After an impressive victory over the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons led by Matt Ryan. The Niners’ defense is again going to have to face one of the better passing attacks in the National Football League.
The Falcons offense features one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, Matt Ryan. Ryan finished fifth in the league in passing yards and touchdown passes with 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was also tied for first in completion percentage with 68.6 percent. Ryan is an extremely accurate passer which is compounded by the fact that he has the best wide receiver duo in the league with Julio Jones and Roddy White. Both players had over 1,100 yards receiving and combined for 17 touchdowns. Add in Tony Gonzalez with his 930 yards and 8 touchdowns and you have one of the most potent passing attacks in the league. The Niners’ defense will be hard pressed to shut down this passing attack.
While on paper the Falcons passing attack should give the Niners’ defense nightmares during the week leading up to the match up, here is why it probably will not. The Niners’ saw this offensive scheme the week before. The Falcons and Packers have similar preference to throwing the ball instead of running it. In fact, the Falcons have a 61 percent pass to run ratio, while the Packers only have 56 percent pass to run ratio.
The Falcons’ run game ran for 1,397 yards for an average of 87 yards per game. The Niners will look to make the Falcons one dimensional, as they did to the Packers. This will allow the Niners to focus on the passing game and play a lot of dime and nickel packages to get the coverage schemes they want to defend the weapons that Ryan has on the outside. This allows the pass rushers to pin the ears back and put pressure on Ryan. The less time he has and more uncomfortable he feels in the pocket will limit their ability to take deep shots down the field which is what they often like to do. During last week, you were able to see what it does to a quarterback as they were able to get after Aaron Rodgers, who is much more comfortable moving outside the pocket than Ryan is.
Getting Ryan to move around in the pocket is going to open up opportunities for the defense to make plays on the ball. Ryan threw 14 interceptions during the regular season and he threw two more last week against the Seahawks. Ryan has a tendency to force throws into coverage when he is forced outside of the pocket or when pressured. If the Niners can get turnovers and score on those chances to build a lead then it will force the Falcons to focus on passing the ball to get back into the game which plays right in the defense’s hands.
It is my prediction the Niners will be able to limit Matt Ryan much like they did with Aaron Rodgers. They will do this by preventing the running game from gaining any momentum, which will force the offense to focus on trying to move the ball through the air. That will allow the Niners to counter with extra defensive backs and pass rushers to try and force Matt Ryan into turning the ball over.