When the Patriots have the ball...

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Lets make some separate threads for different aspects of the matchup.

What do you see the Patriots trying to do to contain Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense?

Just to kick things off, other than stopping Julio Jones, I think one of the biggest challenges will be handling their RBs in the passing game. The duo of Freeman and Coleman caught over 80% of their combined targets. Coleman averaged 13.6 yards per reception out of the backfield, which is just ridiculous. Do we have the LBs to match up in man coverage on those backs? To me, this seems like a major concern that might really shape our overall scheme and game plan.
I think MMSP has the right idea here, but I'm not seeing the paired thread.

First off, we know the perennial question: How well does Atlanta rush the passer with four?

Also, I haven't seen much of the Falcons, but my understanding is they run a zone. We also Brady does well against zone. But: Can they switch out of zone and surprise them for a game? Throw wrinkles that the Pats might struggle with?

Who's got some insight into the Falcons D?
 

RedOctober3829

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I think MMSP has the right idea here, but I'm not seeing the paired thread.

First off, we know the perennial question: How well does Atlanta rush the passer with four?

Also, I haven't seen much of the Falcons, but my understanding is they run a zone. We also Brady does well against zone. But: Can they switch out of zone and surprise them for a game? Throw wrinkles that the Pats might struggle with?

Who's got some insight into the Falcons D?
They do play a lot of zone but for the last few weeks they have shown some man to man looks in which they have made an improvement on their play. Vic Beasley has a ton of sacks, but does not have elite pressure numbers to go along with the 18 sacks. I think they'll move him around the line as Houston did with Clowney and Mercilus. Atlanta is not good against the run so I expect the Patriots to come out early in their heavy packages and establish the line of scrimmage. If successful, that will open up play action passes down the seams and in the deep middle.
 

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Seems like a place to drop in this thought: If they win the toss, I suspect the Pats will again choose to take the ball ... and for the same reasons they did against Pittsburgh -- try to get an early lead, and put Atlanta's lesser unit on the field first.
 

lambeau

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I hope the Pats start fast with hurry-up; I don't see how Atlanta copes with that. The pressure they got on GB seemed more OL failure. The Atlanta tackles get no sacks--Grady Jarrett had five his whole Clemson career, Rashede Hageman (who tripped Rodgers for that sack) is famously inconsistent, and they will gameplan for Beasely.

I can't wait to see Brady "Jordan!" this defense. Behind the DL are four rookies, three second years, and one veteran corner.
 

Captaincoop

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Seems like a place to drop in this thought: If they win the toss, I suspect the Pats will again choose to take the ball ... and for the same reasons they did against Pittsburgh -- try to get an early lead, and put Atlanta's lesser unit on the field first.
I think they give Atlanta the ball and make Matt Ryan play a quick series with Super Bowl butterflies.
 

southshoresoxfan

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ATL D ranks dead last in opponent TD% in the Red Zone (72.9!!!!!).

If Brady and Co just dont turn the ball over and stay on schedule on 3rd downs then they will really face little resistence finishing off drives.
 

southshoresoxfan

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They do play a lot of zone but for the last few weeks they have shown some man to man looks in which they have made an improvement on their play. Vic Beasley has a ton of sacks, but does not have elite pressure numbers to go along with the 18 sacks. I think they'll move him around the line as Houston did with Clowney and Mercilus. Atlanta is not good against the run so I expect the Patriots to come out early in their heavy packages and establish the line of scrimmage. If successful, that will open up play action passes down the seams and in the deep middle.
Easier to play man vs Baldwin and a cast of nobodes against SEA and a decimated GB team.

Good luck matching up man to man w young corners vs 11 15 88 80 28 and 33
 

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I think they give Atlanta the ball and make Matt Ryan play a quick series with Super Bowl butterflies.
I'd rather see Matt Ryan experience his Super Bowl butterflies already down seven after a seven minute drive that wears out the defense a bit right off the bat and then Ryan has the added pressure of getting them a breather or else he knows it will snowball. Long drive and a TD followed by a quick three and out or a two series drive and punt goes a long way to the goal and I think this team is susceptible to that.

