Atlanta Falcons: Falcons’ run defense will be tested in divisional round

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The Falcons, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, are set to face either Minnesota (sixth seed), Seattle (fifth) or Washington (fourth) in the divisional round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13th at the Georgia Dome.

If Minnesota upsets Green Bay, they would face the Falcons. If Green Bay wins, the Falcons would host the Seattle-at-Washington winner. San Francisco is the No. 2 seed.

In order for the Falcons to advance past the divisional round, they must stop one of the league’s top rushers. They could face Minnesota and Adrian Peterson (2,091 yards, first in the league), Washington and running back Alfred Morris (1,413 yards, fourth) or Seattle and running back Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards, second).

The Falcons’ run defense has been spotty all season. They held Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin to 50 yards on 21 carries in their first meeting. In the season finale, he rumbled for 142 yards on 28 carries.

In a 24-17 victory over the Redskins on Oct. 4, Morris rushed for 115 yards on 18 carries. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was held to seven yards on a carry before he was knocked out of the game on a clean hit by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

The Falcons posted victories over Seattle and Minnesota during the 2011 season.

They held Lynch to 24 yards on eight carries in a 30-28 victory on Oct. 2, 2011. Peterson didn’t play in a 24-14 win over the Vikings on Nov. 27, 2011 at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons gave up 123.2 yards per game during the regular season, which ranked 21st in the league. They held five teams — Philadelphia (92), Dallas (65), Tampa Bay (50), New York Giants (97) and Detroit (79) — to less than 100 yards and won all five of those games.

“As a staff, we’ll spend one day over the next three days on a specific team,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said on Monday. “That’s how we’ll do it. The wy we are going sequence it, Washington will be the last one that we do because we have some familiarity with having played them earlier in the season. We’ll focus on the other two teams that we have not played on Wednesday and Thursday.”

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41 comments Add your comment

JoeSmoove

December 31st, 2012
6:46 pm

Bruce Blasckman

December 31st, 2012
7:01 pm

To Joe and others like you. Nobody cares if you are first, second or one thousandth but you. Why don’t you quit wasting your time typing and our time reading if you don’t have something meaningful to contribute?

Mike

December 31st, 2012
7:10 pm

^

Bruuuuuuucceeee

NumberOneDirtyBird

December 31st, 2012
7:15 pm

Falcons have to put up points on these teams and negate the running game! They must act like the game is a shoot out. Smitty must have the offense aim for 30 or more points! I know that sounds crazy but we have got to put up 7’s at home! Field goals do nothing for us at home especially when we can make it so loud for any opposing QB to operate a pass offense from behind! If the offense puts ups 30 or more, the defense will hold every time!

Sally Guyton

December 31st, 2012
7:17 pm

I am very proud of the Falcons no matter what happens on January 13th!!!!

Matt Ryan Has Peaked

December 31st, 2012
7:23 pm

I was at the game yesterday and the Falcons looked awful.

Mike Smith- As I’ve said before, is in over his head as the head coach. Someone on this board commented the most accurate assessment of Mike Smith i’ve ever read on the AJC…he is a good guy, ra-ra coach but is “no visionary”. He looked confused and not prepared to handle the adversity the team was placed in yesterday. I got the sense from the players that they are starting to question some of his decision-making. NOT a good sign.

Matt Ryan- Still unsure of himself…He still can not carry this team. That being said- he did improve this year with his long ball. Now all the marbles are on the table.

But the blame for the Falcons weakenesses should lay on sqare on TD’s shoulders. TD, for the life of me, is not a good evaluator at talent. We have been missing another pass rusher since we released Patrick Kerney. TD has drafted and sign FAs on the Dline that have failed. We still have issues in the backfield. Everyone and their uncle recognized that Turner was going downhill back in 2010, but TD REFUSE to draft or sign another running back. The Offensive line is horrible, and lets not mention the signing of Duanta Robinson, while not all bad, he was terribly overpaid.

I really hate the fact that our local media let the sports owners and GMs off the hook way too easy. Lovie was fired in Chicago with a 10 win record and a superbowl appeareance during his tenure; however, Mike Smith and TD have not won 1 playoff game, and I doubt very seriously if Arthur will fire either one if we don’t make it to the Superbowl.

If we don’t make the Superbowl this year, not only should Mike Smith be shown the door, but TD should be put on notice. This crap has to stop. The fans deserves so much better.

