Good morning! The Cover 9@9 is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, we published 9 items at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning.
1. REEVES HIGH ON THE FALCONS: Former Falcons coach Dan Reeves, the only coach to guide the franchise to the Super Bowl, has been impressed with the NFC South Champions.
He’s looking forward to the Falcons (11-5) playing the Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1 in regular season, 1-0 in the playoffs) at 4:35 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
“I think it’s a great matchup with two outstanding offensive football teams and both defenses are good at times,” Reeves said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “(Falcons head coach) Dan (Quinn) knows them very well because that’s where he came from. They are very similar in what they are trying to do. It’s going to be interesting…. I’m interested in looking at what the two coaches are going to do because they’ve worked with each other. It’s going to be interesting to see how they attack.”
The Falcons were defeated by the Seahawks 26-4 on Oct. 16 in Seattle.
“They’ve done a great job all year of putting pressure on the other team because they do score so many points,” Reeves said of the Falcons’ offense. “They’ve done it against some really good defensive teams and they’ve still put up points.”
Reeves still follows the Falcons closely.
“When they played them earlier and had a great chance at the end to win the game,” Reeves said. “That’s in a tough place to play in Seattle.”
Reeves marvels at the Falcons’ offense.
“You never know what the Falcons are going to do offensively, and that’s the thing,” Reeves said. “You have to give Kyle Shanahan an awful lot of credit and their offensive staff. They come out with a different (game plan) every time.
“Whether it’s bubble screens, boot legs one way or they don’t even throw to Julio (Jones) one week and the next time they throw five or six straight passes to him. You never know what they are going to do because they have so many weapons and they use them so well.
“I’m excited about watching this game.”
2. THE GODFATHER HAS SPOKEN: Former NFL executive Gil Brandt, who’s an analyst for
NFL.com and Sirius NFL Radio and is affectionately called the Godfather, is high on the Falcons.
“I think this is going to be a close game,” Brandt said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “I think the Atlanta Falcons will win because of their offense. I don’t know if they can stop the run after I saw Seattle last week. Two weeks ago, they hadn’t run at all.”
Brandt also has been impressed with the Falcons’ offensive wizardry.
“The coordinator (Kyle Shanahan) should be the man of the year because I think the guy has done a fantastic job,” Brandt said. “I think the head coach has done a fantastic job.”
Brandt, a former personnel guru for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-88, liked some of the Falcons moves.
“The head coach (Dan Quinn) is really good,” Brandt said. “The guy that he drafted from Florida (Keanu Neal), everybody said, ‘why would you draft that guy?’ He’s played pretty darn good for them.
“I think there is a good chance that the Atlanta Falcons will be playing at home against Green Bay or in Dallas.”
He also credited Quinn with the development of Vic Beasley.
“What they did get to get all of that out of the sacker from Clemson, I think that’s all the head coach,” Brandt said.
3. ON INSIDE THE NFL ON SHOWTIME: Here’s what other analyst were saying about the matchup:
On Inside the NFL on Showtime about the Falcons, Phil Simms said, “Atlanta is in the playoffs. They are the No. 2 seed. We never talk about them and it’s a shame because Matt Ryan, I hope, and I think he deserves to be the MVP in the NFL.”
Boomer Esiason said: “What can Atlanta do? They can run the football. They are physical. Kyle Shanahan will be a head coach in this league—if is not this year, it will be next year. He will be the offensive coordinator of the year, the assistant coach of the year… and yes, Matt Ryan will be the MVP… I like Atlanta, they are a real deal offensive team.”
Brandon Marshall said: “This game comes down to Julio Jones and Richard Sherman. I hate to do it, everyone is talking about it, but it’s true.”
Simms added: “One big star that is not playing in this game, and it’s real and it can’t be over-talked, that’s Earl Thomas. Not playing safety, it definitely changes their defense. He is the greatest eraser I’ve seen at safety in a long time.”
4. CHARLIE CASSERLY ON THE FALCONS AND SEAHAWKS: NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly and former general manager addressed how the Seahawks would have to block Falcons All-Pro linebacker Vic Bealsey:
“They have a problem now. This offensive line has developed as a run-blocking offensive line but they’re going to struggle in dropback pass protection. Garry Gilliam at right tackle, George Fant the rookie at left tackle – they will struggle one-on-one with Beasley. You’re going to have to get another man on him, whether it’s a tight end or a back chipping. These guys can’t handle Beasley one-on-one.”
