|Are the Patriots ready to handle the noise and heat in the Georgia Dome?||09.29.13 at 11:29 am ET|
In his 39 years in the NFL, Bill Belichick has learned how disrupting domes can be.
He remembers the Monday night in 2009 when the Patriots were overwhelmed by Drew Brees and the Saints. The Saints got their offense going that night in New Orleans and the boisterous fans in the Superdome followed, as the Patriots were blown out, 38-17.
It was that night, as the crowd was going nuts, Belichick made his famous “I just can’t get them to play the way we need to” observation to Tom Brady on the sideline late in the fourth quarter.
Sunday night in Atlanta has the potential of the same sort of nightmare if the Patriots aren’t careful and don’t get to quarterback Matt Ryan.
Of course, the Patriots have gone into domes before and have been successful. They beat St. Louis in 2004. They won Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome.
When did all of the crowd noise start to really impact the opposing offense?
“I’d say it’s really a shotgun formation,” Belichick said. “I think you could operate with the quarterback under center. It’s loud, but you can still do it. As the stadiums have gotten bigger, we’ve gotten away from the baseball stadiums where there might be 70 or 80,000 people but in a lot of those stadiums, the fans at midfield were 40 yards from the sideline because they were pushed so far back and the majority of the people were in the end zone so a lot of times it just got loud in the end zone.
“I think there are a lot of circumstances. You have a lot of artificial crowd noise that there are different regulations on and so forth. Over the years, that’s changed. Some of that was pumped in, now there’s different rules on that. There are a lot of different forces at work here. Certainly being in the shotgun, not under center, pistol, gun, whatever you want to call it, the crowd noise situation, the stadium configuration, all that, I think, all played into it.”
|Peter King on M&M: Falcons’ Matt Ryan still needs to prove himself in postseason||09.27.13 at 11:56 am ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss the Patriots and NFL news.
The Patriots are preparing for a Sunday night showdown with the Falcons, who are led by Matt Ryan. King said the former Boston College star needs to prove himself in the playoffs before he’s considered among the elite.
“I really like him,” King said. “I like him a lot. I think he’s on his way to being a long-term premier quarterback in the NFL. But I think we all know that if a guy doesn’t play great in the postseason, he’ll never be considered one of the all-time greats. And Matt Ryan hasn’t played great in the postseason.
“He did have a good postseason last year, obviously. He played well against the Seahawks, outdueling Russell Wilson — even though you could argue that Russell Wilson played a better game that day. And he played OK against the 49ers — and probably would like to have a couple of decisions on the last drive back. Because if he made a couple of decisions differently, they’d have been playing in the Super Bowl. … I think he’s a top-10 quarterback. Let’s see how he does in the playoffs the next three or four years.”
Broncos linebacker Von Miller was banned six games to start this season. According to multiple reports, four of the games were for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and two were for conspiring with a sample collector to cheat his test. King said the NFL kept the second part of the punishment relatively light because “this was going to be a long, hard fight with the union.”
“I know the NFL has heard rumors that other players have attempted to do the same thing, perhaps in Miami, perhaps in other places,” King said. “It will be interesting to see what if anything the investigation that the NFL — I’m not saying it’s a formal investigation, but the NFL is looking into the specimen-collecting process right now. But just know that the NFLPA is very much going to fight for Von Miller and probably would have stretched this out for a long time — the hearing for a long time, as long as they could. And who knows when Von Miller ultimately would have been suspended.”
|Vince Wilfork: ‘We’re going to have to play an ‘A-plus’ game’ to win||09.26.13 at 4:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t need to be reminded of the challenge that lies ahead for him and the Patriots defense this Sunday night in Atlanta.
Wilfork is always respectful when mentioning the opponent but on Thursday he sounded like the president of the booster club for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.
“Right now, it’s a challenge for us. We’re going to have to defend everything,” Wilfork said. “It’s like four or five or six of them. It’s going to be a battle, definitely going to be a battle. We’re up for the challenge. It’s going to be tough to pull out a ‘W’ but it’s been done before but we’re going to have to play an ‘A-plus’ game for it to happen.”
Does Wilfork consider Ryan among the “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL?
“Absolutely, 100 percent yes,” Wilfork said. “He’s smart. He runs that offense to a ‘T’ and any situation you put him in, he can put the team in the right situation so hands down, he’s one of the best.”
