The Atlanta Falcons have one of the top 10 highest scoring offenses in NFL history thanks to the versatility of their offensive players, as noted by The Ringer’s Danny Kelly. WR Julio Jones aligns all over the formation, as does WR Mohamed Sanu. Both tight ends can block and catch, while both running backs can run between the tackles and catch out of the backfield.
This versatile approach allows the Falcons to match-up against every style of defense, but Kelly believes that the New England Patriots are the perfect match to disrupt the offense.
“Opposing defensive coordinators just never know when the Falcons are going to throw or when they’re going to pass,” Kelly writes. “So, do you bring out your base defense against multi-running-back or multi-tight-end looks and risk losing effectiveness in coverage? Or do you bring in an extra defensive back and lose that size and strength against the run?
“But maybe New England’s figured out what to do when faced with an impossible question: refuse to answer it.”
Kelly highlights five key players as a core reason for the Patriots match-up strength.
EDGE Trey Flowers plays all along the defensive line, versus both the run and the pass. His strength in the middle of the formation is the perfect antidote to a versatile running back that might run against a nickel defense.
LB Dont’a Hightower plays every single linebacker position and even takes time on the edge of the formation as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Like Flowers, he adds value against both the run and the pass.
CB Logan Ryan plays in the slot and on the outside as a cornerback, but his ability to tackle players in the open field makes him an asset instead of a liability against the run.
And both safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty play multiple roles. Chung plays in the slot, at linebacker, and at safety; McCourty can cover tight ends and the deep half of the field.
The Falcons offense thrives by winning match-ups based on the weaknesses of opposing defenses. The Patriots defense has adopted a style that changes its strengths and weaknesses on a weekly basis. Maybe the Patriots are the perfect team to slow the Falcons high-flying offense.