Q&A: Armstrong has a speed trap for Sproles

Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong units were ranked second in the league last season by FootballOutsiders.com    Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong units were ranked second in the league last season by FootballOutsiders.com Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Heading into the NFC South showdown with the Saints, the Falcons’ special teams are playing well.

They did have the blocked punt against Jacksonville, but special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and coach Mike Smith noted that it was a mental error along the front line that was the problem.

His coverage units will be on the spot against dangerous returner Darren Sproles on Monday. Sproles is averaging 9.6 yards on punt returns and has a 72-yard touchdown. On kickoff returns, he’s ranked fourth in the NFC and seventh in the league, averaging 26.1 yards per return.

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Armstrong on Wednesday:

 (The Georgia and Georgia Tech guys mixing it up at practice!) Atlanta Falcons fullback Lucas Cox, right, is covered by linebacker Akeem Dent during a passing drill at NFL football training camp Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(The Georgia and Georgia Tech guys mixing it up at practice!) Atlanta Falcons fullback Lucas Cox, right, is covered by linebacker Akeem Dent during a passing drill at NFL football training camp Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ON AKEEM DENT WHO LEADS THE TEAM WITH 16 SPECIAL TEAMS TACKLES: He’s doing a nice job. He’s been productive. He studies. He puts his time in. He’s really learning and starting to grow. He’s starting to make some decisions on the field. He’s starting to look like a vet. He just needs to keep playing at a high level. Keep playing with a lot of energy. He’s physical. He’s everything that you look for in a young cover guy. He can run and he likes to hit. He doesn’t get in any physical mismatches because of his size. He’s been a big plus for us.

ON WEEMS AND SCHILLINGER, THE SECOND AND THIRD LEADING TACKLERS: Eric always does a good job for us. He leads by example. He’s an aggressive football player. He’s doing a nice job for us. Shann has improved from last year to this year. He has escaped some single blocks and is starting to get some production.

ON KEYS WHEN FACING A BIG RETURN GUY LIKE DARREN SPROLES: I think it’s total team coverage. (Aside: Coach sounds like my insurance guy, right here!) You can’t expect one guy to get there and make the play. It’s a combination of things. We have to place the ball. We have to create hang-time. Now, with all of that being said and done, that just sets the parameters. Now, what you need to do is get off of blocks, gang tackle this guy and get him on the ground. You can’t expect one person to make the play.

ON THE BLOCKED PUNT AGAINST JACKSONVILLE: The get-off was fine. (Bosher got the punt  off in 2.08 seconds.) Everybody says 2.0, but that’s clinic talk. If you are getting the ball off in 2.0 you’ve probably got a return coming back at you for 25 to 30 yards. We just got in a physical deal up front and we didn’t step into the block. That’s all, a mental error that we can’t make.

ON PLAYING WELL DOWN THE STRETCH: You’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders. We talk about it all the time. We’re not going to be the weak link. . . . What did you do? Did you score? Did you set

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) speaks with his son Tre Bryant, 5, before the first half. AP

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) speaks with his son Tre Bryant, 5, before the first half. AP

up a score? Before you open your mouth, did you score? Our goals are to score or set up a score. Which is what we got accomplished this past weekend and that started to open some things up. We’ve got to find ways to score and find ways to set up scores. Whether if it be takeaways, a long return or a form of a block. You could be rushing off the edge, you don’t block the kick, but they throw a flag. That came up in the last game. Find a way to affect the score. . . People always talk about field position. But field position is a team stat. If you really think about it, that’s a team stat. We can find ways to steal drives. We can find a way to create a play that will give our offense a (short field.)

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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73 comments Add your comment

tjhook

December 23rd, 2011
5:35 am

DOL, I hope you do a follow-up interview with Coach Armstrong about special-teams prioritization in the playoffs – since field position is so critical in the playoffs.

tjhook

December 23rd, 2011
5:36 am

Oh, and 1st!

JRS

December 23rd, 2011
7:08 am

Get to Drew Brees with the front 4 will get the Falcons a win , if you lay back in coverage he will pick up a part …. GO BIRDS…

Saints R.E.A.M.

