Defensive ‘guru’ Sutton helped Falcons slow down the Chiefs

Falcons assistant coach Bob Sutton. AJC File photo
Falcons assistant coach Bob Sutton. AJC File photo

“Uncle Bob” was the Falcons’ secret weapon against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.

Bob Sutton was the Chiefs’ former defensive coordinator from 2013 to 2018 and knew the ins-and-outs of the team’s offense.

“Uncle Bob is awesome,” Falcons safety Keanu Neal said of the assistant coach on Monday. “He’s great. He does a lot for us and he’s definitely the guru behind a lot of things.”

The Falcons held the Chiefs, who entered the game leading the league by averaging 31.1 points per game, to 17 points. It was their fewest points in a game this season and Kansas City’s fewest since Week 5 of the 2019 season.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning most valuable player, was held to a season-low 79.5 passer rating. At times the Falcons were running Chiefs routes better than their receivers.

The Chiefs even tried to trick the Falcons with a fake-reverse pass, but the Falcons, likely with some help from “Uncle Bob,” were all over the throwback pass to Mahomes.

“I was the high-(cover)-2 defender backside,” Neal said. “I was looking for anyone coming back and it happened to be the quarterback as the play developed. I ended up on him and they threw it up. I didn’t really expect them to throw it, but they threw it anyway. I came down with it.”

It was Neal’s second career interception.

At practice last week, Sutton, with his mask on, was seen communicating concepts and ideals with Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen, who played a big role in keeping down the explosive plays. Sutton was the head coach at Army from 1991 to 1999.

After missing the last two games, Allen cleared concussion protocol and played.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid knew that Sutton could be a factor.

“He’s a great football coach and he’s a great person,” Reid said last week before the game. “He has got one of the great defensive minds in this league. I’m sure he’ll have a couple of surprises.”

The Falcons wanted Mahomes to think before firing his missiles.

“We definitely planned on attacking him mentally,” Neal said. “I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

Morris wouldn’t discuss the plan after the game, but the Falcons mixed their coverages between zone and man-to-man concepts. They faked blitzes from one side and then came from the other.

Mahomes was sliding his protection to the wrong side at times and the Falcons jumped a few routes.

“I can’t go into too much detail about it, but we wanted to show them some stuff and move into different things,” Neal said. “Give them disguises. Make them think we were about to do something and then do something else. There were a lot of things that contributed to it.”

With the score 7-7, the Chiefs came out to start the third quarter and drove the ball down to the Falcons’ 7.

“You can tell that they came out with a renewed (determination) to establish the run,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “They were using the hard count and cadence to get our rushers off sides. They did a couple of really good things to get down there.”

Credit: AJC

Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris discusses the 17-14 loss to the Chiefs and why he threw the red challenge flag on A.J. Terrell’s non-interception.

Credit: AJC

Linebacker Foye Oloukun was lurking around tight end Travis Kelce and intercepted a pass to stop the threat. He had a 52-yard return and the Falcons had a chance to take over the game.

“We were able to settle down once we got inside the red zone,” Morris said. “Which was another growth area for us. We let Foye settle down and executed what we needed to do. Foye stepped in front of a pass and was able to show his running back skill set, other than his ball security (he fumbled).

“I was really fired up about that play being made. We’ve got to turn that into points on our offense to really make that a successful coming-out party.”

Cornerback Kendall Sheffield had his hands on a pass early.

“Those plays that you can make as a player can be game-changers,” Morris said. “If you can make those plays as game-changers, those are always things that can help you win at the end of the day.”

Mahomes won a major battle at the end. Morris exonerated Sheffield for getting beat by Demarcus Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown pass.

“That play at the end of the game that he gave up was a good play by the Kansas City Chiefs,” Morris said. “We had a double-team on a couple of other people. He got singled up.

“He got a triple move and Pat Mahomes absolutely threw a laser beam of a throw on a one-on-one opportunity and he made the play.”

Sheffield was put in a bad spot by the play call.

“That goes against coaches, goes against players, goes against all of us,” Morris said. “You can’t individualize that play. It was a game-losing touchdown because of how well and prepared those guys played. That was the weakness in the coverage and he found it.”

The Falcons put together four quarters of good defense for perhaps just the second time this season if you count the loss to the Chiefs and the 43-6 win over the Raiders.

“Personally, I feel like we can play with anyone in the league,” Neal said. “That’s just how you have to feel as a competitor. Yeah, the film definitely shows that we can compete with anyone.

“Great offense. Dangerous passing game. Dangerous quarterback. Holding them to however many points that we did, that goes to show you that we are in a good space when we do things right.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. New York Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Cincinnati Bengals

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