Eric C.

December 31st, 2012
7:23 pm

My question is, who hasn’t tested the Falcons run defense this year???????

Mike In Minnesota

December 31st, 2012
8:04 pm

Bruce…you wasted over 140 keystrokes to scold JoeSmoove for his 8 keystrokes
therefore to quote you…Why don’t you quit wasting your time typing and our time
reading if you don’t have something meaningful to contribute?

south ga fan

December 31st, 2012
8:41 pm

I agree with you( Matt Ryan has peaked.) ABOVE. This isn’t enough too ust have a winning season. I do not think Mike Smith is a coach that can take us too a superbowl. He coaches not too lose. For TD he should not get a pass. OL has been bad and he let our best Olineman go too Rams. He takes too many changes on draft picks that have history of being hurt or drafts to high when he could get in a later round(HOLMES). He was projected too go in 5th or 6th rd.

John John

December 31st, 2012
8:56 pm

To Matt Ryan has peaked: Really? “TD has refused to draft another running back since Turner’s decline in 2010″? This comment alone shows you do not watch, let alone follow the Atlanta Falcons. Ever heard of Jacquizz Rodgers, who has been getting at least 40 percent of the snaps lately. Also, we already had a great back-up in Jason Snelling. We actually have a 3 headed beast at running back, and I wouldn’t call Turner “done” just yet, as he scored 10 touchdowns this year. How many running backs that are “done” score double digit touchdowns? You should be blaming the offensive line, as there have been NO HOLES AT ALL for the running backs to run through ALL YEAR…yet you fail to realize that and blame Turner, who I will admit has lost a step, but is not the major problem with our running game…that falls on the O-LINE.

d

December 31st, 2012
9:07 pm

I agree with south ga fan. It has been awful winning all these dang games and getting home field advantage in the playoffs.

falcon fan since '66

December 31st, 2012
9:11 pm

Correction: A Morris had 1613 yards and was ranked 2nd. Thank you.

Demarco

December 31st, 2012
9:18 pm

The Falcons will be alright when playoff time starts. They were put in a tough spot last week with the game against Tampa Bay. No matter how you looked at it, somebody was going to find something to complain it anyway. The key thing about the run defense is it can’t allow big explosive run plays. This been the major difference I have seen this year. We are pretty good against the run, but the explosive run plays make our run defense seem a lot worse than it is. You can’t just look at the stats, sometimes you have to actually watch the games to notice this. If you take a lot of these explosive run plays away then you probably will have a top ten run defense. The game against Tampa is good example. Doug Martin had at least one long run that went for 40 yards and a TD. Take that away and Martin barely had 100 yards rushing. That’s just how I see it when it comes to the run defense.

oh'man

December 31st, 2012
9:20 pm

@MattRyanHasPeaked Please, shut up! Are you actually evaluating a 13 – 3 team? Wasn’t TD who brought in Julio, Matt Ryan, Sean Weatherspoon, Kroy Bierman, Michael Turner (only had one bad year!), Asante Samuel, William Moore, Decoud.. the list goes on! Please, do everyone a favor, and shut up!

TUG MAN

December 31st, 2012
9:25 pm

from a real life falcons fan.in every box of cracker jacks theirs a prize.what will it be in the play off !!!!!!!!!

COfalconsfan

December 31st, 2012
9:29 pm

The Falcons have holes, but so does everyone else in the NFC. With the exception of the Broncos (sorry for souding home towny, I don’t like the Broncos), I would actually guess that every fan base of all NFL playoff teams are nervous about something.

With regards to the comments about firing Smith or DM, I think you have to put things in perspective. There can only be one superbowl winner, and using that as your measuring stick is a risky proposition. Take the Chargers, they fired Norv Turner today after missing the playoffs for three straight years. He replaced Marty Sch. after a 14-2 season. I bet if you asked a Charger fan they would perfer a 14-2 season and a playoff loss over the last three years. Cowboys fired Wade and went to Garrett only to continue to miss the playoffs

Don’t get me wrong, if the Falcons lose in two weeks I’ll be super drunk and probably calling a dry wall repair guy, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying we need to fire DM or Smith. I think DM has to work within the constraints of salary cap and its a system that doesn’t allow for any mistakes. If these guys stay, they will try their best to improve their team in the areas needed (Oline, pass rush, RB change).

