February 6, 2017


How the Falcons Defense Fell Apart Over 93 Snaps (Andy Benoit, Feb. 6th, 2017, MMQB)

It's worth examining exactly how those 93 snaps exhausted the Falcons. For starters, 93 snaps equates to playing a game and a half. Then factor in the adrenaline of that game being on the Super Bowl stage, and what happens to a player's energy as that adrenaline wears off. Then add in the halftime, which is twice as long as usual. Yes, that gives your body more time to rest. But it also means your body must operate on an unfamiliar internal clock. Over your previous 18 games, your body had grown accustom to its halftime routine. Oh, and speaking of 18 games, that, too, is a lot. Its cumulative effect magnifies the toll of those 93 snaps.

More importantly, however, was the style of snaps the Falcons were playing. As expected, they defended the Patriots primarily with man coverage. When a defender plays man-to-man, he's chasing an offensive player all over the field. That's considerably more taxing than sitting back in zone. Furthermore, Falcons defenders often matched to specific receivers in man. With the Patriots' limitless supply of formations, those defenders were often crossing the field back and forth before the snap. Because chances were, if a defender's man aligned in, say, the left slot on one play, he very well could be aligned near the right sideline on the next. The 35- to 40-yard jogs that a defender takes to follow this add up. In fact, many NFL coaches who play man coverage will implement extra snaps of zone or limit their specific man-matchup calls in order to mitigate fatigue.

Mind you, this is all just with the secondary. There are also defensive linemen, who wear down faster than any position. They're constantly firing off the ball and wrestling with 300-pound blockers. That's why Dan Quinn, like the rest of the NFL, employs a deep rotation up front. But on 93 snaps, even rotating defensive linemen succumb to exhaustion.

That's what happened Sunday night. As the Falcons' back-seven defenders grew tired chasing receivers before and after the snap, their front four grew tired chasing Tom Brady. The declining pass rush became a problem, including when the Falcons did play some of their staple Cover-3 zone in the second half.

With the D-line tiring, the pressure that had been hounding Brady (he endured five sacks and about three times as many hits) dried up. Dwight Freeney stopped eating left tackle Nate Solder's lunch. Grady Jarrett, who was sensational, flashed less. Vic Beasley no longer made noise. And that's when the greatest quarterback of all time rediscovered the precision accuracy that had evaded him for the first three quarters. With Brady in a clean pocket and throwing in rhythm, the Patriots had no trouble moving the ball.

Patriots stun Falcons in greatest Super Bowl ever (Bruce Arthur, Feb. 5, 2017, Toronto Star)

"I mean, some of us had some doubts," said defensive lineman Chris Long. "It's natural to have some doubts. We're human. But (backup safety) Duron Harmon walked in and said, 'This can be the best comeback of all time.' And he completely believed it. And we had enough guys like that who were pulling guys like me along, that were down."

It wasn't just Brady. It was the adjustments on the offensive line that gave him more time, the adjustments on routes that opened up receivers, the defence, which suddenly got stops. The Patriots are the Patriots because Bill Belichick is a peerless coach, and the staff executes to his direction, and the players follow and trust. [...]

"They were under tremendous pressure," said offensive lineman Nate Solder. Not the Patriots. The other guys. [...]

 With a minute left James White pounded it in, 28-26. They got the two-point conversion, to Danny Amendola. Belichick said later he and offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels had been working on two-point conversions all week. 

Hilarious stat of the day, this was the widest winning margin of any of the Belichick/Brady  Super Bowls. 

Posted by at February 6, 2017 8:24 AM