A week after Colin Kaepernick became the talk of the NFL playoffs with a record-setting performance in an NFC Divisional win over the Green Bay Packers, the Falcons held the 49ers' quarterback to 21 rushing yards in a narrow NFC Championship defeat.
Focused on containing Kaepernick, a host of Falcons' linebackers and defensive linemen found themselves out of position several times on inside handoffs to Frank Gore. As a result, Gore rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the 28-24 win. With rematches against the 49ers and Seahawks, as well as two divisional games against the Panthers, in 2013, Mike Smith's staff is brushing up on the read-option this offseason.
Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and several other assistants recently met with Clemson coaches to learn more about the offense that is sweeping the NFL. The Tigers' explosive offense led by dual-threat quarterback Tajh Boyd set more than 100 school records in 2012, including most points (533) and most passing yards (4,181) in a season.
"(The Falcons) are trying to learn more about what we do and how we defend what we do,” Swinney told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Yet, we were able to take a lot from them as well. I'd be surprised if there's an NFL team that hasn't gone and spent time with college coaches this offseason."
In two playoff games, Atlanta struggled defending the run as the Falcons allowed 272 rushing yards combined against the Seahawks and 49ers on 4.7 yards per carry. Atlanta had trouble specifically with Seahawks tight end Zach Miller and 49ers tight ends Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis on traps in run-blocking situations.
“I know that our coaching staff is going to spend a whole lot of time on it because it could be the wave of the future,” Smith told the Journal-Constitution. “I'm not saying that it will be, but that it could be.”
Clemson finished 2012 ranked 57th in FBS in run defense (155.92 yards per game). When facing Georgia Tech's triple-option, Clemson allowed 339 rushing yards in a 47-31 win. The Tigers did better against a Wake Forest offense that features some option sets. Clemson held the Demon Deacons to 51 rusing yards in a 42-13 victory.
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