Falcons ready to play guessing game with Patriots

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan walks on the field near head coach Dan Quinn during a workout at the team's practice facility in Flowery Branch Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan walks on the field near head coach Dan Quinn during a workout at the team's practice facility in Flowery Branch Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

Credit: David Goldman

Credit: David Goldman

The Falcons can’t be sure what they’ll see from the Patriots’ offense in the Super Bowl, but coach Dan Quinn won’t be surprised to see wrinkles in New England’s attack. Quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates are not likely to be old England.

It’s not uncommon in the NFL for teams to unveil a new twist or two game-to-game, yet the Patriots can take it to another level.

When they whipped the Steelers last week in the AFC Championship game, they broke out a four-wide receiver formation on the second snap.

New England had deployed the look before, barely, on just 12 of 1,187 snaps in the regular season spread over two games. By adding tempo to the package, they created what amounted to a new look and as Brady and the Patriots spread out and sped up, they drove Pittsburgh batty.

“The thing about them that’s definitely stood out through the years is they’ve got a big playbook, and it goes through a lot of different personnel packages and a lot of concepts,” Quinn said.

“The first time you go through it, it can feel like the volume is high offensively, defensively as well.”

Coaches have seen every New England snap of the season — and previous seasons — on video, and showed a boatload of them to players.

“They’re difficult to defend,” Quinn said. “They use a variety of different formations, personnel groups. They’ve got a huge playbook from the pass game into the run game, the gap schemes, trap schemes and run game, quick game. So I would say it’s offense that’s well-versed. They have different ways to attack you.”

In some instances, Falcons coaches might be able to anticipate adjustments the Patriots could make on plays, like perhaps running a different route than usual out of a certain formation with a specific personnel group.

But there’s a point where guessing has to stop for sake of preparing for what’s known while reinforcing concepts on both sides of the ball in a way that will hopefully enable players to adapt on the fly if they see changes.

The Patriots are versatile on defense, too, where they move personnel around with linebackers who can play corner, corners who can play safety, safeties who can play linebacker and so on. They move players around.

The Falcons will have to rely on one another to sort through potential surprises.

“They can play a two-gap (system), a single-gap, pressure, drop eight,” Quinn said. “Having that kind of volume takes time to sort out. Yeah, it’s challenging not just in the players they have, but the volume. It starts with communication.”

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