Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - Printable Version
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Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - JDaveG - 01-19-2011 11:46 AM
Atlanta Falcons 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons have posted three consecutive winning seasons, won the NFC South and made two trips to the playoffs while basically rebuilding the team on the run.
The regime that arrived in 2008 first focused on rebuilding the offense and has enjoyed a great deal of success. Five starters are set to play in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
A statistical analysis of the four remaining teams in the playoffs reveals that there is much more work for general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith and his staff to do on defense in order for the Falcons to be a force in the playoffs.
They are 0-2 in the postseason under Smith and have allowed an average of 39 points. Pittsburgh (second), the New York Jets (third), Green Bay (fifth) and Chicago (ninth) all boast defenses ranked in the top 10 overall. The Falcons' defense ranked 16th overall and 22nd against the pass.
The defenses in the championship games Sunday also all rank in the top 10 in third-down defense: Pittsburgh (third), Chicago (sixth), Green Bay (ninth) and the New York Jets (10th).
After being tied for last in the NFL last season, the Falcons improved on third down, but not enough. They were tied for 31st in 2009 and improved to 22nd as they allowed teams to convert on third down 39 percent (79-of-201) of the time. In the 48-21 loss to Green Bay in the divisional playoff game, the Packers converted eight of 12 (67 percent) times on third down.
The Falcons have spent a great deal of time and resources trying to fix their third-down defense.
"When we quality-controlled third down two years ago into last year, the big difference was into third-and-short," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "Two years ago we led the NFL in third-and-short.
"Then we just dropped off dramatically in that area. From the third-and-six plus, we were at least in the middle of the pack in the NFL.
"Having said that, this year we had a great start, then about midseason we seemed to struggle, and then we kind of gained momentum in the third-down area. It's just such a key to the game because third-down stops prevent exposure."
The inability of the defense to win some of those battles was crucial to Green Bay's victory.
"The more often you show your hand, you show your game plan, and offenses can take advantage of you," VanGorder said. "Getting off the field in those situations is crucial. We have improved. But we want to be the best on third down."
The Falcons' pass defense improved from 28th in 2009 to 22nd. Chicago has the worst pass defense (20th) of the remaining defenses. Green Bay (fifth) and New York (sixth) are in the top 10. Pittsburgh is ranked 12th.
Smith and his staff often point out that coverage and pass rush work together. Looking at the playoff teams, the Falcons' coverage and the rush also must improve.
Three of the four remaining playoff teams rank in the top 10 in sacks: Pittsburgh (first, 48 sacks), Green Bay (second, 47) and New York (eight, 40). Chicago ranks 17th with 34 sacks. The Falcons are still looking for a legitimate pass rusher opposite defensive end John Abraham, who had 31 sacks, 20th in the league.
In addition to sacks, Smith and his staff also look at quarterback hits and hurries. But after Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers combined to dodge 12 hurries in the Falcons' past two losses, the Falcons would be better served by the actual sack.
"There were a number of opportunities, especially on third down [against Green Bay], where we had opportunities to make plays, and we didn’t get them down," Smith said. "We had four opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground."
On offense, the Falcons compare favorably to the remaining teams. Green Bay (ninth), New York (11th), Pittsburgh (14th) and Chicago (30th) cover a wide range in total offense. The Falcons were 16th.
The Falcons led the NFL in third-down conversions at 47 percent. Pittsburgh (sixth) and Green Bay (eighth) were in the top 10 while New York (15th) and Chicago (27th) were not.
Smith and his staff must coach the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl next week, which will delay a bit their offseason work.
"The week of the Super Bowl, we’ll do a system analysis in terms of evaluating everything that we do from top to bottom," Smith said.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - cnasty - 01-19-2011 12:35 PM
Looking objectively at our team now, I can see that we lack talent in some very important positions. When you step back and look at the remaining teams in the playoffs, you see that they have absolute playmakers scattered throughout the field on the defensive side of the ball. I could go through and name every single one, but I don't think it's necessary. We know they are there. Who do we have on our D that can really change a game? Abe? Maybe. Grimes? Every now and then, it's possible. But when you take the homer glasses off, we have a bunch of names that your average Joe Blow NFL fan from St. Louis or wherever wouldn't be able to pick out of a multiple choice question. I do believe our youngsters have potential, don't get me wrong. I looooove our squad as it stands right now, I often just find me asking myself "is it good enough?"
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - KJinCton - 01-19-2011 08:45 PM
Without fact checking everything above...i have to say that article was one of the better ones from D Led this year.
I kept thinking our defense had enough to do the job, but Saturday proved different. I don't know if it was the gameplan or the personnel. but we sucked it up big time. Our coaches are good at what they do though and I can see them making adjustments in the offseason to turn this around.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - takeitdown - 01-19-2011 09:43 PM
We lack playmakers on both sides of the ball.
We were a bottom 1/3 team in yards per play on offense, and defense.
So, 3rd down D needs to get better, but big plays definitely need to get better on offense. Still a good bit of work to do.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - Radical - 01-19-2011 09:47 PM
What killed us more than anything last week was Chris fucking Owens. Just terrible.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - Jesus - 01-19-2011 09:50 PM
We weren't as bad as Saturday demonstrated. Just failed miserably at all facets of the game and Green Bay took advantage. It was one to grow on.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - The Falcon Jedi - 01-19-2011 10:11 PM
I think it's more the pass coverage schemes. They didnt work.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - kane#7 - 01-19-2011 10:35 PM
Love this article we need a few more pieces on D if I could get anything this off season it would be a DE who can rush the passer from week 1
That has to be priority number 1 for this team.
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - g-dawg - 01-22-2011 12:08 PM
RE: Falcons' defense not statistically up to par with final four teams - nativefalcon - 01-23-2011 12:06 AM
(01-19-2011 09:43 PM)takeitdown Wrote: We lack playmakers on both sides of the ball.
We just need a couple more playmakers on both sides of the ball. We knew the problems of our team, homerism aside, we needed a bookend wideout for roddy, we needed a scat back. And we need another DE that can help Abe and the CB issues of course.
The falcons hid their warts well during the year, but Green bay, exposed the Warts for all the world to see.
Green Bay and had that mega shootout in the playoffs and lost I forget what year, thats when they did their massive changeover to their defense because thats what lost them that game and it paid off. Thats what we need to do, quit being cheap about it and get some playmakers, get the rookies of course, but pay for some veterans to help us get over the hump.