On September 22, 2019 the Atlanta Falcons will travel to Indianapolis to take on our Colts. In this week three match-up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our Colts.
The last time these two teams met in November of 2015, our Colts came out on top 24 to 21. Since 1966 these two teams have met 16 times and if you thought the Colts record against the Titans is impressive, well, it doesn’t hold a candle to the 14-2 all time record our Colts hold over these Falcons. Unfortunately for us those 16 games don’t mean much when it comes to this Sunday’s game. Hopefully the boys in blue can add to their illustrious record.
Let’s figure out what we can expect in Week three.
Surprise, surprise it’s the 4-3 under single high safety, Seahawks-esque defense, once again. I’ve written essentially the same thing about this style of defense here, here, here, here, here, here and here. So if you want to know the basics of this style of defense, click any of those links. Everything I’m about to show you is based off of the same ideas that created that system, just more current for these Falcons. After watching the tape, the coverages used are still mostly cover three or man coverage with a single high safety, so if you want a refresh of this information too, again click one of those links, any of them.
To look at a few of the differences between their “base” defense and the defense they run basically all the time, comes down to the number of defensive backs on the field. Shocking, I know. I’m not breaking any news, nickle and dime defenses make sense in 2019 more often than not and the Falcons realize this. This is the Falcons new “base” set:
Granted they do adjust their gap alignment, this is the look we can probably expect to see most of the time this Sunday. The majority of the time the EDGE defenders don’t have a hand in the dirt, not that it really matters, their job doesn’t really change either way. Now some people are going to look at this picture and they’re going to believe they’ve figured out why the Vikings were able to run all over the Falcons in week one, clearly it’s the massive gaps they’re just freely giving up before the snap, right?
The Vikings absolutely destroyed the Falcons on the ground but they did so because they ran the ball outside and had several long runs as a result. The Eagles on the other hand tried time after time to run the ball inside and found limited success doing so. Here’s just one example, if you want to see pre-snap, look up:
At the snap the tight end comes across the formation to try to make contact with the backside defensive end who went unblocked by design. This is a split zone run. The Falcons defenders get their eyes in the backfield and fight for position.
Please remember, still photos don’t always provide the most accurate perspective. For instance, this photo makes it seem as if the running back has a hole open right in front of him. He doesn’t. Linebacker Deion Jones #45 is coming from left to right and that running back can’t teleport so as Jones continues his momentum to the right, there really isn’t a hole.
This photo shows that the back realizes there’s no hole there as he reads his blocks and tries to make a decision.
The back sees a crease open up and goes towards it.
The bad news for the Eagles is that the Falcons defensive line and linebackers see the back declare and begin to get off their blocks to prepare to make a stop.
By my count that’s four defenders who were able to get off of their blocks and in position to make a stop. Game over.
The Falcons use a lot of two-gapping schemes like the one above and their defensive line is, generally, good at it. The fact that each of these men can play two gaps on every play at a high level, means that those wide splits don’t mean much. If this team were worse at this, the Eagles wouldn’t have rushed 21 times for 49 yards.
But what about the Vikings!?
The Vikings did a good job of getting wide and breaking contain around the outside. They couldn’t really move the ball on the ground between the tackles. There’s a very good reason for that and he wears number 97.
Three seasons ago Vic Beasley Jr. had 15.5 sacks and he looked like he was about to take off and challenge for the yearly sack title for the next decade. Instead, for the past two seasons Beasley hasn’t pulled in more than 5 sacks and hasn’t started in double digit games since that famed 15.5 sack season in 2016.
On the other side of him is Takkarist McKinley who is still most famous for his draft night performance by bringing a picture of his grandmother on stage and going on an emotional rant. Takk’s first two seasons have been somewhat of a disappointment logging just 13 sacks in that span.
Tyeler Davison is a fine defensive tackle who will see snaps on Sunday, but I’ve saved the guy I want to talk about most, for last.
After studying this defense I can safely say Grady Jarrett is a legitimate superstar defensive tackle. He’s a dominating force inside and I’m really not exaggerating when I say this; he’s almost the entire reason the Falcons beat the Eagles. Jarrett embarrassed Eagles left guard, Isaac Seumalo all day long. It was as thorough a beating as I’ve seen but it doesn’t show that way in the box score. I assure you, it could almost be considered assault, the only way Seumalo is getting out of film study of this game is if he decides to press charges, if I were him I would strongly consider it.