Edit: or even a quick strike TD by NE. I think Ryan can be rattled easily and I'd like the first time he steps on the field to already be in the hole.
 

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I mentioned this in a different thread but Andy Benoit has this podcast which discussed various relevant issue. On the issue in this thread Andy has a few initial thoughts. I agree with him but think he is overrating Atlanta's late season defensive improvement. He says that, like PIT, ATL's to BF secondary has improved over the year. PIT's secondary improved in success executing their mostly zone scheme. They didn't drastically increase the varieties of schemes they run. ATL started the year playing primarily zone but now play multiple schemes in the same game. ATL's defenders not only increased in their skill executing zone but in all aspects of their game. I'm skeptical. I don't think ATL is going to stop our offense because as much as they've improved NE has the advantage with matchups, and ATL can't generate the pressure needed to get Brady off his game.
 

BigSoxFan

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I'd rather see Matt Ryan experience his Super Bowl butterflies already down seven after a seven minute drive that wears out the defense a bit right off the bat and then Ryan has the added pressure of getting them a breather or else he knows it will snowball. Long drive and a TD followed by a quick three and out or a two series drive and punt goes a long way to the goal and I think this team is susceptible to that.

Edit: or even a quick strike TD by NE. I think Ryan can be rattled easily and I'd like the first time he steps on the field to already be in the hole.
Agreed. One of the eye-opening moments of SB42 was how the Giants marched right down the field on us and even though they settled for a FG, you knew it was on. I'd like for the Patriots to set the tone. It can be difficult for some teams to deal with the long SB halftime. I could see Atlanta having issues with that, especially if they're down a TD (or hopefully more).
 
I'd rather see Matt Ryan experience his Super Bowl butterflies already down seven after a seven minute drive that wears out the defense a bit right off the bat and then Ryan has the added pressure of getting them a breather or else he knows it will snowball.
You mean like what happened against the Seahawks two games ago? Yeah, that long Seattle touchdown drive to open the game really took the Falcons out of their offensive rhythm. ;)

For the record, Quinn's preference throughout the season has been to defer if the Falcons win the toss. (This question was also specifically asked of him by the sideline reporter at halftime of the Seattle game.)
 

Curt S Loew

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You mean like what happened against the Seahawks two games ago? Yeah, that long Seattle touchdown drive to open the game really took the Falcons out of their offensive rhythm. ;)
I think you missed a spot.

I'd rather see Matt Ryan experience his Super Bowl butterflies already down seven after a seven minute drive that wears out the defense a bit right off the bat and then Ryan has the added pressure of getting them a breather or else he knows it will snowball.
Although, I would agree if Matty Ice would have any Super Bowl jitters, it would more likely be right after kickoff, not after a long sustained drive by the opposition.
 

tims4wins

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I think they give Atlanta the ball and make Matt Ryan play a quick series with Super Bowl butterflies.
Had this discussion with my Dad last night. We both agree. Might get away with an errant throw or two and a quick 3 and out before he settles in.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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You know whats dumb? Predicting if someones nerves will effect him more on the first or second drive of the game.

Can we just play this game today?
 

Hoodie Sleeves

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ATL D ranks dead last in opponent TD% in the Red Zone (72.9!!!!!).

If Brady and Co just dont turn the ball over and stay on schedule on 3rd downs then they will really face little resistence finishing off drives.
Atlanta's defense is last, or near last in almost every category. They're just bad. Beyond that, the Patriots offense is a terrible matchup for them.

FO has them rated as 26th against receiving runningbacks, and 30th against "Other WR", which is typically the slot WR. They're actually good against #1WR, but the Patriots don't really play the sort of offense where you have a clear #1 you force the ball to.

