As painful as it is to relive, here is a breakdown of Atlanta's final drive:
00:31, ATL 28 - M Ryan pass deep left to H.Douglas to 50 for 22 yards.
00:19, Midfield - M.Ryan pass middle to T.Gonzalez to SEA 31 for 19 yards.
00:13, SEA 31 - M.Bryant 49 yard FG is GOOD
I'll leave it to smarter defensive minds than mine to debate the merits of the 5 man rush and the defense we played on those two pass completions. I want to argue for a non-standard approach to this situation in the future.
What I want to have the defense do is akin to fouling a player in basketball when you have fouls to give and a lead with little time left in the game.
Specifically, hold (or even tackle) every receiver. Rush just 3 and man up a defender with every receiver at the line, leave 3 back in zone as well. If a receiver escapes you, tackle him or the safeties come help in coverage.
Imagine Matt Ryan's frustration as no receiver is able to run his route . Would he be smart enough to immediately spike the ball as soon as he see's the yellow flag? I don't think so - he's going to think "free play" and scramble trying to buy time for one of his receiver's to get up, until the rush forces him to throw ball away.
Most likely outcome: 5 yard penalty and first down against Seahawks, 10-15 seconds burned off the clock as Matty Ice works through his progressions in frustration and then scrambles to avoid pressure.
00:20, 1st and 10 at ATL 33... beats the heck out of 1st and 10 at 50.
One or two more times and we are at worst looking at a Hail Mary from midfield instead of any chance at a field goal.
The Falcons gained 41 yards in 18 seconds. They would have to get past 8 plays with defensive holding to get 40 yards against my defense.
Maybe there is some rule against this that I don't know of, but I wonder why a defense would not try to sacrifice 5 yards to kill the clock in this way.
Maybe you don't do it on every receiver, but only the biggest threats. Either way, in a place where 5 yards doesn't hurt you and clock is under 30 seconds, this seems like an excellent defensive strategy.
Curious on any thoughts on this approach the next time we face this situation (Chicago, Atlanta...). I realize it might be derided by opposing fans as unmanly or criticized as cheap. But it seems to be within the rules to employ this strategy so I'm wondering why no coach has thought to do so.