December 23rd, 2011
7:14 am

JRS….clearly it can’t be that simple.

trademark

December 23rd, 2011
7:37 am

….unfortunately for us Falcons fans, Saints REAM is right again….$§%$§.
Nah, really, the key IS to get Drew Brees pressured, the question is, how exactly. IF the front 4 can get pressure, all the better, but considering the skill level and size of the Saints’ O-Line, the likelihood of that is pretty minimal. You can look all you want at how the Chiefs beat the Packers and the pressure they were able to create as an example of how to beat a pass-happy team, but the truth is, the Saints have LOTS of weapons, and daring them to beat you though the air is a risk. The Chiefs put up to 9 players on the line, dropping into coverage once they spotted the 5 step drop from Rodgers. They played press coverage with their corners to accomplish this. Problem is, if you press the Saints’ receivers (as so many on these blogs have suggested), they beat most corners one on one. And if you don’t get to Brees, you’re dead. So, what’s the answer? There really isn’t an easy one. truth is, Brees throws for a lot of yards against the Falcons’ D. It just is. The good thing to concentrate on, is that his point total isn’t as high as it normally is (see the last game in November). Look, this is why we opened up the offense in the first place, we’re GOING to get into a shooting match with the Saints on Monday night, chances are VERY likely that there’s no avoiding it. Just score more than 23 this time to get the W would be a good start. As far as stopping the Saints, well, be aggressive, active and alert and don’t let things get past you. Try like hell to limit the YAC, and TRY to get the linebackers involved sometimes on some random blitzes (PLEASE don’t send the corners BVG!). It’s gonna be a wild one.

HATinGA

December 23rd, 2011
7:40 am

It was the late 70s and I was 10 or 11 yrs old, my Dad and uncle were big Falcon fans and we were watching a Saints game that looked to be over with only a few seconds left. Steve B. heaved the ball 70yds in the air on a play that became known as Big Ben, they won the game and the falcons won a lifelong fan. The falcons have a history of beating the Saints in Great finishs, and Santa is going to bring my kids a saints finish to remember Monday Night!! Go Falcons!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 23rd, 2011
7:46 am

Saints R.E.A.M. and JRS — Here’s what Curtis Lofton told me yesterday we I against him about Brees (this quote will be in the Brees story I’m writing for Sunday, too!) LOFTON: “With Brees, you can’t just do one thing. You just can’t blitz him. You can’t just drop in coverage. We have to mix up our coverages and our blitzes.”

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 23rd, 2011
7:49 am


SERIES HISTORY:
This will be the 85th regular-season meeting. The Falcons lead series, 45-39. The Falcons won the last meeting in New Orleans, 27-24, in overtime. The Saints are 9-2 against the Falcons under coach Sean Payton and defeated the Falcons 26-23 in overtime earlier this season at the Georgia Dome.

trademark

December 23rd, 2011
8:20 am

DOL…Yeah, thanks, that what I just said, mix in random blitzes from the LBs, don’t send the corners, and contain….

Keeping it Real

December 23rd, 2011
8:21 am

DOL: It is really a shame that scumbags like Blove, SeenThisB4, and HiramSaint are allowed to ruin this blog. I know that they do this intentionally, but it seems sad that you cannot keep their posts off the blog and let Falcons followers enjoy discussing the team.

So504

December 23rd, 2011
8:35 am

Geaux saints! Bree’s cannot be game planed.

trademark

December 23rd, 2011
8:39 am

Keeping it Real; it isn’t just us, just Google “Saints troll” and watch the fireworks….they are the most scared, most obnoxious, most persistent trolls on the planet. And they probably take that as a compliment…it’s not they have anything else in their lives to be proud of….

So504

December 23rd, 2011
8:44 am

@trademark, exactly what I’m talkin bout, jealous.

[...] The rest of the article can be found here: Atlanta Falcons [...]

trademark

December 23rd, 2011
8:56 am

…jealous of what? I’m awesome! :)

I dunno, the Falcons’ D did pretty damned well against the Saints last time. I think with the extra rest and prep time, plus the excitement level, they can take it up another notch. Quick prediction; if we can keep them around 20-23 points again, we win this one. Otherwise, it’s gonna be tight.

jerry

December 23rd, 2011
9:03 am

Weems is 18th and 16th in kickoff and punt returns. Need an upgrade here.

The Boss

December 23rd, 2011
9:03 am

“Blove” , we sure can tell you were “educated” in NO. And something tells me you talk just like you express yourself on here. I am sure NO is proud! LMAO.

So504

December 23rd, 2011
9:05 am

I think drew is n a rhythm right now and he will be breaking the record, it will b tight though but we come out on top by a touchdown

william andrews - all purpose

December 23rd, 2011
9:08 am

You know it’s gonna be tight, lots of fun already lookin’ foward to it. This city needs somethin’ to get buzzed about.

