The Atlanta Falcons Can't Stop the Read Option, So They Went to Clemson to Study It

Colin Kaepernick and Frank GoreThe Atlanta Falcons were a few plays away from reaching the Super Bowl last season – well, technically, they got lucky as hell to beat the Seahawks the round prior – and have identified a key weakness they’d like to remedy for 2013: Stopping the read option.

Seattle’s comeback against Atlanta – the Falcons led 20-0 at halftime – was spurred by Russell Wilson and the read option. The Falcons had no answer for the rookie in the 4th quarter, as the Seahawks scored three TDs, the last one giving them the lead with :31 left. Atlanta got lucky, winning on a last-second field goal. Wilson passed for 385 yards, rushed for 60, and Seattle accumulated 491 yards of offense.

Against San Francisco, more of the same: Read option with Colin Kaepernick. The damage: 373 yards of total offense, 149 on the ground. The 49ers rallied from down 17-0 to win, 28-24.

Have you seen Atlanta’s 2013 schedule? Seattle, San Francisco, Washington and Carolina twice. (The Panthers tallied 879 yards in two games and Atlanta and went 1-1, but it should have been 2-0.) Five games against the read option, and all are in November and December. So the Falcons – after signing DE Osi Umenyiora and spending six of their first seven picks on defensive players – visited Clemson recently to get some pointers on how to stop it.

“We’re definitely crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s because the league is kind of coming to that, with these athletic quarterbacks,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “It’s kind of becoming a little bit like college in that aspect and some teams are multiple (threats). They do the regular, traditional-style offenses as well as going to the pistol and the read-option. That’s something that you really have to focus on.”

Interesting team to go with. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd (3rd overall in my 2014 mock draft) throws more than he keeps it, which is what we might see from RG3 and Kaepernick next year if teams attempt to employ the “message-sending” route. Would a fine & flag be worth it if it means the QB is going to be reluctant to run upfield for extra yardage? [AJC]

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