The challenges going through the Atlanta Falcons protection this week after they sq. off towards the Carolina Panthers are significantly lower than they noticed in final week’s beatdown by the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. Nevertheless, the Panthers offense will problem the Falcons in areas the place they’ve had earlier struggles. Their potential to indicate progress will inform us not solely in regards to the effectiveness of their defensive teaching workers, but in addition give them a chance to begin constructing a optimistic defensive tradition.
A kind of areas of difficulty is defending screens, the place the Falcons had been gashed by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. Per Professional Soccer Focus, 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo accomplished all seven of his tried display screen passes in that sport for 48 yards and a landing. That gave him the best passer ranking (134.8) on screens in that week.
The Falcons aren’t alone of their struggles to deal with the 49ers’ display screen sport, as that Week 6 matchup marked the fifth consecutive week through which Garoppolo sported a passer ranking above 100 on display screen passes.
However usually, the Falcons haven’t been nice defending shorter throws. Soccer Outsiders ranks them twenty ninth in defensive DVOA on passes below 15 yards, and so they additionally rank thirty first by way of yards given up on such throws.
After all, Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely be fast to level out that the solely stat he cares about is factors allowed. Conceding beneath throws jives together with his “bend however don’t break” defensive philosophy so long as the crew is holding factors off the scoreboard. Notably, the Falcons have been very efficient implementing that doctrine for the previous 5 video games. Since Week 2, their defensive red-zone effectivity of 47.4 p.c is tenth finest within the NFL.
Large performs had been back-breaking to Falcons protection final week
Nevertheless, these ideas had been put to the take a look at final week towards the Bengals, because the Falcons protection did a number of breaking by giving up ten explosive performs of 20 yards or extra. To Pees, conceding chunk performs is unacceptable, particularly when three of them resulted in scores.
Atlanta’s subsequent opponent within the Panthers had greater than their fair proportion of explosive performs final week of their shocking 21-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers had seven performs of 20 or extra yards in that sport, which was exceptional for 2 causes.
The primary is that only a few groups ever have that a lot success carving up the Todd Bowles-led Bucs protection. Since Bowles took over defensive play-calling in 2019, solely two groups have had seven or extra explosive performs towards his squad: the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in 2020 and the Josh Allen-led Buffalo Payments in 2021. That definitely places Panthers starter P.J. Walker in uncommon firm.
The second cause is that it was such a departure from what the Panthers had executed in earlier performances. Getting into Week 7, the Panthers solely had 15 explosive performs, which was tied for the second-fewest within the league.
Due to this fact, we should conclude both that Walker’s current ascendancy as beginning quarterback is both about to usher in a brand new period of a high-flying Panthers passing assault, or that final Sunday’s efficiency was an outlier.
In the intervening time, I’ll lean in direction of the latter conclusion, particularly because the Panthers had been extraordinarily reluctant to push the ball down the sphere throughout Walker’s first begin of the season towards the Los Angeles Rams only a week prior. Their sport plan centered virtually solely round display screen passes, with Walker solely making an attempt a single cross that traveled greater than 9 yards within the air and failing to finish any that traveled greater than two yards.
Anticipate a heavy dosage of screens from Panthers
In reality, in his two mixed begins, the Panthers have dialed up extra screens than another offense within the leaguem in keeping with Professional Soccer Focus. They’ve run 17 screens over the previous two video games, accounting for roughly 40 p.c of Walker’s dropbacks. Even final week, with Walker being “unleashed,” they nonetheless tried screens on 25 p.c of his throws, which is a excessive frequency by NFL requirements.
Due to this fact, Carolina’s offense presents an unorthodox mixture of challenges for Atlanta’s protection. Given final week’s outcomes for each groups, the Panthers will possible try to gash the Falcons for large positive factors, whereas additionally mixing in numerous screens. If the previous two weeks’ outcomes inform us something, the Falcons protection is susceptible to each.
There’s after all cause to be optimistic that the Falcons will rebound with regards to decreasing the quantity of explosive performs this week. The Panthers don’t sport the caliber of receivers that the Bengals do. Additionally, the Falcons did present enchancment towards the 49ers’ screens within the second half after making in-game changes. Garoppolo accomplished simply two screens after halftime for under 4 yards.
It received’t be tough for Pees to instill the significance of these hard-learned classes from current video games. If he’s profitable at doing so and the Falcons are capable of decelerate each the Panthers’ display screen sport and explosive performs, it will likely be a terrific signal of progress for this protection.
Because the Falcons teaching workers acknowledges, the protection could by no means dazzle anyone on the stat sheet or field rating. The place they will impress is by being acknowledged as well-coached and disciplined. This week, that can manifest if they will enhance on weaknesses and proper points which have plagued them in current outings.
Ought to they succeed, it would enhance confidence that with additional growth and an infusion of added expertise, the repute of this protection will develop into much more fearsome. That notoriety and optimistic tradition change may begin towards the Panthers.