The Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator knows the New England offense is good, but says his unit has the personnel to handle such a challenge.
Defensive coordinator Richard Smith believes the upgrades in size and speed give the Atlanta Falcons plenty of ammunition on defense. He acknowledges the tall task ahead of Super Bowl 51, but believes the Falcons can stop the offensive juggernaut of the New England Patriots.
“They have a large playbook,” Smith said the Patriots on Wednesday. “I think they try to see what you and try to see what your weaknesses are and try to attack them, just like any other team.”
Smith alluded to maturation when asked about the progression of his defense throughout the season. He specifically discussed Jalen Collins and how much he’s stepped up to fill the void left by Desmond Trufant’s injury. Collins was “beat on one route” last week, said Smith, but “[Jalen] didn’t hang his head…he came right back”.
What Smith is saying about Collins has been an overlying theme for the defense down the stretch. They have made mistakes and given up big plays, but Atlanta’s defense doesn’t give up on drives. Green Bay drove 50 yards to begin the 2nd quarter last Sunday when near the goal line, Collins stripped the ball from Aaron Ripkowski. The turnover produced seven more points for the Falcons and added to the collective confidence of Smith’s unit.
New England should be worried about an opposing defense that is as aggressive when the ball is along the goal line.
“[The Patriots] have a special football team in terms of the people, and I feel the same when you look at our football team”, Smith told the media. “The closeness [the Patriots] have when it comes to producing at a high level is the same thing Coach Quinn has created here.”
Attacking weaknesses of an opponent’s defense is no secret, but it’s something the New England Patriots do better than most. The Patriots didn’t waste time last week picking apart the older, slower Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Pittsburgh played a lot of zone coverage from their Nickel package. It was a game plan New England receiver Chris Hogan said his team saw coming.
“We knew that they were going to be playing a lot of zones and that just goes back to all the preparation that we put in during the week,” Hogan said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We put in our game plan [which] was to beat zone.”
Hogan was Brady’s primary receiver on the day, catching nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Allowing Tom Brady to sit in the pocket and go through progressions is a mistake the Atlanta Falcons can’t afford. Brady has to be taken out of his comfort zone the same way Aaron Rodgers was during the NFC Championship. Richard Smith game-planned for his Falcons to get to Rodgers early and keep Green Bay’s offense out of rhythm. It was a plan that worked near-perfect throughout the first half.
The Packers’ first drive was three-and-out after Deion Jones’s blitz up the middle forced Rodgers to throw the ball away. Jones didn’t show blitz, but was quick enough to get to Rodgers before he found a target. Green Bay’s quarterback was very unsettled in the first two quarters and found his team down 24-0 at halftime.
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Brady is in trouble if Smith’s defense puts the hits on him they laid on Rodgers a week ago. Brady certainly doesn’t enjoy being put onto the turf any more than the Packer quarterback does.