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Falcons vs. Eagles: Sketching out a Game Plan for Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 14: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons is introduced before the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Georgia Dome on October 14, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterOctober 25, 2012

Recent history hasn’t been kind to the Atlanta Falcons when it comes to head-to-head matchups with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not only do the Eagles sport a 15-11-1 record all-time over the Falcons, but Philadelphia’s won eight of the last 10 meetings dating back to Week 5 in 2000. You have to travel all the way back to Week 9 of the 1988 season to find a Falcons win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.

It gets even worse for Atlanta when you look at its record directly after a bye week. Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons are 3-1 the week following their bye week. The only loss came against Philadelphia in 2008.

But history is for academicians (I even had to look that word up) and doesn’t play a part in the 2012 version of the Falcons versus the Eagles, right?

For Atlanta to travel to The City of Brotherly Love and complete the rather un-brotherly task of kicking the snot out of the Eagles, the Falcons are going to have to play to their strengths and come up with a winning game plan.

Here are some ideas:


Take advantage of Mike Vick’s Turnover Issues

There’s one aspect of Sunday’s game where the Falcons are decidedly good and the Eagles are extremely bad, and that’s turnover ratio. Atlanta ranks third in the league with a plus-10 ratio while Philadelphia is No. 30 at minus-9.

While Michael Vick isn’t the only culprit, he is having a rough go this year.

Through six games Vick has thrown eight interceptions and fumbled the football nine times. He’s on pace to set career-highs in both categories, and his propensity to turn the ball over has gotten so bad, he’s resorted to carrying a football around the team facility to remind himself about ball security.

Each and every one of Vick’s turnovers directly affects the success of the Eagles, and not only does Vick need to worry about wins and losses now, but Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press believes he’s also in danger of losing his job if the turnovers don’t stop.

That’s not a good situation when Vick’s facing the Falcons, a team that’s forced a turnover in every game this season and four times done it three or more times.


Help Tyson Clabo with Jason Babin

Do you remember Week 4 against the Carolina Panthers when Matt Ryan was sacked seven times? Tyson Clabo does because he was responsible for three of those sacks.

Clabo had trouble keeping Charles Johnson out of Atlanta’s backfield, and those troubles could pop up again against Philadelphia as Clabo faces off against Eagles defensive end Jason Babin.

According to Pro Football Focus (paywall), Johnson ranks fourth in total pressure (a combination of sacks, quarterback hits and hurries) from the left side in the NFL with a score of 44.

Babin is tied for sixth in the NFL with a total pressure score of 20. The difference between Johnson’s 44 and Babin’s 20 is huge, but Babin is still the quality pass-rusher who may give Clabo fits.

The Falcons are likely going to have to use extra linemen to help Clabo at times Sunday. Or possibly offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will call for some chipping from Tony Gonzalez and the receiving corps.

However it comes, Clabo is going to need some help. He’s also going to need to put Week 4 behind him. He hasn’t given up a sack since, but Oakland did get three quarterback hurries from Clabo’s side.


Make 100 a Priority for Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez has 99 career touchdown catches (a good Atlanta Field Report graphic display) and would love to land No. 100 in Philadelphia.

Records aside, it may make schematic sense for the Falcons to focus on Gonzalez on Sunday.

Philadelphia has two quality cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, who will likely be given the task of covering Roddy White and Julio Jones. As teams have found out with regularity this year, it’s tough to cover White, Jones and Gonzalez all at the same time.

The Eagles have given up 21 receptions this year to tight ends for 184 yards and a touchdown, and they haven’t faced a tight end quite like Gonzalez.

If the Eagles do focus on White and Jones then expect Gonzalez to have a monster game.

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