Every week, Blogging Dirty takes a look at the games within each game that make the difference for the Atlanta Falcons. Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles will be no different. Here are the matchups that will make the biggest difference for the Falcons in Philly:
Quarterback Matt Ryan vs. Philadelphia Cornerbacks: Eagles cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Brandon Boykin are going to go up against the Falcons receiving corps and try to slow them down. The receivers are going to have to do their own thing getting off the jam and creating separation, but the job will be on Matt Ryan to get the ball to his receivers, to be on the exact same page with them and what they’re doing against the coverage, and putting the ball at the spot where only his receiver can make the catch. That’s probably the biggest thing, as the Eagles corners can play the ball really well. Ryan has to do everything he can to make sure only his guys can make a play on the ball. If he gets the ball away and doesn’t turn it over to these corners in man-to-man coverage, it will really work in the Falcons favor.
Atlanta’s OTs Baker & Clabo vs. Philadelphia’s DEs Trent Cole and Jason Babin: If you think back to week 2 of the 2011 season, Philadelphia sacked Matt Ryan 4 times, and two of them came from DT Cullen Jenkins, but the real damage was from the 1 sack a piece an countless hits dealt to Ryan by Philly’s defensive end duo. In 2011, Cole and Babin were terrors when they were allowed to tee off on opponents quarterbacks. So far this year, they haven’t been productive. Tyson Clabo isn’t playing particularly well, but on the other hand Sam Baker is playing extremely well. It will be interesting to see how the Atlanta tackles block the defensive ends on obvious passing downs and situations.
Falcons run defense vs. LeSean McCoy: The Falcons have been absolutely miserable defending the run in 2012 (143 yards per game, 28th in the NFL), something they have been good at in past seasons. The Eagles have a very talented back in LeSean McCoy, but they don’t always fully utilize him as Andy Reid focuses strongly on throwing the ball. I expect the Eagles to really commit to handing the ball to McCoy, which means that DTs Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry, as well as LBs Stephen Nicholas & Sean Weatherspoon (including Akeem Dent when he’s on the field) need to do a really good job of filling all of the gaps in the run game. Not letting McCoy average 5.2 yards per carry is critical. I would expect McCoy to have a few large gaining runs, but they can’t let him consistently get large amounts of yardage every time he touches the ball.
Falcons receivers separating vs. Eagles DBs: As old as Tony Gonzalez is, I’m not so much concerned with him separating against the Philly linebackers or some middle of the road safeties. What does need to happen is for Atlanta’s two big outside receivers to really step up, and gain every inch of separation they can gather against Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. Roddy White and Julio Jones need to make good, sharp breaks in and out of routes, and setting up the corners will pay dividends as the day wears on through double moves and the like. A good effort by the receivers will ensure that a very good effort by Matt Ryan does not go un-rewarded.
Falcons & Eagles vs. the weather: Both teams are going to be exposed to the elements on Sunday, and I think that’s just a matter of life that teams are going to have to deal with. When foul weather comes the way of an outdoor football game, it really benefits the defenses, as well as the running game. The key will be for the Falcons to run the ball effectively, and maybe cause a defensive back to fall down by calling a double move with Roddy White or Julio Jones. When Atlanta actually throws the ball, they have to do so very effectively. There can’t be any ducks thrown up in the air, and every completion is more precious than in a normal week. Fighting the elements will be a huge deal.