THE INFAMOUS DK

December 23rd, 2011
9:09 am

I keep telling yall. The Aints are in decline. The arent the Aints they were a few years ago and we are getting better. Matt an Julio connecting. Matt and Roddy connecting. Matt and Quizz connecting. Just hold ya mules Falcon fans.. The universe is already righting itself. And the Aints will go back to being just like The Tampa Bay Succaneers. The Falcons are peaking at the right time. We are a few pieces from the superbowl. Quietly our run defense is off the charts. And our secondary is looking a little better. Then Optimus Grimes will be back out there so dont even bother responding to Aints fans they got voodoo and floods on the brain.. They dont know any better.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 23rd, 2011
9:11 am

34-24 Saints win

Eddie from acworth

December 23rd, 2011
9:11 am

This is a huge game for the birds. Win and we can go to the sb as this will boost the teams confidence. Lose ( even a close one) and this teams psyche will be damaged- just like last yr. got to get the saints out of their heads. After we win, I propose we dance on THEIR logo and yell WE DAT!

THE INFAMOUS DK

December 23rd, 2011
9:12 am

Really DOL… Aints win.. Dude if you keep that up we are shipping you to Nasty Orleans.

falcon for life!

December 23rd, 2011
9:26 am

“Blove” we wouldnt try to get our falcons confused with your aints! we actually are a balanced team that can beat u with the run or pass or both. unlike the caints who caint run the ball. butter ball turner is lightyears better than all 7 of those scrubs yall have at that position. ingram is a joke, pierre who? please dont tell me ur gonna try to feature darren minyme sproals against the best run d in the league. we could start chris redman and have 300 plus yards agaist that horrible secondary of the aints, Matt Ryan and co. are going to expose the TAINTS monday night! better see if Brees can play D. just sayin

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 23rd, 2011
9:46 am

falcon for life!,

Newflash ace, the Saints average more rushing yards per game than the Falcons do.

The Saints are ranked 7th or 8th in the NFL in rushing, while Atlanta is ranked 13th. Have a nice day!

So504

December 23rd, 2011
9:50 am

We could never be on the decline. I bet Matt Ryan gets traded or cut before Brees retires!

Keith

December 23rd, 2011
10:07 am

Going to be a tough go at the Saints this week. But I do believe we’re in a good spot to have a chance. If the Falcons don’t turn it over, then it will be close. If they do, then it won’t be close. GO FALCONS! :)

Samuel

December 23rd, 2011
10:15 am

Special teams will be an intergral part of what the Falcons will try to accomplish Monday night. But to be real successful against the Saints you have to get a pass rush up the middle,hence Drew Brees has a propensity to avoid the end pressure by stepping up in the pocket. Corey Peters, Babs and the rest of that rotation must step-up. Some how, Matt Ryan needs to match Drew Brees level of play. Almost like being in a zone, we the fans have to come away from this game saying- Did you see the performance that Matt Ryan displayed tonight?

avee

December 23rd, 2011
10:40 am

On defense, what if we “spy” the tight end Graham? I mean, assign a linebacker to jam him, knock him on his butt, drive him into the backfield . . anything to slow his release from the line of scrimmage on every snap.

captain ATL

December 23rd, 2011
10:40 am

Apparently it is as easy as bringing a 4 man rush if you can get to him with it. Thats how the RAMS did it.

Tfalcon

December 23rd, 2011
10:55 am

THE ONLY WAY TO SHUT SEENTHISB4 UP IS TO BEAT THE SAINTS,AN WHEN WE DO ITS ALWAYS THE REFS FAULT,I DONT THINK HE RUINS THE BLOG ANY BODY CAN POST AT LEAST HE CAN KEEP IT HALF WAY REAL

Mikey

December 23rd, 2011
11:15 am

The Falcons special teams and defense did very well against the vaunted Saints offense a few weeks ago. The Falcons have improved since that time; especially on execution of the offense. I remember when the Falcons traded up for Julio; they espoused a theory that they can’t completely stop offenses like the Saints and the Packers… instead, they had to out-score them. That is a good strategy and I hope to see that high flying Falcons offense SCORE on Monday night. Now is the time to show us how it is done! GO FALCONS! YOU ARE RISING UP!

PackAllDaWayBack

December 23rd, 2011
11:17 am

I dont see the falcons beating the saints, ESPECIALLY, in the horrordome…I would much rather go up against Ryan than Brees!
#GoPackGo!!!

WHODAT???!!!

December 23rd, 2011
11:18 am

Was watching NFL Network this morning. The league is not even taking the falcons seriously, I mean who can???

WHODAT???!!!

December 23rd, 2011
11:19 am

UNTIL YALL PROVE IT..

WHODAT???!!!

December 23rd, 2011
11:20 am

Oh and please stop with the “RiseUp” “RiseUp”..Its the wackest slogan Ive ever heard in my life!!!!