Just watch the left guard:
Falcons pass rush 1 pic.twitter.com/ARmesmaj6p— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
Jarrett is like anti-Quenton Nelson. He’s big, strong, quick, and downright disrespectful. I wish he played for the Colts.
Now, notice where this play goes:
Falcons, Dalvin Cook is a big fan of Tak's contain on this play. pic.twitter.com/bnAFoesVd3— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
The Vikings did the smart thing and ran the ball away from Grady Jarrett most of the day.
I know you might be thinking that it’s a good thing we have Quenton Nelson, and while that doesn’t hurt, the Falcons will move Jarrett around to get the match-up they want and I’m afraid that means Mark Glowinski is going to get beaten like a rug.
We’re going to see a lot of De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones. Campbell is the bigger of the two and will be asked to do less in coverage than Jones. Deion Jones is an undersized but very athletic linebacker that fits perfectly with modern NFL defenses. He’s an elite coverage linebacker and we should expect to see him all over the field.
Campbell steps up
Falcons, DeVondre Campbell knifes into his gap to make the stop. pic.twitter.com/cGM9HVS7TI— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
Despite the fact that Grady Jarrett wasn’t on the field, Campbell stepped up and made a play when his team needed a stop.
Moving the line:
Falcons, no one gets off their block. Big play for Cook. pic.twitter.com/iIMrcOuYZK— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
The Vikings do a good job of stretching out the Falcons defenders and exploiting their inability to get off of their blocks and fill their gaps. The result is a big play for the offense. Moving laterally and trying to get outside was key for the Vikings run game.
The Falcons linebackers are athletic and are usually good for a couple splash plays per game. If the Colts offensive line can get a hat on them early, there’s a strong possibility they won’t be able to get off of those blocks and the second level of the defense will suddenly be wide open.
Defensive Backs to know: Isaiah Oliver, Desmond Trufant, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and Damontae Kazee.
I think I like the idea of this group of defensive backs more than I actually like them. Their safeties are solid, Desmond Trufant is still a good corner while Isaiah Oliver, the second year player out of Colorado has looked pretty average. I noticed some blown coverage in the Eagles game that Carson Wentz never saw, so while they didn’t have to pay a heavy price for their mistakes, eventually someone will capitalize on them, I’m not sure if the guy to do that is Jacoby Brissett but I did make a note that the opportunity may be there.
Really well timed:
Falcons DB blitz, pressure causes INT pic.twitter.com/SZPdJHXUyS— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
This blitz was really well timed and obviously it wasn’t something Wentz was prepared to face on this down. This isn’t something I saw often but given Brissett’s label as a new starter, I do expect the Falcons to pull out all the stops to try to force him to make mistakes just as Wentz did here.
Brissett has to watch for these kinds of opportunities
Falcons, single high safety. Eagles had a good play called to beat this defensive look on 3rd and 1. No chance the deep safety could make it over and the slot CB couldn't break on the out route in time. The underneath drag route removes the outside CB from the play, easy 1st down pic.twitter.com/UCHF9BhgjH— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
The route combination on the outside made this coverage perfect for the Eagles. Had the receiver been able to break a tackle, he’s probably going to score six points.
Not all stats are what they seem
Falcons receiving a gift from a very thoughtful Carson Wentz pic.twitter.com/bqtx8OPKoF— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 17, 2019
Sometimes you have to battle really hard and out jump a receiver, sometimes, you take a break and sit down on the field and either way sometimes you get an interception.
This Falcons secondary has enough talent to give our receivers fits, that said I’m not sure they’ve come together enough to make the most of their talent. If Jacoby Brissett trusts what he sees and starts getting his passes out sooner, this could be a nice day for the Colts offense.
Outside of Grady Jarrett I’m not sure Frank Reich is going to lose much sleep worrying about Falcons defenders to plan around. Deion Jones and Desmond Trufant are both nice players but their impact doesn’t hold a candle to what someone like Jarrett is capable of if the Colts don’t have a solid executable plan.
I’m not sure the 2019 Indianapolis Colts are capable of winning a shoot-out style game. I’m not sure they’re even capable of participating in a shoot-out. I do think this will be a good opportunity for the Colts offense to look better than they’ve looked all year, on the other hand, this Falcons defense isn’t bad. This game will be tough to predict.