How To Beat Matt Ryan And The Atlanta Falcons

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, it’s finally here. The NFL season is upon us and we can now officially say it’s “game week”. The preseason is officially in the rearview and the 53 man roster has been set (at least for now). It’s time to stop talking hypotheticals and actually look at this week’s match up. For the Kansas City Chiefs that first match up comes against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons, as we currently know them with Thomas Dimitroff as GM, Mike Smith as the head coach, and Matt Ryan as the starting quarter back, have been together since the 2008 season when all three first came to Atlanta. In those four seasons the Falcons have been one of the better teams in the NFL. During that span they have gone 43-21 (67.2%) with three playoff births and have finished with a winning record in all four seasons. The Falcons have been especially good at home where they are 26-6 (81.3%). On the road they have still been a good team going 17-15 (53.1%). Despite having a winning record on the road, I think most Chiefs fans like their odds at home a lot more than they would if the Chiefs had to travel to Atlanta to face “Matty Ice” and the Falcons.

A great deal has been made about stopping the Falcons offense without the suspended Tamba Hali and the pressure he imposes on the quarterback. Another major concern for KC fans is the health of the KC secondary where Brandon Flowers may or may not play and Kendrick Lewis has already been ruled out. So I thought I’d take a look at the Falcons over the past four years and see if I could find a recipe for beating them. I started by looking at how getting to Matt Ryan effects the Falcons.

I specifically looked at the difference in winning percentage between games where Ryan was sacked 2 or less times versus games where he was sacked 3 or more times. I also broke down the winning percentages for those same categories when the Falcons were on the road. Here is what I found:

In games where Atlanta allows 2 or less sacks they are 35-15 (70.0%).

In road games where Atlanta allows 2 or less sacks they are 13-9 (59.1%).

In games where Atlanta allows 3 or more sacks they are 8-6 (57.1%).

In road games where Atlanta allows 3 or more sacks they are 4-6 (40.0%).

A drop in road winning percentage from 59.1% to 40.0% when on the road is note worthy. So getting constant pressure on Ryan does help tip the scales to the home team’s favor. In this regard, losing Tamba Hali for this game will hurt the Chiefs. However, as you will see in a minute, this difference in winning percentage is actually the least significant of the four areas I looked at. I think you’ll find the other three slightly more encouraging.

Next I looked at how Matt Ryan’s passing totals effect the Falcons’ winning percentage. There is a valid concern that Ryan may rack up big stats against a banged up KC secondary, so I broke it down to games where Ryan threw for under 250 yards versus games where he threw for 250 yards or more. Here is what I found:

In games where Ryan threw for under 250 yards the Falcons are 29-7 (80.5%).

In road games where Ryan threw for under 250 yards the Falcons are 12-5 (70.6%).

In games where Ryan threw for 250 yards or more the Falcons are 13-12 (52.0%).

In road games where Ryan threw for 250 yards or more the Falcons are 5-10 (33.3%).

These numbers caught me by surprise. The Falcons’ road winning percentage is over 30 points higher when Matt Ryan passes for fewer yards. I went in expecting the winning percentage to be skewered a little by the fact that QBs often rack up big totals in losses because they are passing a lot to try and come from behind. What I wasn’t expecting was to find that the Falcons have only won five road games in four years where Ryan has thrown for 250 yards or more. To be fair to Ryan, three of those five wins came last season. So it appears as he develops as a QB he is more likely to carry his team. However, the stats still say that the Falcons’ game plan for winning on the road doesn’t usually include Ryan winging the ball all over the field. That’s good news for the Chiefs and their banged up secondary. The logical conclusion then is that the Falcons rely more on their run game when trying to win games on the road. That’s where we’ll take a look next.

I specifically looked at the difference in winning percentage in games where the Falcons rushed the ball for 100 yards or more versus games where they rushed for under 100 yards. Here is what I found:

In games where Atlanta rushed for 100 yards or more they are 29-8 (78.4%).

In road games where Atlanta rushed for 100 yards or more they are 12-6 (66.7%).

In games where Atlanta rushed for under 100 yards they are 14-13 (51.9%).

In road games where Atlanta rushed for under 100 yards they are 5-9 (35.7%).

