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Sunday Night Preview | Packers offense versus Falcons defense

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers gives Jordy Nelson (87) a thumbs up after a touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
AP Photo/Mike Roemer

The opening week game plan from the Green Bay Packers will be very different from Week 2. Last Sunday they did everything they could to spread out the Seattle Seahawks and nickel and dime them down the field. It worked. They just turned the ball over at inopportune times or surrendered sacks, usually coverage ones, to end drives. The Packers converted a 3rd and 17 in the first half but the passing game wasn’t explosive. They still took shots down the field to keep Seattle honest.

Speaking of honest, the Packers did a good job of not completely abandoning the run. When they did, it wasn’t successful: three yards a pop on 28 carries won’t cut it against playoff teams. Seattle was just faster and better at the point of attack last week. Everyone knows the Seahawks have a ridiculous front seven, though. The Packers tried to get to the edge whether they were running stretch or outside zone. The linemen couldn’t get to the second level.

Green Bay would be better suited against the Falcons, who have a fast defense as well, to not leave the middle linebacker to the backside guard. It’s not an easy block for the right guard to make. On the Packers’ longest run of the game, they adjusted. The left guard chips the defensive tackle then climbs to the middle linebacker. The fullback kicks out the play-side linebacker.

Different formation, but there was a much-needed adjustment.

Fast Flowing Falcons

The Falcons’ defense wasn’t quite as stingy against the run. It was gashed a couple times. Maintaining gap integrity is where Atlanta ran into problems, chiefly its linebackers.

All No. 59 has to do above is not get moved. He ends up on the ground and it’s an easy 11-yard gain. Chicago ran against Atlanta 19 times for a whopping 6.6 yards a carry. You better believe the Packers will try to run outside against the Falcons.

This next run is a sweep to the weak-side of the formation. This is simply a numbers game. The Falcons have four defenders. The Bears have four blockers and a running back. That’s just math.

The linebacker, No. 45, has got to get downhill. He creates an easy running lane here. By not pressing he makes life easier on the right tackle. This was the theme for the Falcons’ second-level defenders and it cost them in Week 1. I imagine Green Bay picked up on this and will do everything it can to get Ty Montgomery off and running.

While the run defense may be a concern, the Falcons have a pair of corners who can cover. Desmond Trufant is among the most talented at his position. Robert Alford is a fiesty corner who always seems to be in position. Last week Alford had three pass breakups. Both corners have superb route recognition. Here is one of Alford’s pass breakups last week.

That’s how you drive through the football. That’s a great play. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons put Trufant with Jordy Nelson and Alford with Randall Cobb or Davante Adams. Last week Nelson looked like his old route-running self, getting open at will. With Keanu Neal lurking in the middle to annihilate anything that comes his way, I’d give the slight edge to the Falcons’ secondary.

Corralling Rodgers

If the Falcons can get after Rodgers and stall drives by sacking him, they’ll win the game. Last week they hit Mike Glennon 10 times and sacked him four times. They were coming from both sides. They even had a corner pick up a sack. The Seahawks did a good job of creating pressure as well, sacking Rodgers four times and hitting him nine times. It’s not a fair comparison — the Seahawks boast three of the 12 best pass rushers in the league. Brooks Reed was active last week, but the Packers have two top tackles as well.

One matchup I’ll focus on is rookie Takk McKinley against David Bahktiari. If there’s one area where Bahktiari can be beaten, it’s pure athleticism. His technique is very good, but McKinley is long and has always had a bull-rush. Last week, in limited snaps, he showed that.

Everyone knows about Vic Beasley — he’ll have a tough matchup on the other side against Brian Bulaga. Because Green Bay spreads it out more than most teams in the NFL, Takk should gain an uptick in snaps.

It’ll be a fun cat and mouse game for four quarters. While the Atlanta linebackers struggled against the run last week, I feel the defense still did a fine job of tackling in space and getting to the ball save for a couple busts. They’ll need to do that against this Packer offense. Speed usually gives them problems. The Falcons have plenty of that.

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