And . . . as far as the injury to Abraham, he needs to be replaced as bad as Turner does. I don’t know why this guy gets a pass from ATL fans. When it is a must pass down and a team sets their protection, we can’t get a pass rush. Its terrible. And Abraham isn’t very strong against the rush. If you look at our projected opponents I think it is a benefit that he is hurt. We will have a better run defender in the game and Nolan will be forced to blitz, which he doesn’t do quite enough. My two cents.

d

December 31st, 2012
9:51 pm

good points cofalcons fan. about abraham, might be blessing in disguise. i like abe but i think sidbury (see his spin move) could be good and wouldn’t mind seeing what mathews and massaquoi can do
go falcs

Spoiler Alert

December 31st, 2012
10:44 pm

@COfalconsfan

A lot of your post was reasonable. But are you serious in calling out Abraham??? The dude is still one of the best pass rushers in the game (despite having bums on the other side of him). I can’t think of a player w/ a worse counterpart than Abraham’s over the year.

You don’t seem like a bad guy, but I’m hoping your local feed just cut to the Broncos game for ever Abraham sack cause that’s a silly comment my man…

Spoiler Alert

December 31st, 2012
10:45 pm

*w/ worse counterparts over the years

SMH

December 31st, 2012
10:57 pm

There are quite a few idiots on these articles…smh

Go Deep

January 1st, 2013
2:36 am

I’m certain that if we win the Super Bowl, I can come here and there will be not just one but several Dried up Farts here bitchin’ about it.

PapaK

January 1st, 2013
11:56 am

To All of the armchair quarterbacks, head coach wannabes and psedu general managers making negative comments, SHUTUP!!! Since the TD/Smith team arrived in Atlanta, they have won over 50 games, the highest of any team. They have made the Falcons relevant for the first time since their inception in 1965. I am proud of the team and believe in this group. You people complaining about the Falcons are the type of people who find negativity in everything.

Starship 1

January 1st, 2013
2:26 pm

There are some things that coaching alone can fix-that’s talent and mental toughness. The Falcons have the talent in their playmakers, period. The Falcons have the talent in some of their defensive positions. But let’s be real: The offensive line is abysmal; that is why they don’t have much of a running game, period. And just as equal-they don’t have much of run defense and pass rush, save Abe & Spoon, and the BeerMan (Bierman). Other than that, they really have to utilize more creativity in their screen game and other offensive measures. The opposition teams that the Falcons have played or are about to play have figured out the Falcons play schemes and are beating us up the middle and on the right side with the poor showing by the rookie Konz. The good news is that Sam Baker is back to being healthy and the Falcons are running more plays on their stronger side-which now, seems to be the left side. Some how-the right side is where they are getting burnt on every run play going in that direction. Teams are countering their screen plays and are stopping Jaquizz much earilier in the back field. I thind the bye week will help esp with their fundementals-such as tackling and blocking. Here’s my issue-this is the time to excel at more and more sophisticated issues for the players to deal with-but cannot because of the Falcons lack of mental toughness in their basic fundementals. Sometimes-when I hear Mike Smith talk about working toward learning from their mistakes-I wonder, what are they really learning? If you’ve learned something-and repeatedly keep doing the same thing-what does that tell us?

Fan since 66

January 1st, 2013
2:32 pm

@ PapaK…Amen brother!
@ Go Deep…You are probably right. I’m constantly amazed at the responses to the Falcons’ play. For pete’s sake…we have home field through the playoffs and are tied for the best record in the whole danged league! I, for one, am thrilled with the progress that the team has made since A. Blank purchased the team. We are light years beyond the dismal play of the 70’s and 80’s. Those of us who have SUPPORTED the team all these years should be overjoyed with the team these last 5 years!
What will the naysayers have to say if the Falcons continue to win throughout the Playoffs? I have an idea…That would be nothing…nada…zip! Yeah, I know…fat chance of that!
Go Falcons!

Starship 1

January 1st, 2013
2:34 pm

I’d like to see a play where Matt is under center, moves to a shotgun, then exchanges off center with a fast receiver or TE that can throw or pitch back to Matt-and Matt gets the ball back and throws a bomb to Julio for a quick 7. The Falcons have to roll out the whole playbook come playoff time. No more playing not to lose. Every time they get a change of possession to offense-the mindset is 7up. Play like you played the Giants.