I expect to see a lot of White and Lewis being wide open for easy gains. I expect them to have a ton of trouble covering one of Edelman or Amendola (and don't expect Hogan to have a big day - he's the closest thing routewise they have to a traditional #1)

They've played a bit better in the playoffs, but its tough to tell by how much. The Packers injuries were a bit ridiculous (to the point of having defensive lineman playing offensive lineman snaps, etc) - and the Seahawks just plain have a bad offense, so its tough to tell if any improvement is real. Even with improvement, I still don't think they're good.
 

Import78

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I'll be interested to see if the Pats use a lot of hurry up early. I think it certainly has some advantages in terms of getting young guys off balance and keeping things moving. There are some disadvantages too though, if you aren't successful you're giving the ball back pretty fast. If part of the goal is to keep Ryan and the Atlanta offense off the field it may not be hugely useful.

I suspect that we will see more hurrying to the line/no huddle and diagnosing coverage etc for 25 seconds while the clock runs down before snapping the ball with 5 seconds left. See if those young backs will show their hand without letting them settle in between plays or talk about what they are seeing.

I expect to see a fairly balanced attack as well. Using the running game to set up play action and the passing game to set up some draws etc. If both are effective the world is McDaniel's oyster. I also expect them to use the whole field (depth and width) offensively.

Of course with as good as I am at predicting the NFL it will probably be a defensive struggle.
 

ilol@u

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Throw the fucking ball deep.

Brady has been on point with the deep balls this playoffs. Against Houston, it seemed that was really the only thing working for the first three quarters. Against Pittsburgh, Brady was also looking deep for Hogan. I don't think Atlanta's defense is good, so I think settling for underneath routes will really be blowing opportunities up the field.
 

wiffleballhero

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Throw the fucking ball deep.

Brady has been on point with the deep balls this playoffs. Against Houston, it seemed that was really the only thing working for the first three quarters. Against Pittsburgh, Brady was also looking deep for Hogan. I don't think Atlanta's defense is good, so I think settling for underneath routes will really be blowing opportunities up the field.
Presumably, if they can do this, they will, feeling it out with Hogan running post/seam routes and if he is open, Brady will go for it. But I would really be pretty annoyed if this was a primary plan for the game. It is always a high risk/reward situation and deep balls are hardly effective at keeping the other offense off the field.

It sure seems like this phase of the game, and really the final score, will hang on whether or not Atlanta can get interior, non-blitzing pressure on Brady (what a shock!). If they do, I plan some serious beer consumption to survive this. If they can't, there will be some serious celebratory beer consumption along the way.
 

Joe D Reid

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I think MMSP has the right idea here, but I'm not seeing the paired thread.

First off, we know the perennial question: How well does Atlanta rush the passer with four?
The Ringer guys have noted on a couple of occasions that ATL's defense has its best results by DVOA when they send four. They're nowhere near the level of the NYG/DEN teams that have beaten past Pats teams, but their scheme strength aligns with those teams' models.
 

jablo1312

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I'll be interested to see if the Pats use a lot of hurry up early. I think it certainly has some advantages in terms of getting young guys off balance and keeping things moving. There are some disadvantages too though, if you aren't successful you're giving the ball back pretty fast. If part of the goal is to keep Ryan and the Atlanta offense off the field it may not be hugely useful.

I suspect that we will see more hurrying to the line/no huddle and diagnosing coverage etc for 25 seconds while the clock runs down before snapping the ball with 5 seconds left. See if those young backs will show their hand without letting them settle in between plays or talk about what they are seeing.

I expect to see a fairly balanced attack as well. Using the running game to set up play action and the passing game to set up some draws etc. If both are effective the world is McDaniel's oyster. I also expect them to use the whole field (depth and width) offensively.

Of course with as good as I am at predicting the NFL it will probably be a defensive struggle.
This is what i hope (and suspect) the Pats will do. Go hurry up with 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB, show different looks on each play, and try to stress the Falcons communication in between plays. It's a young defense, and it's frankly not a very good one at this time. There will be holes.
 

Dr. Gonzo

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He is a good follow.

One thing I noticed in those shots he posted is that GB does not have a TE on the line. Cook is in the slot or bunched but he's never in a three point stance. How often has Bennett been off the line that since Gronk went down?

