Aaron's Answers: Can the Packers defense hang with the Falcons?

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Throughout the season, I’ll be answering reader questions in a weekly mailbag here at PackersNews.com. If you’d like to submit a question in the future, just email me at anagler@gannett.com.

The Packers head to Atlanta on Sunday night to take on the Falcons in what will be a rematch of an NFC Championship game Green Bay and its fans would undoubtedly prefer to forget. You guys had questions about Mike McCarthy’s offense, Aaron Rodgers’ play and how the defense will fare against the Falcons.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

From Mike Allen:

I noticed the same trends in the Seahawks game that you did.  Throughout the first half, play calling was dominated by lots of long-developing isolation routes where we typically have had difficulty getting separation against a superior secondary like Seattle’s. I agree the added pressure that put on the offensive line was directly responsible for the 4 sacks. When Mike McCarthy switched to shorter routes in the 3rd quarter, we got production. Do you think this is a product of MM’s “just win your one-on-ones” stubbornness or is it possible it was part of his “Mayweather” game plan to slowly wear down Seattle’s D?

Aaron's Answer:

I did wonder about the Mayweather thing, Mike, but I’m not sure how running guys deep into the teeth of the Legion of Boom helps accomplish that. Think that was much more about how much he kept slamming Ty Montgomery into the line, which I do think paid dividends in the second half.

As for the long isolation routes, I tend to think it’s partly a product of who McCarthy is as an offensive game-planner and who he has at quarterback. They think they can throw on anyone and they certainly have the quarterback to do it.

Now, it’s not all on McCarthy. As I highlighted on Twitter yesterday, Rodgers has a habit of turning down easy throws underneath in favor of trying to find something downfield. But I agree that McCarthy needs to help his QB and help get him into a rhythm early by utilizing the short passing game. We saw it in certain games last year (The Eagles game leaps to mind.) but my hunch is that is very much matchup dependant. Their default setting seems to be to try and push things downfield.

From Matt Kronzer:

Why is Mike McCarthy speaking of wanting to go no huddle? With the personnel packages he wants to run two tight ends and he has the personnel to do it, why? Did he mean no huddle while running 12 personnel? (two tight ends)

Aaron’s Answer:

If I remember right, McCarthy was answering a question about the use of more personnel packages taking away their ability to run as much no huddle as they had in the recent past and how they are really able to jump into it whenever they want, regardless of who is on the field.

While they may not be as static personnel-wise as they were the last few years, they can still very much jump into their no huddle offense regardless of what personnel is on the field. The key, of course, is picking up first downs and getting into a rhythm. That’s when Rodgers and company really start to get dangerous. But I tend to think they’ll use it sparingly this season, in favor of being able to switch up personnel from down to down with much more regularity, the two tight end sets being just one of many groups they’ll feature.

Speaking of two tight end sets, they ran them roughly ¼ of the time they were on offense against the Seahawks, but I still heard from a lot of surprised fans thinking it would be a bigger part of their offense. I don’t think 12 personnel was ever going to be their “base” the way 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) was back in 2015, but rather one arrow in a quiver full of personnel groupings they’ll deploy throughout each game.

From Thomas Erickson:

How do you think the defense will do on Sunday vs Falcons? I remember the last meeting vs Atlanta was in Atlanta and the Packers defense could not stop the Falcons offense at all and gave up 40 points. This meeting is in Atlanta too, so how can they stop the Falcons and prevent giving up another 40 points?

Well, Thomas, I think that’s the (Insert Dom Capers’ Salary amount) dollar question.

The thing I’ll be most interested in watching is how much Nitro package they play against Atlanta vs how much Dime personnel they play. Green Bay played the bulk of last Sunday’s game in Nitro, but the Falcons can spread a defense out much more effectively than the Seahawks can.

Will Capers stay in Nitro with those three safeties (Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice) on the field for the whole game or will they relent and bring in an extra cornerback when Atlanta runs its multiple wide receiver sets?

Obviously, getting pressure on Matt Ryan is part of the key here too, something they didn’t do  much of back in January.

This is a lot of words to essentially tell you that I THINK they’ll be a bit better than they were in the NFC Championship game. But then again, Nagler’s Never Right.

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