Tag: neutralize

ATL News / Sports

Falcons have to neutralize this 49ers defender to have any chance

The Falcons find themselves in a peculiar situation where they have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs while sitting inside the top ten of the 2022 draft. Atlanta has everything in front of them and controls their own destiny in a log-jam of NFC teams fighting for the final two spots in the Wild Card.

The Falcons have slowly been building different facets of this team throughout the season, and even if it isn’t high, they’re peaking. Coming off their most complete game against the Panthers, Atlanta looks to continue their ascension. Much of the improvement has come from the players and scheme meshing. The defense has been playing well since the Cowboys disaster, forcing a respectable amount of field goals and turnovers.

In recent weeks, we have seen the offense shift to a run-focused attack, posting 100+ yards in three straight games. The attitude and cohesion of the Falcons offensive line, in particular, have been a catalyst to the unit’s success. Against the 49ers’ defensive front, the offensive line must have another great performance, which begins with neutralizing their best player — Nick Bosa.

The Ohio State product is having an incredible season coming off a torn ACL, one that will likely earn him Comeback Player of the Year. He ranks third in the league with 14 sacks and first in tackles for loss with 18. Bosa is a freak technician and even better athlete that can beat tackles with a wide variety of pass-rushing moves. He’s also incredibly effective in setting the edge when defending the run; he’s truly a force and one of the best players at his position. The Falcons need to slow him down if they have any chance.

What makes Bosa so incredibly difficult to deal with is his ability to line up on either side of the offense and get to the quarterback. Matt Barrows of The Athletic illustrated Bosa’s versatility, “So far this season he’s taken 159 snaps as a right outside end, according to TruMedia, and 153 as a left outside end. Of his 12 sacks, six have come from the right side and six from the left. He has 20 pressures from the right and 20 pressures from the left. He’s forced two fumbles (including the one by Wilson) from the left and one from the right.”

Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary will probably each see reps against Bosa. Arthur Smith knows he’s likely to move around, so he’ll have to devise several plans to negate Bosa wrecking the game. Against Matthews, Smith is better served because the veteran tackle is much more reliable in pass sets than McGary. Anything more than a quick chip is probably unnecessary; of course, plans can change if Matthews cannot handle him. The right side is really where challenges present themselves.

McGary isn’t the most technically-sound pass blocking tackle in the league, and that’s putting it nicely. If they were true one-on-one situations, I’d imagine Bosa winning an overwhelming majority of reps against McGary. However, the reality is that Smith can throw several different blocking schemes at Bosa and the 49ers. Quick passes and a successful run game will neutralize any pass rush, but not everything always goes according to plan. Smith shouldn’t prepare for the best case scenario.

If McGary lines up across from Bosa, he should never do it without help unless it is a fast-developing concept, like bubble screens. Hayden Hurst, Kyle Pitts, or Lee Smith should chip Bosa every single play he’s lined up across from McGary on other slower-developing plays. Mike Davis is a formidable pass blocking running back and should be useful against Bosa in many situations too. The 49ers’ defensive line outside of him is bleak, so Smith’s entire focus should be on deterring Bosa.




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