D man

December 23rd, 2011
11:20 am

Enter your comments hereFalcons win 3 – 13

WHODAT???!!!

December 23rd, 2011
11:21 am

@Pack

Hmmmmmm u would rather go up against Ryan than Brees…hmmmmmmm???
I WONDER WHY THAT IS!!!!! LMFAO

D man

December 23rd, 2011
11:21 am

Falcons win 31 – 13

D man

December 23rd, 2011
11:27 am

Brees is getting older and will be getting worse real soon. Better hope he doesnt get hurt because the saints are a one man team and will look like Indy without him. Ryan is getting better with every game and will be great for years to come. Get used to the idea of looking forward to next springs draft every year saints fans while my Falcons have great season after great season.

Maurice

December 23rd, 2011
11:41 am

Enter your comments here

waynester

December 23rd, 2011
11:44 am

I would love it if Coach Armstrong’s unit was the margin of victory for us Monday–it could easily come down to one big play either way. Great to see A.Dent having immediate production–we drafted him to be a leader on STs, and he’s getting it done. The poster who said Brees can’t be gameplanned is basically correct. His improvisational skills are the secret to his success–the key is to be disruptive and unpredictable on Defense.
ps
“Rise Up” vs “whodat?” they’re both kinda annoying but at least the Falcons’ slogan makes sense!!!!

P B Orr

December 23rd, 2011
12:08 pm

Hey D-Led, great stuff! About time we heard about Armstrong – the special teams play has been consistent and mostly excellent and has never panicked. People like Biermann and Snelling carry a great attitude into their special teams play. I’ve started reflexively stating “Go Weems go!” on all kick returns. That means they are doing something right.

Nola4Life

December 23rd, 2011
12:22 pm

I hope this will be a great game because I want the falcons to play their best football and I don’t want to hear any excuses about what ifs and what would’ve could’ve and should’ve happened and no whining…This is for Division title…Falcons FALL short again 31-27. Falcons can clinch their playoff spot against tampa in front of their home fans in last game…Geaux Saints!

Laughing Out Loud

December 23rd, 2011
12:22 pm

Laughing out loud…just had my humor meds today! Falsons win in a “barn burner” with Michael “The Burner” Turner and Matt Ryan leading the charge on offense. John Abraham, Curtis Lofton and Brent Grimes leading the defense. Go Falcons…..flood NO again!

1game@atime

December 23rd, 2011
12:25 pm

The last game was a setup for this game. What I mean is that the Falcons, although unsuccessful against N.O.-they were priming themselves for the upcoming game against the Saints, by taking chances. I wouldn’t put my $ on Saints-even at home. The Falcons will prepare for the noisey crowd in N.O. and will have to go with the silent counts throughout the game. The game plan should be to dominate whereas the crowd will be taken out of the game early. Silence the crowd by sacking Drew Brees. I look forward more than anything, to a defense by Atlanta to dominate and come off of the ball with blitz packages that force Brees to run for his life. Look for Spoon to have a breakout game. I look forward to Grimey and his coverage. You better believe, Brees will be trying to exploit Grimes position to see if he has fully healed from his minor knee surgery. Those who say that N.O. will dominate Atlanta on MNF, well, we’ll see. But the way I see it, this will be our playoff game-no matter what. You will see Atlanta’s version of “all on same page” clicking. I’m on board. The coaches, players, and fans will see something never seen before-4 quarters of dominating football. It may get ugly, and it may seem like boring football, but to beat these guys (Saints), you have to play with a Superbowl mentality. One play at a time, both sides of the ball. I like Atlanta in this one.

P B Orr

December 23rd, 2011
12:26 pm

Nola4Life, game on boss! I want to see you guys sweat on the last day vs. Camolina while we cruise against the Bucs :)

D man

December 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

Last year going into the Green Bay playoff game I had a bad feeling because of the way GB had been playing. This year going into the NO game I have a feeling like we are on a roll and are about to break through to greatness. Make it happen Falcons.

BOB

December 23rd, 2011
12:53 pm

Here’s what Curtis Lofton told me yesterday we I against him about Brees ????????

Don

December 23rd, 2011
1:03 pm

Ok first of all I’m a die hard Saints fan & a huge football fan, so here’s my question to my Saints & Dirty Bird fans why doesn’t this rivalry between these two teams get more national attention? In my opinion both of these teams are pretty damn good & the games have come down to the wire, I’m tired of hearing about the Cowboys, Giants and the rest of the nobody’s! Good luck Falcons & Who Dat Baby!!!!!!!!!