One of my worries for the Pats line is Andrews as he has seem to getting beat on stunts as well as someone just bull rushing right at him. One of the stunts Girardi shows is right at the A gap but do Falcons have DTs could give Andrews problems one on one?
 

ElcaballitoMVP

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I don't know what I want the Pats to do. One the one hand, they looked great in the hurry-up against PIT and I'm always in favor of the ball being in Brady's hands. But seeing as ATL is so poor against the run, I almost expect BB to ground and pound all day to keep Atlanta's offense off the field. Get up early, keep the ball and limit their chances.

I don't know if that calls for a gameplan that spreads them out and uses short passes and runs from Lewis when the defense is spread out or using Bennett and Develin to help the OL open holes between the hash marks for Blount.
 

Hagios

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Throw the fucking ball deep.

Brady has been on point with the deep balls this playoffs. Against Houston, it seemed that was really the only thing working for the first three quarters. Against Pittsburgh, Brady was also looking deep for Hogan. I don't think Atlanta's defense is good, so I think settling for underneath routes will really be blowing opportunities up the field.
I like it, but only after ramming Blount down their undersized defense first. This seems like a game where he can average 4.5+ yards per carry. Once Atlanta starts putting 8 men in the box the Patriots will have receivers zig-zagging all over the field and Brady will pick them to pieces. Even if they play man, I don't think they have the depth to cover the Pats' receivers. They might actually be better off playing zone.
 

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If you aren't following @MikeGiardi already, please do so. Some great stuff the past couple days on Atlanta.

Those pics don't tell us much without more info. Was Atlanta successful or not in all of those different schemes? in on pic, he shows two arrows on two guys and no arrows on two DT's; does that mean they only rushed two? What happened there?
 

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I don't know what I want the Pats to do. One the one hand, they looked great in the hurry-up against PIT and I'm always in favor of the ball being in Brady's hands. But seeing as ATL is so poor against the run, I almost expect BB to ground and pound all day to keep Atlanta's offense off the field. Get up early, keep the ball and limit their chances.

I don't know if that calls for a gameplan that spreads them out and uses short passes and runs from Lewis when the defense is spread out or using Bennett and Develin to help the OL open holes between the hash marks for Blount.
ElCab, do you still have your source inside Patriot Place? If so, anything interesting from him/her of late?
 

RedOctober3829

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Those pics don't tell us much without more info. Was Atlanta successful or not in all of those different schemes? in on pic, he shows two arrows on two guys and no arrows on two DT's; does that mean they only rushed two? What happened there?
He's just showing a blitz that they use knowing that Houston exploited those areas.

The DT that has turned it on lately is Hageman. On the season he only has played less than 25% of the snaps. But with the loss of Clayborn he's seen his snaps go up and he's been really good(36% vs. SEA and 41% vs. GB) in an interior rush role taking over for the struggling Tyson Jackson.
 

Kevin Youkulele

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I like it, but only after ramming Blount down their undersized defense first. This seems like a game where he can average 4.5+ yards per carry. Once Atlanta starts putting 8 men in the box the Patriots will have receivers zig-zagging all over the field and Brady will pick them to pieces. Even if they play man, I don't think they have the depth to cover the Pats' receivers. They might actually be better off playing zone.
If they can get 4.5+ YPC early on it would be crazy not to exploit it and wear down the ATL D (raising the chance of a high-scoring second half and/or game winning drive if needed at the end) while keeping their own D and Matty Ice off the field.
 

Zososoxfan

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I don't know what I want the Pats to do. One the one hand, they looked great in the hurry-up against PIT and I'm always in favor of the ball being in Brady's hands. But seeing as ATL is so poor against the run, I almost expect BB to ground and pound all day to keep Atlanta's offense off the field. Get up early, keep the ball and limit their chances.

