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Patriots’ running backs a big challenge for Quinn, Falcons

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn knows the challenge of trying to defend the Patriots from his time with Seattle.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn knows the challenge of trying to defend the Patriots from his time with Seattle.AP

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks two years ago when the Patriots beat Seattle, 28-24, in the Super Bowl.

Quinn said he marvels over the full toolbox of plays used by Tom Brady and the New England offense. The Atlanta coach was asked how different the Patriots are with the ball this season compared to the 2014 season leading into the 2015 Super Bowl.

Quinn tried not to be too specific to give away what he has learned in a few days of film study.

“They have always had a unique way of how to feature running backs, and even in different ways,” Quinn said. “So the running backs are not only a factor in the run game they are a factor in the pass game, much like our runners are. That’s a challenge when guys are used in both ways. That’s another weapon they have, much like we do. You have to defend the entire field.”

Quinn said there will be some challenges for his defense, schematically.

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New England’s offense is so varied that it can make a defense pause and read a play. Much like the Seahawks who want to keep things simple on the field so the defense could play fast — and not over-think — the Falcons want to play fast. That is especially challenging because the Falcons will have four rookie starters on the field, if you include nickel corner Brian Poole.

“They’ve got a big playbook. It goes through a lot of personnel packages and a lot of concepts,” Quinn said. “The first time you go through it, it feels like the volume is high. They are challenging not just from the players they have, but the volume of scheme.

“We play at our best when we play fast. We’ll make sure for our players we are able to play at max speed.”

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The other challenge for the Falcons is sniffing out who the Patriots think they are going to be able to beat on the Atlanta defense. College teams will run a scheme and do what they do best; NFL teams hunt the weak link.

“However they want to feature the players on the matchups that’s one thing that has always been the same, them trying to create the matchups of who they want to go after and who they want to attack,” Quinn said.

■ The Falcons’ practice Friday was a walk-through. Wide receiver Julio Jones was on the practice field, but not running, just easing through the plays, according to teammates.

■ Quinn has harped all week to his young team to keep their same mode of preparation for the Super Bowl they used in the regular season. For a back up to his message, Quinn can point to defensive end Dwight Freeney, 36, who played in two Super Bowls with Indianapolis (1-1).

Freeney has been available at his locker the last three days answering every question put to him with a veteran’s ease. Meanwhile, many of the Falcons players have been scarce this week during the open locker room.

Quinn has stressed to his team this week to shut out the noise of the big game, and apparently staying in the training room or cafeteria is a good remedy. Atlanta media staff search for players, but they know how to duck and keep a low profile.

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