Porous Secondary Awaits Rodgers

CB Dunta Robinson (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Few teams have performed as badly against the pass as Atlanta, which ranks 29th in opponent completion percentage. It's a new-look group from the secondary Aaron Rodgers faced in 2008.

Looking at film from the teams' 2008 matchup might not do a whole lot of good for the Green Bay Packers.

Since that game, none of the Atlanta Falcons' four starters in the secondary are even on this year's roster. The Falcons' revamped secondary has played with mixed results thus far and left cornerback Brent Grimes has been heavily targeted and Dunta Robinson, who was signed as a high-priced free agent as the top cornerback in the free agent class, has given up some plays, too.

There have been three quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards against the Falcons and four that have thrown three touchdown passes. The unit will be on the spot again when the Falcons face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Most of the numbers are not pretty. The Falcons rank 24th in the league in pass defense with 244.1 passing yards allowed per game. Only three teams have allowed a worse completion percentage (67.0 percent). However, with 15 interceptions (tied with Green Bay for second in the NFL), the Falcons rank an acceptable 20th in opponent passer rating (88.2).

"I think they're playing really well," Rodgers told reporters in Atlanta during a Wednesday conference call. "Two years ago we played them and Grimes was more of a third guy for them. I think he's playing very well. He's gotten very impressive. Obviously, bringing in (Dunta) Robinson in the offseason was a big addition. Having (William) Moore coming off his injury, he is playing very well. He's had four interceptions. Thomas (DeCoud) I know from playing with at Cal. I know his athleticism and he's doing a nice job. I think as a whole they're playing very well. I have to give Grimes his props. He's the kind of guy you pull for. He's been released a couple of times and been a practice squad guy and kind of paid his dues."

That praise not withstanding, it is unlikely that the Falcons will be able to match up man-to-man with the Packers' receivers and they will be forced to play a lot of zone coverage. That should take some of the pressure off of the cornerbacks. Safeties William Moore and DeCoud will be required to keep the Packers from turning the game in to a track meet. The strong play of Moore and DeCloud are the big reasons why the Falcons have allowed a second-ranked 24 completions of 20-plus yards.

"Our safeties have a big role in what we do because we put a lot on them in terms of getting us into the right coverages based on the formations," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Sometimes when we make the checks that we need to based on the formations, we're putting ourselves in what we think is going to give us the best opportunity to make a play."

Like the Packers, the Falcons' 15 interceptions have come by 10 players. Moore, one of the top safeties in the 2009 draft class after picking off eight passes as a junior in 2007, leads the team with four interceptions and is a ferocious hitter.

"William Moore has some very great God-given ability and some of those plays may not just be on scheme, they may be on his ability as a football player," Smith said. "He's done some really special things since he's been the starting safety for us."

The Falcons will need their pass rush to perform, but sack leader John Abraham did not play last week, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. If Abraham is unable to play, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux will have to pick up the slack. Even with Abraham, who ranks sixth in sacks, the Falcons rank 25th with just 18 quarterback takedowns.

"I think Jonathan's been very underrated," Smith said. "He's having a very good year for us. We've tried this season to reduce his snaps; last year we felt we played him too many snaps. I think that it's helped him and I think that it's going to help us down the stretch. Jonathan is such an explosive defensive tackle that can create negative-yardage plays."


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