The New Orleans Saints will face a familiar foe this weekend, the Atlanta Falcons, in their first match-up of the season. As division rivals, these two teams see each other at least twice a year.
This particular game means a lot for both teams. Both are 1-1, coming off of close wins this past week. New Orleans is looking for a chance to go to 1-1 in division play, with the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers week one soiling the chance at being perfect in the division. Atlanta looks to go to 2-0 in divisional play with their win over the Carolina Panthers last week providing an edge over the Saints.
It’s a good day to break down some of the Falcons play, and see what exactly the Saints are up against. Here’s a dive at the last couple of weeks from Atlanta.
Play One: @ Philadelphia. 1st Quarter, 7:01
Falcons ball. 2nd and 13 from the Philadelphia 36. Even 0-0.
The Falcons offense is coordinated by former USC head coach and Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian. Atlanta still likes to run a lot of college type schemes, usually sprinkling those type of space plays with the conventional NFL offense. It’s an offense that sometimes seems to lack an identity, and in the Eagles game, it was very apparent.
However, look at this play particularly. Atlanta finds themselves in a position remarkably similar to New Orleans. They have their tough, bell cow running back unable to play and a speedy receiver/runner playing in the backfield in Tevin Coleman. Sarkisian is going to scheme Coleman the same way we talked about Alvin Kamara getting schemed into the Saints offense in yesterdays article.
This play design is simply to give Coleman space along the perimeter. Calvin Ridley is going to go in motion and fake the reverse hand-off. This motion forces the defense to put a man against Ridley to stop him from catching on the bubble screen. Julio Jones, who is lined up in the slot, runs a clear-out route to the deep corner of the field from left to right. To a defense, this looks like a levels concept. Levels is when receivers all work to one side of the field in five to ten yard spaces, and allows the quarterback to look through progressions easier.
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) September 7, 2018
Coleman sneaks out of the backfield and sits on the opposite end. Quarterback Matt Ryan looked to the right to move the defense before coming back to the left and floating the pass for Coleman. That white zone in the diagram is the zone where the offensive linemen sneak out to set up blocks for Coleman. Just like that, Coleman has all the space in the world with his speed down the sideline.
What can New Orleans do to stop this?
Alex Anzelone is probably the fastest linebacker on the team. Let him spy Coleman the majority of the game and he can make plays on the outside one on one to prevent Coleman from getting too much space. The Saints will have to play disciplined.
Play Two: @ Philadelphia. 1st Quarter, 3:07
Eagles ball. 1st and 10 from the Philadelphia 43. Falcons lead 3-0.
The Falcons might struggle on offense some games still, but their defense is just fine. Head coach Dan Quinn got the job in Atlanta because of his work as the defensive coordinator in Seattle with the Legion Of Boom back in the day.
Quinn has an innate ability to make defenses look very confusing to opposing quarterbacks. Here’s the look he gave Nick Foles week one on this particular first down.
It appears to be man to man coverage across the board. The black lines represent what Foles thinks he is looking at. It looks like the outside linebackers are both coming on a blitz and that everyone else is in man.
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) September 7, 2018
Foles was right. It was man coverage across the board. The only thing he was wrong about was who was actually covering his receiver in the slot.
Brian Poole was lined up on DeAndre Carter, the closest receiver to the line of scrimmage. The outside linebacker, De’Vondre Campbell, did come on a blitz, only he stunted inside. The right tackle, Lane Johnson, followed Campbell, and didn’t recognize that Poole was actually coming on a blitz.
The right guard, Brandon Brooks, went after the Campbell here too. The defensive end on that side, Vic Beasley actually peels back into coverage, and that’s the gap that Campbell attacks. Poole basically came off the edge untouched.
See how Quinn confused everyone so effectively on this play? That’s the kind of defense he brings to the table every play.
How can the Saints stop this?
The blitz by Poole left Carter open out of the slot. Technically, he was still covered by a defensive lineman, but let’s face it. Wide receivers can get away from that coverage with a little out route toward the sideline. If the Saints keep Kamara close to Brees as a check down option, I don’t think that the Saints will deal with too many sacks on plays like this.
Foles could have beat this play had he seen the blitz coming. However, the confusion it causes leaves quarterbacks with very limited time to recognize what’s going on before the play bears down on them.
Play Three: Vs Panthers. 2nd Quarter, 7:13
Falcons Ball. 2nd and 10 from the Atlanta 40. Panthers lead 10-3.
The Falcons have a knack for breaking big runs with Tevin Coleman in the game. Kamara might have dominated the film study yesterday, and today in much of the same way, Coleman dominates this article. Take a look at this diagram.
So this is a basic dive play, as the offensive line is simply looking to contain the defensive line. There are no assigned blocks that go into the second level to take out linebackers or intruding safeties. The defense has six men in the box, playing to contain the passing threat with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the field.
Basically, the Falcons are going to double team the defensive tackles and let the end players take on the ends. Coleman goes to hit the hole and sees the entire right side of the line open up. Look at the nifty little moves he pulls off to get himself into space.
Tevin Coleman with a mean move for 36 pic.twitter.com/YndL9VRgSp
— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) September 16, 2018
See how he sees the crease and then is off to the races? Coleman’s field vision is seriously underrated. It was a slight mismatch because of the lack of people in the box even with a fullback in the game for the Falcons but still. He almost torched the entire team. That play is Tevin Coleman making things happen.
How can the Saints stop this?
They need to keep the box loaded and play disciplined football. The secondary that the Saints have is pretty good on paper. Marcus Lattimore was one of the better corners in the league last year, and seemed to recapture some of his form in the win over Cleveland. Ken Crawley is improving each day on the other end, and the safeties look fine with Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. It’s time to trust them and force Matt Ryan to beat them with his arm.
What weaknesses have the Falcons shown so far?
Against the Eagles in week one, Matt Ryan just looked off. His timing was off for the majority of the game, his ball placement wasn’t there, and it really limited the success that the team’s offense had. He looked better week two, but Ryan has been off many times throughout his career. Which Matt Ryan will show up?
The Falcons have lost safety Keanu Neal to a torn ACL and linebacker Deion Jones is out for an extended period of time as well. The Saints need to use their passing attack and go after the middle of the field with Ben Watson and Michael Thomas.
The Saints have a very good fighting chance in this one.
Special thanks to FOX Sports, NBC Sports and NFL for image content.
Main Image:Embed from Getty Images