Casserly on the Falcons facing the Seahawks defense: “I think they’ll be able to run on this team and you have to stay with the run because you can wear them down. That’s the book on that front seven. However, you can throw the ball against this secondary. Let’s start with [Richard] Sherman. How do you throw on him? You get him running deep and then you break off the route. He’s a long strider and has trouble changing directions, but you have to get him to run and turn his back. Then you go to the other corners, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. Both of these guys are vulnerable. Again, get them running and get them to change direction in that 10, 12-yard area. You can throw on this secondary. And finally [Kam] Chancellor, he’s a great player but people isolate this guy in coverage. Again, you can beat these guys. You just have to run the right routes against them.”
5. BEASLEY THE FAVORITE: Beasley is the favorite to get the most sacks in the divisional round, according to SportsBettingDime.com.
Most sacks in Divisional Round
Vic Beasley Jr., Falcons: 4/1
Michael Bennett, Seahawks: 8/1
Justin Houston, Chiefs: 8/1
Jadeveon Clowney, Texans: 9/1
Clay Matthews, Packers: 9/1
James Harrison, Steelers: 11/1
Trey Flowers, Patriots: 11/1
David Irving, Cowboys: 12/1
6. FREEMAN A LONGSHOT: Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is a longshot to get the most yards rushing in the divisional round.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys: 2/1
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers: 5/2
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: 13/2
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots: 8/1
Devonta Freeman, Falcons: 16/1
7. THE OFFICIALS: The Steratore Playoff Crew will call the Falcons playoff game. R: Gene Steratore (114) FJ: Aaron Santi (50) U: Bill Schuster (89) SJ: Scott Novak (1) HL: Phil McKinnely (110) BJ: Dino Paganelli (105) LJ: Dana McKenzie (8) RO: Darryll Lewis
8. TALE OF THE TAPE: Here’s how the Falcons and the Seahawks matchup up according to their regular seasons statistics.
The Falcons (11-5) are set to face the Seahawks (10-5-1 regular season, 1-0 in the playoffs) at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings
33.8 (1) Points/Game 22.1 (18t)
415.8 (2) Total Offense 357.2 (12)
120.5 (5) Net Rushing Yards/Game 99.4 (25)
295.3 (3) Net Passing Yards/Game 257.8 (10)
30:11 (18) Possession Average 29:36 (23)
25.4 (27) Opponent Points/Game 18.3 (3)
371.2 (25) Opponent Total Offense 318.7 (5)
104.5 (17) Opp. Rushing Yards/Game 92.9 (7)
266.7 (28) Opp. Passing Yards/Game 225.8 (8)
+11 (4t) Turnover Differential +1 (16)
9. DEPTH CHART. Here’s the depth chart for Saturday’s game:
(The team calls it an ‘unofficial’ depth chart. But if they are releasing it, for our purposes that makes it pretty official.)
WR 11 Julio Jones 16 Justin Hardy 15 Nick Williams 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre 63 Ben Garland
C 51 Alex Mack 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder 76 Tom Compton
TE 81 Austin Hooper 80 Levine Toilolo 82 Joshua Perkins 86 D.J. Tialavea
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu 18 Taylor Gabriel 19 Aldrick Robinson
QB 2 Matt Ryan 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman 26 Tevin Coleman 28 Terron Ward
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 50 Brooks Reed 99 Adrian Clayborn 93 Dwight Freeney
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux
DT 97 Grady Jarrett 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson 77 Ra’Shede Hageman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr. 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones 55 Paul Worrilow 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell 52 Josh Keyes
CB 23 Robert Alford 29 C.J. Goodwin 38 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 32 Jalen Collins 34 Brian Poole 30 Deji Olatoye
S 37 Ricardo Allen 20 Sharrod Neasman
S 22 Keanu Neal 38 Dashon Goldson
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 14 Eric Weems 16 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Eric Weems 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov get into the Julio Jones-Richard Sherman matchup, the Falcons run defense, the team’s areas of concern and where the Falcons have the advantage.
RECAP OF THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2016 REGULAR SEASON
GAME 16: Falcons 38, Saints 32
GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16
GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13
GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24