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Friday, November 21, 2008

Lack of Defense

So I was going to write separate articles about the struggles of the Falcons and Hawks, but then I realized their problems were exactly the same: no defense, especially in late game situations.

First, let's start with the Falcons. The Broncos get the ball with 10:36 remaining in the fourth quarter starting on their own 17 yard line down by three. They proceeded to march down the field for a touchdown with relative ease despite playing with two green tackles (Clady is a rookie, Harris is a second-year guy). Granted the Falcons are a good example of young players coming through, but still. A crucial drive in the fourth quarter and the Broncos only see 2 third downs? One of them at the 9 yard line? That's rough...

The main culprit for this is an utter lack of a pass rush outside of Abraham. And since Abraham got banged up earlier in the game, Atlanta's got dominated on the line. The Broncos were rushing effectively despite signing running backs off the street, and Cutler had way too much time to sit in the pocket and wait for a receiver to get open. Our secondary, which is improving, can't defend receivers for that long, especially when playing against talented receivers like Brandon Marshall. So it's time for Jamaal Anderson to wake up and start playing like the defensive end he resembles and will see this week: Julius Peppers. (Seriously, compare! Around the same height, weight, build, facial hair, hair cut... he needs to channel his inner Peppers)

As for the Hawks, I think the main culprits are injuries and poor subbing. Since Josh went out the Hawks' defense has suffered as evidenced by surrendering 108 points to Chicago, 103 to Boston, 115 and 119 to New Jersey, and 113 to Indiana. Additionally Horford has missed the last couple of games so our interior defense at key times consisted of Zaza and Marvin, neither of which can block of shot to save their life (though they rebounded well against Washington, but their big men aren't any good). Combine this with the fact that Woody is running out the combo of Bibby and Flip at the same time and you have a recipe for disaster. The guards on the perimeter can't keep their man in front of them (still have nightmares of Devin Harris), and our bigs can't clean up the mess when they get into the paint.

Getting Horford and Josh back will obviously alleviate some of these problems, but Woody has to realize that he really shouldn't play Flip and Bibby together for long stretches of time. Even with Horford or Josh in there, you're putting so much pressure on them that you have the potential for them to rack up quick fouls or force them to leave their man open for easy dishes or easy rebounds. So unless we're going up against a team with inept guards, Woody needs to stagger Flip and Bibby and mix in Mo Evans more. He can still extend the D, but he can also play D.

But, unlike last year, I feel like these Atlanta teams can actually make adjustments to correct these problems. So they feel more like speed bumps rather than the mountains of last year. Nice feeling...

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