I don't know if that calls for a gameplan that spreads them out and uses short passes and runs from Lewis when the defense is spread out or using Bennett and Develin to help the OL open holes between the hash marks for Blount.
I like it, but only after ramming Blount down their undersized defense first. This seems like a game where he can average 4.5+ yards per carry. Once Atlanta starts putting 8 men in the box the Patriots will have receivers zig-zagging all over the field and Brady will pick them to pieces. Even if they play man, I don't think they have the depth to cover the Pats' receivers. They might actually be better off playing zone.
It's hard not to like this matchup for the Pats offense. ATL is giving up 4.5 yards/rush, although teams only rush against them an average of just over 23 times per game (almost certainly due to playing from behind). ATL has given up 15 rushing TDs which is tied for 12th in the league. In contrast, ATL's passing D is giving up 6.9 yards/reception (middle of the pack) and they have given up 31 passing TDs (5th worst). So, I think the Pats will mix it up and keep ATL guessing all game. They will start the game by running LGBT against the small front. Soften their zone with short routes and WR/RB routes in the flats. Once the D gets sucked up, hit them over the top with low risk high reward 20-30 yard passes. I think we can expect to see a lot of frustrated ATL defenders next Sunday. They won't be able to stop the Pats vanilla short game, they will have to commit numbers to the box, then the Pats will beat them deep instead. ATL OTOH, should start working on their RZ D and hope a bend don't break approach works. Either that, or ditch their zone scheme entirely.
 

NortheasternPJ

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Throw the fucking ball deep.

Brady has been on point with the deep balls this playoffs. Against Houston, it seemed that was really the only thing working for the first three quarters. Against Pittsburgh, Brady was also looking deep for Hogan. I don't think Atlanta's defense is good, so I think settling for underneath routes will really be blowing opportunities up the field.
I'm fine with throwing downfield, but I really don't want to see Brady throwing some of those deep balls like he did against Houston. The Hogan and Edelman deep balls looked more of a Joe Flacco Huck N' Suck play than anything.
 

Carlos Cowart

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Rather than throw deep I'd suggest they run Blount until Atlanta proves they can stop him. Which, unfortunately for them, will be in some subsequent season.
 

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I want them to run it down their throats. I think a combination of Dion and LGBT will give the ATL D fits. I wouldn't be surprised if Lewis once again starts and gets the majority of handoffs -- and then use LGBT as the change-up power -- which seems to be the opposite of what folks are saying in here. I would take the OVER on Dion Lewis rushing yards -- assuming it is somewhere in the 30's or 40's.
 

lambeau

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BB already pretty deep in the weeds today responding to Volin. To paraphrase: yeah, it's basically the Seattle defense, but there are some wrinkles, like Sherman plays the same position a little different from Alford. Acknowledges the Seattle prep helps. It just seems like he knows the defense, now he's breaking down each player's idiosyncrasies/vulnerabilities.
Is Atlanta drilling down the same way? Which offense would they prepare for?
 

mulluysavage

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BB already pretty deep in the weeds today responding to Volin. To paraphrase: yeah, it's basically the Seattle defense, but there are some wrinkles, like Sherman plays the same position a little different from Alford. Acknowledges the Seattle prep helps. It just seems like he knows the defense, now he's breaking down each player's idiosyncrasies/vulnerabilities.
Is Atlanta drilling down the same way? Which offense would they prepare for?
So ATL plays cover 3 and pretty much sticks to their scheme and game plan regardless? Or is that not Seattle's profile anymore?
 

wiffleballhero

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Running it down their throats is enormously gratifying when it works, but what I worry about is a opening commitment to running that goes nowhere and now we have a couple 3-and-outs and we are behind by 10 before Blount has even worked up a sweat.

Despite the big power run vs. Pittsburgh, Blount has plenty of drives where he can't seem to get through the line at all. I don't want to see some overly determined commitment to running if they can't get real yards on first down. If they are looking at second and 7 or 8, pass the ball.
 

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Of course they can go 3 WR, Bennett and Lewis and run it too, allowing them the flexibility to run or pass and run hurry up.
 

