Good morning! Welcome to the special Super Bowl edition of The Cover 9@9 blog. Normally it is a weekly blog of everything you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons, which is 9 items published at 9 a.m. each Wednesday morning. This week from Houston, we will be live each morning at 9 a.m. with the Super Bowl edition of Cover 9@9!
1. SACK ATTACK: Former Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora knows how to rattle New England quarterback Tom Brady.
He was with the New York Giants when they beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. Both time the Giants’ defensive line was able to mount consider pressure on quarterback Tom Brady up the middle.
In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants had five sacks and nine quarterback hits in the 17-14 victory. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants had two sacks and eight quarterback hits in the 21-17 victory.
The Falcons mounted a stout pass rush against mobile quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Umenyiora, who played two seasons with the Falcons in 2013 and 2014, believes the Falcons can get after Brady like his New York Giants teams.
“They have the pass rushers to do it,” Umenyiora said on Thursday while waiting for the Lady Gaga press conference to start. “Vic Beasley is a great player. Dwight Freeney at any point in time he can explode and go off. He’s a great player, too.”
Brady, 39, can feel the pressure coming from around the edge. The Falcons need to jump up in his face through the A gaps between center and guards.
“Up the middle, they have (Jonathan) Babineaux and (Ra’Shede) Hageman, who’s been playing really well,” Umenyiora said. “They are good in the secondary with (Keanu) Neal and (Ricardo) Allen and (Robert) Alford and all of those boys. I think they have a really good chance to be able to do it.”
Umenyiora is happy for the Falcons.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s a great organization. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everybody up there, (general manager Thomas) Dimitroff, (assistant general manager Scott) Pioli and the whole staff, so I’m really happy for them.”
Since retiring, Umenyiora has been a broadcaster in London with BBC Sports.
“I’m called the Ambassador for the NFL to London,” Umenyiora said. “I’m doing everything over there. I’m just trying to broaden the game over there. I do broadcasting over there also. Trying to make the game big and hopefully we’ll have a franchise over there. We’re trying to bring a franchise to London.”
2. STOPPING THE RUN: Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith is getting his unit ready for New England’s rushing attack.
The Patriots have three running backs in LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis and James White.
During the regular season, Blount rushed 299 times for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. Lewis averaged 4.4 yards per carry and White was second on team with 60 catches for 551 yards and five touchdowns.
“All three of them are really good runners,” Smith said. “Blount is more of a first and second down guy. First of all, as a runner, he runs very, very hard. He’s got really good vision. Where he will jump-cut you. He’s a physical runner. He also is really good in protections. They do a lot of play-action passes with him in.”
White is a third-year back, who starred at Wisconsin.
“When they go to White, he’s more of a third down back,” Smith said. “He has a lot of receptions. He’s dangerous. They get him out in space and flex him out like a wide receiver and try to create some mismatches when you’ve got linebackers on him. He’s really quick and good receiving type back.”
Lewis is a mix of Blount and White.
“You look at his time speed and it doesn’t concern you,” Smith said. “But he’s very quick. He’s kind of the combination guy. He’s a runner and a pass-catching guy. They can motion him out of the backfield.”
Smith believes that creating a fumble will be difficult. The Falcons had a big forced fumble in the NFC champions game by cornerback Jalen Collins.
“They’ve got three good ones there,” Smith said. “For many years there, Belichick is the type of guy that you don’t play for him if you turn the ball over. They are really good in terms of not turning the ball over. It will be a really big challenge to try to get the ball out from all three of them.”
Once the running game is in check, the Falcons know they need to get some pressure on New England quarterback Tom Brady and play well in coverage if he decides to throw the ball in under 2 seconds.
“With Tom, he does such a great job of getting the ball out quickly,” Smith said. “He’s has a different style than the last two guys that we played. He’s not mobile like the other two guys that we played. He sits in the pocket.”
3. TAKING AWAY JULIO: Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has a plan if the Patriots try to take away wide receiver Julio Jones.
“That’s just what they do,” Shanahan said. “They’ve done it forever. They are really good at it. Almost every team we’ve played has done it also, but they are as good at doing that as anyone. We know that’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for Julio, but it’s also a challenge for everyone on the roster.”
The Patriots have a variety of ways to double-team Jones.
“They do a lot of creative things to do it,” Shanahan said. “They have a number of ways to do it. The switch it up all the time. We’ll have to see how they do it.”
4. GETTING GABRIEL: Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes that have the coaches involved in scouting is vital to the player procurement process.
The portion was important when the Falcons decided to claim Taylor Gabrial off of waivers.
“Anytime you continue to have an open mind and you’re willing to go out into the market and grab someone that is idea for your team,” Dimitroff said. “Taylor Gabriel was a perfect complement to what we were doing with our offense. We love having that there.”
5. COACHES AND SCOUTING: Dimitroff seems to genuinely like having the coaches involved in scouting.
“It was so important to come into the draft with our head coach together as a really true partnership with a common vision for both the coaching staff and the personnel department,” Dimitroff said. “We were going out and looking for the exact same things. The nuances of the defense and the offensive were very specific to our scheme. That was No. 1.”
6. MACK ATTACK: Falcons appear to have under reported center Alex Mack's injury. With a pool reporter at practice to give an objective assessment, things don't look so good. The Team reported his injury as an ankle, but apparently it is a fibula injury.
7. ESPN: A BUNCH OF HATERS: ESPN, like mostly national outlets, don't cover the Falcons much. They seem to be drinking the Tom Brady juice, too.
8. MY NEW FAVORITE DJS: Made it out to the EA Sports Super Bowl Party last night and discovered the Chainsmokers. Nice!
9. SNOOP DOGG! The legendary one from the L.B.C. closed out the party.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: FALCONS 44, PACKERS 21
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: FALCONS 36, SEAHAWKS 20