By Matthew Asher
Unlike last week’s practice report, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith took the time to answer the inquiries of the media, rather than give them the cold shoulder.
Obviously, the focus of the Atlanta Falcons will be on slowing down Peyton Manning and the revamped Broncos offense. Rather than give away specifics on how he expects the Falcons defense to stop the Broncos, Smith focused on preaching fundamentals.
“The most important thing is we have to play sound technique and make sure we’re in the right place. If you’re in the wrong place by a half yard you’re going to pay for it. He has a good understanding of how you’re trying to defend him. If you give him pre-snap reads he’s going to know where to go with the football.”
While that answer is definitely on the generic side of responses, Smith does know exactly what Manning is capable of. When Smith was the Jacksonville Jaguar defensive coordinator, he faced Manning’s offense 10 times.
Even though Peyton Manning appears to be back to the old Pro-Bowl quarterback we remember him as (which ironically, was the younger Manning), his new offense is definitely different from both his Indianapolis team and last year’s Broncos team. Smith did talk about some of the noticeable differences from both offenses.
“Obviously, the passing game is different and some of their base run plays,” Smith said. “That’s probably the biggest difference. They’ve got a guy back there that can really operate.”
But knowing that Manning can operate isn’t enough for Smith. He’s gone back to the game vault to see what Manning’s did as a Colt. “I think some of the concepts that have shown up in the preseason indicate there is some of the Indy passing game as well, so yes, we studied some of the Indy stuff as well.”
With the old adage of “the best defense is a good offense,” Smith knows the most effective way to stop Manning: prevent him (and his offense) from getting the ball.
If Atlanta is to come away victorious on Monday, they need to make the most of their offensive possessions. “You definitely want to take advantage of the ball when you have it,” said Smith. “You don’t want to end a drive with a turnover and lose a possession…if they’re playing efficiently and moving the football you may have to match them drive for drive. That’s the beauty of the game.”
Smith knows in order for the Falcons to compete, they need to keep Matt Ryan protected on the field. This means watching out for 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller and 2009 sack leader Elvis Dumervil.
“These two guys are really good edge rushers. Between the two of them, they had 21 sacks last year so they bring it,” Smith said. “They put a lot of pressure with the four man rush because they have two very good edge rushers.”
With the injury of Brent Grimes in last week’s game at Kansas City, Smith revealed the new depth chart for his cornerbacks. “In terms of our base defense, Dunta [Robinson] will move to the right corner position and CB Christopher Owens will move into the nickel spot.”
Grimes isn’t the only Falcon injured for Monday’s game. Linebacker Robert James (knee), Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring) and wide receiver Roddy White (groin) were limited in practice this week.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.