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I don't know what I want the Pats to do. One the one hand, they looked great in the hurry-up against PIT and I'm always in favor of the ball being in Brady's hands. But seeing as ATL is so poor against the run, I almost expect BB to ground and pound all day to keep Atlanta's offense off the field. Get up early, keep the ball and limit their chances.

I don't know if that calls for a gameplan that spreads them out and uses short passes and runs from Lewis when the defense is spread out or using Bennett and Develin to help the OL open holes between the hash marks for Blount.
I love how the Patriots have multiple different run strategies available--

You know just in case run is the way to go, right?

So it's like, if someone says, "Run first," the response is, "Well, which RUN do you mean?"
 

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I think in a situation like this where you have a favorable matchup and multiple good ways to score, you may also want to go with the lower variance option if the differences are otherwise marginal. So whichever gives you a better chance of no turnovers / avoiding 3 and outs.

I'm not sure which that is since the Pats have so few turnovers generally, but I suspect the 11 group is probably it.
 

Red Averages

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Will be interesting if the Pats have trouble stopping Atlanta to see how aggressive BB is. We've seen in the past that he's willing to go for it on 4th and 2 in his own zone if he doesn't want to risk giving the other team the ball back. Granted I think this defense is better than those teams were historically, but something to think about.
 

joe dokes

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I think what the Patriots do on the opening drive depends on Atlanta's defense. For all of Pittsburgh's veteran-ish-ness, they had a lot of inexperience on D, and Brady sliced them open on that first drive. I think here, too, while there's a lot of talk about Quinn's SB experience, he's not on the field, they have a lot of inexperience, and there is no way that McDaniels doesn't have something ready for play 2 or 3 from a formation that Atlanta's never seen and into a play they haven't seen. It has the effect of not only succeeding in the short term, but it really puts some doubts/fears into some defenders' heads. And it only takes 1 or 2 worried defenders to completely mess up a play.

I liken it to the look on Michael Spinks's face when Tyson's first jab hit him about 20 seconds into the fight.
 

mwonow

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I think what the Patriots do on the opening drive depends on Atlanta's defense. For all of Pittsburgh's veteran-ish-ness, they had a lot of inexperience on D, and Brady sliced them open on that first drive. I think here, too, while there's a lot of talk about Quinn's SB experience, he's not on the field, they have a lot of inexperience, and there is no way that McDaniels doesn't have something ready for play 2 or 3 from a formation that Atlanta's never seen and into a play they haven't seen. It has the effect of not only succeeding in the short term, but it really puts some doubts/fears into some defenders' heads. And it only takes 1 or 2 worried defenders to completely mess up a play.

I liken it to the look on Michael Spinks's face when Tyson's first jab hit him about 20 seconds into the fight.
Hopefully the Atlanta Defense will respond the way Spinks did...
 

lambeau

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I think we mostly worry about the O-line. But this year they ended up Top 10, including pass pro, with Marcus Cannon the top right tackle in football. Nathan Jahnke (PFF) pointed out on Twitter that Cannon and Shaq Mason allowed zero pressures las week, and that TB12 was 6/6 for 108 yards against the Steeler blitz. So the offense should be OK.
 

alydar

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I think if the Pats played the Falcons 10 times they'd win more than 5 (would not have said that about the Seahawks two years ago) -- Pats are the better team.

Because of that, I think you don't want to run for the sake of running / "shortening" the game. The more possessions each team has, the more the Pats O can take advantage of a bad Falcons D, and a respectable Pats D can stop the Falcons O.

By all means, run if that's what the Falcons Defense is begging you to do with their player packages, but I don't want to lose a winnable game with Tom Brady only attempting 25 passes.
 

hawaiirsn

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Enter Blount. Game over.
My thoughts exactly reading this. It's astounding and an indictment of this article in my opinion that he can get through this whole analysis and not mention LG(or White or Lewis) a single time. Sure, this might suppress Brady's numbers, but it sure doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me. The only discussion of the RBs at all is as passers. I'd think even Lewis would excel as a change of pace runner if they use this defensive gameplan.