The Rams are set to take on the Falcons on Saturday at 5:15 PDT in the Coliseum. Ahead of this matchup, we are going to take a deep dive into the Falcons and break them down.
The Atlanta offense begins with the man under center, Matt Ryan. Last season’s NFL MVP, Ryan posted very strong numbers and passed for almost 5,000 yards in 2016. That performance allowed the quarterback out of Boston College to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl, where they fell apart in astounding fashion.
Ryan is most talented throwing intermediate routes, doing so very accurately. While he has the ability to throw the long ball, Ryan lacks the arm strength to completely take the top off of a defense. However, that does not stop the quarterback from taking the occasional deep shot to star wide receiver, Julio Jones. While Jones has had a down year in terms of touchdowns, just three in the regular season, he has continued to be dominant in terms of yardage.
The Falcons are also not afraid to call a trick play or two, and they have the perfect player for it. Mohamed Sanu is a talented number two receiver for the Falcons who also has the ability to throw the ball when trickeration is afoot. On his career, Sanu is six-for-six for 228 yards and three touchdowns. A quarterback in college, the Rams must be aware of Sanu’s ability beyond the wide receiver position.
The Falcons use a running back by committee approach, and it works quite well for them. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have flourished in the past few seasons to become a true two-headed monster. A factor in both the run and the pass game, Freeman and Coleman have an ability to rack up all-purpose yards.
Freeman is a back that is deceptively strong for his overall size, thanks in large part to his compact build. He has good visibility in the hole and makes good cuts, but is not afraid to drop his shoulder to get a yard. Something that may help the Rams is that Freeman is not a speedster, which means he may be unable to hit the home run play that L.A. has been prone to.
Coleman does not mess around once the ball is in his hand, he gets up the field right away. Unlike Freeman, Coleman has the ability to hit the home run. This poses an issue for the Rams defense, and fans may be more tense every play that Coleman is on the field instead of Freeman.
The Rams receivers will have to work hard to break free against a fast Falcons secondary. That secondary includes cornerback Desmond Trufant who had a very impressive year in 2016. Trufant has not been as impressive in 2017 but still has the ability to make a big play given his speed and ability to break on the ball.
A staple of the Rams pass game is the screen, and the Falcons defend it incredibly well. This screen defense starts with the speed of middle linebacker Deion Jones, which allows the young linebacker to get sideline-to-sideline. The Rams offensive lineman will need to look for Jones sweeping underneath and getting to Todd Gurley from behind thanks to his speed on Saturday night, as he has done so successfully all season.
The speed of Jones will also be a factor when Gurley looks to run to the outside. However, the Falcons also rely on their big men inside to close running lanes and force running backs to bounce runs. Luckily, they have one of the best lane-closers in the business in Dontari Poe. Combined with stunts from fellow defensive tackle Grady Jarrett the Falcons do a good job of closing up interior rushing lanes.
Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby man the ends for the Falcons, setting the edge in the run game.
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