The Week 1 matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Minnesota Vikings serves as a perfect example as to how winning the battles at the line of scrimmage greatly increases your team’s odds of winning the game.
From the get-go, the Vikings were putting a lot of pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan, proving to be a huge factor in the Vikings 28-12 victory over the Falcons.
Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews struggled in his one-on-one matchups against Everson Griffen while the duo of Ty Sambrailo and Kaleb McGary experienced much difficulty in trying to contain Danielle Hunter. The Vikings would ultimately finish the day with four sacks and seven quarterback hits.
With poor pass protection, Ryan wasn’t able to properly go through his progressions and keep his eyes downfield. This prevented the Falcons receivers from making any big plays as Ryan didn’t have enough time to get the ball to them.
Game killing turnovers were also created as a result. In Ryan’s first interception thrown, Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr both broke free through the offensive line. Ryan tried to force the ball to Julio Jones to avoid the hit but was picked off by Anthony Harris. The Vikings would then score on the ensuing drive. On his second interception in the red zone, Hunter broke free again. To avoid another hit, Ryan tried to heave it up to tight end Luke Stocker before again getting picked off by Harris.
The Falcons are set to host the Eagles this Sunday night without rookie right guard Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom had a solid debut, providing nice pass protection for Atlanta, but had to leave the game in the third quarter due to a broken foot. Backup Jamon Brown will take over for Lindstrom as he recovers.
The Eagles number priority should be getting a lot of pressure on Matt Ryan. Julio Jones has torched the Eagles throughout his career and has been a key reason as to why the past four matchups between the two teams have been one possession games. If the Eagles defensive secondary struggled to contain Redskins rookie receiver Terry McLaurin last week, they are definitely going to have a tough time containing Jones.
Similar to Griffen and Hunter, if edge rushers Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham can win their matchups against Matthews and McGrady, Ryan won’t be able to get the ball off in time to his receivers.
The McGrady matchup is especially crucial as he didn’t see much action in the preseason and is still trying to get into shape. Fletcher Cox also needs to win his matchup against Jamon Brown as there are questions surrounding whether or not Brown will do a nice job filling in for Lindstrom.
Ultimately, all of this would mean that Atlanta’s playmakers like Julio Jones won’t be able to have another huge game against the Eagles and the defensive secondary steers clear of any harm. Atlanta’s offense would stall and the momentum would greatly swing in Philadelphia’s favor.
Expect the Eagles to implement a lot of blitz packages on Sunday night. The Falcons offensive line will be heavily tested with loads of pressure and they will have to prove whether last week was either a fluke or a preview of things to come.