “lurkers” in the middle of the field (Jones and/or Campbell) to help clog the middle of the field, forcing Tom Brady to look more towards outside throws. By only rushing 3, there’s the obvious risk of being gashed in the running game and/or giving Brady too much time to find an open guy. However, it may also put more stress on Brady to make more difficult throws than he is accustomed to.

It’s a risky strategy, but Quinn has shown he’ll change his defensive scheme if it works better. He moved away from the Cover 3 in going after the Packers, which was highly successful. He incorporated more blitzes to try and rattle Aaron Rodgers, which was also outside the norm for his defenses. There’s no reason to think Dan Quinn won’t try something else to limit the damage the Patriots offense can cause.

With less than a week to go until the big dance, it’s highly likely that Dan Quinn will put some new looks on the field to try and stop the prolific Patriots offense. If Benoit is right, Falcons fans may see something entirely different on Sunday.