So basically, when the Falcons rush for 100 yards or more on the road, their odds of winning almost double. They win two out of three games when they rush for 100 yards but they lose about two out of three when they don’t (on the road). That’s a pretty significant stat. I’d say that of the three stats we’ve looked at so far it’s the most significant. I feel confident saying that KC’s ability to stop the Atlanta run game will have a major impact on the game. One plus for KC in this area is that their two starting 3-4 DEs (Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson) were the top rated at their position at stopping the run last year. That’s good news for KC fans. If Derrick Johnson isn’t able to play then that will be a blow to the KC run defense and the other players will have to step up to fill his void if they hope to win this important battle.

Finally, I thought I should look at the opposite side of the ball. So I decided to simply look at points allowed by the Atlanta defense. I looked at Atlanta’s winning percentage when they allow 24 points or less versus when they allow 25 points or more. Here is what I found:

In games where Atlanta allowed 24 points or less they are 38-7 (84.4%).

In road games where Atlanta allowed 24 points or less they are 16-5 (76.2%).

In games where Atlanta allowed 25 points or more they are 5-14 (26.3%).

In road games where Atlanta allowed 25 point or more they are 1-10 (9.1%).

Wow. Just….wow. In four years the Falcons have only won ONE road game where they allowed over 24 points. We’re not talking about the KC offense having to score 45 points, just 25. Not only do the Falcons practically NEVER win when they allow over 24 points on the road, they are VERY GOOD on the road when they allow 24 points or less. A 76.2 winning percentage on the road is more than impressive. We have now found the most significant factor in the KC/Atlanta game. The KC offense must score points if they want to win. The numbers say that if KC can score over 24 points that their odds of winning jump from 24% up to 91%. That’s about as cut and dry as it gets.

The good news for KC fans is that the starting offense has looked about as good as it ever has during the preseason since Matt Cassel arrived in KC. The run game looks strong and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems to have a good system and relationship going with Cassel that will allow him to play to his strengths.

So in conclusion, the loss of Tamba Hali and the injuries to KC’s secondary are important and will have an effect on the game. However, it doesn’t mean that KC can’t execute a game plan that is proven to beat the Falcons. If the Chiefs can stop the run on defense and score points on offense then history says they have an excellent shot at beating the Falcons. That should give hope to all KC fans.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Topics: Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, KC Chiefs, Matt Ryan

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  • http://www.arrowheadaddict.com Patrick Allen

    These long, sustained drives we have been seeing in the preseason are exactly what the Chiefs need in this game. It will keep Ryan and those big play receivers on the sidelines.

    • Danny W

      It won’t matter though if we don’t score touchdowns when we get down there. Lets hope Daboll has us schemed up for 7.

  • Calchiefsfan

    It’s funny, this week I was thinking with our banged up defense that we could win only if we scored 35 points or more. In essence win a shoot out.
    Let’s hope Poe and Powe hold the line, (literally), at NT.
    Interesting stuff Lyle, nice job.
    Football is back! 4 full quarters of first team play. Woo hoo!

  • http://www.facebook.com/OregonTrailMan Mark Bellware

    Wow you are a stat dog fer sure! Excellent analysis I will be using them while I watch and reading your column for your response next week. Once again thanks.

  • ArrowFan

    Good job

  • Alex Simon

    Honestly, just be happy this game is at home, opening weekend, the D looks very soft and if they can’t get after the QB, and if they can’t cover we’ll be swiss cheesed up! But the fact that we are at home, pumped up, maybe we’ll play above our level.

  • DoubleD

    Good stuff Lyle!
    I believe their are two key story lines going into this game will be 1) can the Falcons defend the run (their weakness on defense) and can the Chiefs defend the pass (their weakness on defense).
    Except for passes out of the backfield and short passes, I believe the Chiefs have enough talent and experience up front to limit the Falcons run game. As a result, I expect to see the Chiefs playing a LOT of nickel and dime. TE Gonzalez is still a handful, but he looks to me to be a lot slower nowadays so I think our safeties and LBs can at least contain him. The obvious real challenge will be our ability to cover Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas . . . especially if Matt Ryan has all day to throw to them. So really, the biggest key on defense will be to somehow find ways to keep pressure on Ryan. This game is probably going to be the greatest defensive challenge that Romeo Crennell faces all season.
    On offense, I would basically run Peyton Hillis straight at them until they prove they can stop us. Also a 2 TE set should be the order of the day, interchanging that occasionally with Dex in the slot. If they give us anything deep a la one-on-one coverage with Bowe, throw the ball his way each and every time they do.
    With Hali out, and highly questionable DJ and Flowers, and going against Matt Ryan and co, I think this is going to be an extremely tough game to win but I do believe we have a decent shot to pull it off in some ugly fashion.
    Let’s also hope that special teams can come up with a couple big plays.

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