“They are one of the best team when it comes to everything they do,” Wilfork said. “There’s a reason these guys win a lot of ball games. They have a quarterback that leading them that’s one of the best. He’s young but he’s one of the best. You can put him up there with the best quarterbacks in the game, just the way he operates that team. We know this is going to be a challenge, Sunday night going down there at their stadium. It’s going to be rocking.
“Receivers, tight ends, running back, offensive line, I mean everywhere you look they have weapons. We know how important it is for us to practice well and prepare and hopefully, we can get it done on Sunday but it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Wilfork was reminded that the Falcons are 1-2 while the Patriots are 3-0.
“Trust me, they won’t [play like] 1-2,” he said. “This team is an elite team, that’s their problem but we’re not even looking at the records. We’re looking at what’s on film. They’ve been in some close games and sometimes football comes down to playing 59 minutes of good football and one minute can make a difference in a ball game.”
|Tom Brady is no Matty Ice||at 11:55 am ET|
FOXBORO — It was one of those break-the-ice moments this week at Gillette Stadium. At his weekly press conference, Tom Brady was asked if he had a cool nickname like that of Matt Ryan, the quarterback he’ll be facing this Sunday night in Atlanta.
“I don’t know. I don’t have any nicknames? That should be the thing. That’s a good story for this week too. TB12 is pretty good, I like that,” Brady said.
Brady did not mention another name he’s been frequently called, especially at the beginning of his career when he was ripping off three Super Bowl titles in four seasons – Tom Terrific.
“Not as good as Matty Ice? I know, Matty Ice is pretty sweet,” Brady said.
Brady would gladly defer to the nickname battle if it meant winning the game and improving his offensive efficiency this weekend.
Brady enters the game leading an offense that is currently ranked 17th in the NFL in offense and 22nd in points scored.
“You’re always trying to develop that over the course of the season,” Brady said. “You don’t really have it figured out to start. You just have to work at it and when you get the opportunities you have to take advantage. Look, it’s hard. There are 22 guys, if you’re inside the five, within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. They’re pretty good at regular defense because typically you have a limited number of calls that you play a lot, you get good at it. It’s tough. There are tight spots, there are tight throws, there are quick decisions. Guys aren’t open for very long down there. You have to make the plays when they’re there, when you have a great opportunity like we had last week, you have to take advantage.”
Obviously, Brady is beating Ryan where it matters most so far through three games. Brady is 3-0 while Ryan, with a 68 percent completion rate and a 100.4 QB rating, is 1-2 with road losses to the Saints and Dolphins.
Still, Brady was asked about his red zone deficiency in the first three weeks and whether the new players might be throwing his timing off a bit.
“I think throwing an interception right to a strong safety last week doesn’t help,” Brady said. “Especially two plays before, I had a wide open guy. I think plays like that are more the problem. I have to a good job finding the open guys, guys that are running free and then hit them. That will help our red zone offense more than anything.
“We’ve been practicing it quite a bit. We’ve definitely left some points on the board, just poor execution. I’ve been one of the main culprits. Hopefully I try to improve that. You have to get down there and score points. Especially when you play good teams, you can’t leave points out there. Like last week, we had a great opportunity for seven points. Not only did we not get seven, we didn’t get any. You have to be able to capitalize on scoring opportunities.”
|Five things you have to know about the Falcons||at 9:00 am ET|
1. Their receivers are some of the best in the league when it comes to yards after the catch.
After three games, the Falcons are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to yards after the catch, tied for second with the Broncos and trail only the Lions (625 to 581). Wide receiver Julio Jones is good at a lot of things: he’s one of the strongest, fastest and most physical receivers in the game. He’s also one of the best in the league when it comes to picking up YAC. Jones has a league-high 208 yards after the catch this season (according to STATS), a significant spike from last year, when he had 69 yards after the catch through 3 weeks last season. Falcons running back Jason Snelling is also very good when it comes after YAC, as 111 of his 116 total receiving yards have come after the catch (good for 20th in the league). How do you stop that? As the Patriots offense has shown over the years, when it comes to piling up YAC, part of the key is having the quarterback put the ball in the right place. Make the quarterback uncomfortable and you can make him deliver a bad ball, which will make things tougher on the pass catcher. Then, on the other end, defensive backs and linebackers need to place a renewed emphasis on tackling. Good closing speed and making sure that the first hit takes them down — or slows them down enough that another tackler can help — will be key.
