Dec 30, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Seahaws defense is big. They’re physical. They’re fast. They’ve been outstanding. And they could provide some real problems for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Look at every level. On the defensive line they are massive. On Sunday they will be missing defensive end Chris Clemons, but they still have a really big defensive line, and with rookie Bruce Irvin filling in for the injured Clemons, still boast some pass-rushing ability. And they aren’t going to suffer people in the run game.
At the linebacker level, Seattle is also strong. K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill are fine players, the but real key is rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The second round pick is extremely fast, hits hard, and got in on 140 tackles in 2012, showing he is a sure tackler. He also calls plays to the defense. Great player.
And everyone seems to know about Seattle’s secondary. Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. Chancellor is huge, Browner and Sherman can jam just about any receiver at the line, and Thomas can play the deep ball as well as any safety in the entire NFL.
The Falcons clearly have their hands full. I just went on for 200+ words about the mesmerizing physical talent Seattle has. But the Falcons have a couple tools that can really help keep Matt Ryan upright, and help give time for the intermediate and deep routes to develop.
Those tools are the screen pass and the no-huddle.
As good as Seattle’s defensive line is, they aren’t super athletic or fast. They had added speed and power in Clemons, but without him their lone speed-rushing d-lineman is Irvin. The Seattle linebackers won’t like to stay on the field for long periods of time. And what better way can you take away the Seahawks strength in the secondary than quickly getting the ball in the hands of your playmakers and forcing Seattle to run sideline to sideline attempting to make tackles on screen passes?
I can’t imagine a better way to do things. The screen passes will help to exhaust Seattle’s defensive line, garnering Matt Ryan more time to work in the pocket. It will also force Seattle’s defensive backs up to try to stop the screen, improving the chances of someone getting forgotten in coverage and open for a significant gain. It also forces the linebackers to react quickly in one direction, getting them overly aggressive and allowing for the possibility of a draw play.
Not only will calling the screen pass help take pressure off of Ryan, but it will help exhaust Seattle’s defense. And that’s when the Falcons can open up their no-huddle attack.
No-huddle is used in two ways. The first is to wear down and tire out defensive players. But the primary use is to keep specific defenders on the field, and then wear them down. The Falcons have been very successful in 2012 when operating the no-huddle attack, and using it in the divisional round of the playoffs is the best place to use it heavily. Especially at home.
Imagine if Seattle gets caught with an extra linebacker on the field matched up with a much faster Atlanta receiver. Matt Ryan can initiate the no-huddle, take advantage of the Falcons speed, keep that specific Seattle defense on the field, and wear them out, or take advantage of them tactically.
Now I’m not saying that the Falcons use of this will be ultra successful, or that it will guarantee a clean pocket for Ryan all game long. But using the no-huddle and the screen pass will only serve to help Ryan out, and take pressure off of the line and allow the receivers time to get open. And really, that’s the name of the game in Atlanta these days.