VAJIM

January 1st, 2013
3:30 pm

We could win the SuperBowl and someone would complain we didin`t score enough points.

retired

January 1st, 2013
3:35 pm

@Bruce Blasckman
December 31st, 2012
7:01 pm

To Joe and others like you. Nobody cares if you are first, second or one thousandth but you. Why don’t you quit wasting your time typing and our time reading if you don’t have something meaningful to contribute?

TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE ….. leave the those that cry first alone they are harmless.

Go Falcons!
3 wins a good way to start the new year.

Happy New Year to all!

Navy Chief

January 1st, 2013
6:57 pm

Ok, ok…everyone has their piece to say about the Falcons talents levels and coaching staff. I am active duty navy and I have to watch the games where and when I can. With that being said, each time a decision is made or a play is called wrong, I admittedly get aggravated, but the fact is they are the professionals. I could not do better in their stead, or I wouldn’t be in the Navy. Lets enjoy the fact that Atlanta has a football team that puts together great seasons and exciting games. They will figure out the playoff picture eventually, but until then they need our support as fans.

GO FALCONS!!!!!

Tom(Independent Viet Vet-USAF)

January 1st, 2013
8:36 pm

The OL has not been the same since we let Harvey Dahl(OL Bad-boy) go to StLouis. That is where we should have spent our money?

I usually just read but...

January 2nd, 2013
7:57 am

@Matt Ryan Has Peaked
idiot, for so many reasons.
for my part, please don’t refer to the Falcons or Falcon fans as “WE”. Another thing, you appear to want to be a comentator, analyst (ie.. talking head) and use the long worn out,overused qualifier
“That being said”
DON”T! It’s been used up.

Rise up or sit down fake fans

January 2nd, 2013
11:10 am

Thank you @Eric WHO HASN’t TESTED our run def this year, we still 13-3 tho

Polk County Falcon

January 2nd, 2013
11:59 am

If there is an up side to loosing our last game toTB it is that we didn’t leave any film for our opponents to watch and use to figure us out. The Offense was vanilla to say the least and the defense just played their normal game……with injuries. I hope Smitty has got something up his sleeve for the playoffs on the O side of the ball other than running Turner between the guards.

Section 322- 11 Years

January 3rd, 2013
10:23 am

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE JUST WIN BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

okeetee

January 3rd, 2013
1:12 pm

“They must act like the game is a shoot out. Smitty must have the offense aim for 30 or more points!”

…hey, you’ve been reading my posts and then concurring 100%! Our best chance is a shootout no matter who we play! We have the horses, the home crowd and the talent to win a shootout this year with anybody!

okeetee

January 3rd, 2013
1:15 pm

“And . . . as far as the injury to Abraham, he needs to be replaced as bad as Turner does. I don’t know why this guy gets a pass from ATL fans. When it is a must pass down and a team sets their protection, we can’t get a pass rush. Its terrible. And Abraham isn’t very strong against the rush. If you look at our projected opponents I think it is a benefit that he is hurt. We will have a better run defender in the game and Nolan will be forced to blitz, which he doesn’t do quite enough.”

…well, I hope your right! We are going to find out soon enough a week from Sunday!

Ladies and gentlement, Wrestling Two!

January 3rd, 2013
3:13 pm

To Matt Ryan has peaked: Here’s a guess. You live in your mother’s basement. You are unemployed and rarely put your pants on unless it’s to go upstairs and get another fudge bar. You are pudgy, flacid and have not girlfriend. You have a big L tattooed on your forehead — wait make that a D for Douche tattooed on your forehead in case somebody hasn’t read your comment on this blog and has no idea of what a fruitcake you are. You have to ball all of the above to waste so much time bitching about the Falcons and your views on how they should improve. Why don’t you just quite following them dunder head?

[...] Falcons’ run defense to be tested in divisional playoff game [...]

[...] Falcons’ run defense to be tested in divisional playoff game [...]

Matt

January 3rd, 2013
6:33 pm

Lol to all these people bitching!!! Matt Ryan has not peaked!!! And even if he has he’s currently, by stats, the 4-5 best qb in league. I’m going to go ahead and tell you we are going to play the seahawks, and we will win. How, screens and some new schemes by Off. coordinator, oh and J. Jones is gonna outrun browner or the other 6′3 cb down the field for a td and I’m betting it’s either first play we get the ball or on a third and short.

[...] Falcons’ run defense to be tested in divisional playoff game [...]

[...] Falcons’ run defense to be tested in divisional playoff game [...]