2. They start fast.
The Falcons and Chiefs are tied for the league lead in point differential in the first quarter — both teams are plus-31. Atlanta loves to get out of the gate quickly and knock a team back on its heels: they took a 10-0 first-quarter lead on the Saints in the opener, a 14-0 first quarter lead on the Rams after one quarter and a 7-0 edge in the Dolphins after one quarter. It’s tough to hang with them right out of the gate, but if you can match them score-for-score in the early going, you have a good chance with them later in the game because….
3. They can’t close.
In both of their losses this year, the Falcons went into the second half with a lead — they were up on the Saints 17-13 midway through the third, and lost that one 23-17. Atlanta also led the Dolphins 20-10 in the third quarter and 23-20 in the fourth quarter before dropping that one. In the NFC title game last year, they were up on the Niners 24-14 in the third and 24-21 in the fourth, and lost that game, 28-24. Three second-half leads, three losses for the Falcons, who have scored just 10 points in the fourth quarter this season. The Patriots haven’t allowed a single point in the fourth quarter this year.
4. Matt Ryan is good at play action.
The Falcons quarterback is blessed with a steady and consistent running attack, and that’s even without Steven Jackson, who was acquired this offseason to help fill out one of the most impressive offensive rosters in the league but isn’t likely to play Sunday night. So part of his success in play action is simply due to the fact that other teams have to respect the Atlanta running game. But even without that, you get the feeling that Ryan could make it work. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan is the best in the league when it comes to operating out of play-action. This season, he’s 23-for-29 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and two picks when operating out of play action. The completion percentage is best in the league (79 percent), and his completions are second only to Peyton Manning and his yardage is third behind Manning and Russell Wilson. (Of course, the sample size is bigger, but his accuracy slips precipitously when he doesn’t operate out of play action — he goes form 79 percent to 64 percent. Something to watch for Sunday night.
5. They are very good at run defense.
In their three games this season, the Falcons have yet to allow team to break 100 yards on the ground — the closest any team has gotten was coast week when the Dolphins ran for 90 yards. Overall, Atlanta has yielded 237 rushing yards this season, an average of 79 rushing yards a game (both are fifth-best in the league. (For perspective, the Broncos top the NFL with 130 rushing yards allowed, an average of 43.3 rushing yards per game.) Three of the biggest reasons for the success on the ground this year are defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry, all of whom have done a good job getting penetration into the backfield, clogging up gaps and allowing Atlanta’s linebackers to close up space before a back can find open space.
|Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview Patriots-Falcons||09.25.13 at 5:38 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Since leaving Boston College in 2008, Matt Ryan has ascended to the rarified atmosphere of the so-called “elite” quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. On the next rung of the ladder there’s Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.
All of those have quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl, with one exception. Matt Ryan is the only one of those who hasn’t even made it to the big game.
But that won’t keep Bill Belichick from putting Ryan in elite company.
“He looks pretty good at everything to me. He has a good touch, he does a good job throwing the ball down the field, reads coverages well, doesn’t make many mistakes, manages the game well, he’s accurate, he’s tough, he’ll definitely stand in there, throw the ball and take a hit,” Belichick said Wednesday. “He has very few bad plays, let’s put it that way, very few. So, consistency. I think that’s the mark of any great player. He’s pretty consistent: every play, every game, every series. He does a lot of things right.”
Belichick’s Patriots will have to defend Ryan and his weapons this week on the road, weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jacqizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.
“Julio does, I’d say, pretty much everything well,” Belichick said of the Falcons big-time receiver. “He’s a very strong, physical receiver with good speed. In the running game, he’s a very aggressive blocker. He’ll come in and crack safeties and block well. In the passing game, he can go down the field, he can go up and take the ball away from defenders even though he’s covered. He has good vertical jump, timing, strong hands, go up and get the ball. Tough guy to press because he’s so physical coming off the line of scrimmage. He can run through most corners that are trying to press him.
“He’s a strong runner after the catch so they throw him a lot of short passes, under routes, tear screens, things like that. He’s strong to break tackles. He can take a two-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard run or he could run a 50-yard go route and go up and catch the ball, either way. He’s a tough guy to match up against. He’s got very good speed so he can run by the defense but he’s strong and he can run through them too. He’s tough and he’s a hard guy to tackle. He does everything well.”
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