The Atlanta Falcons are getting ready to head back to the Georgia Dome on Sunday to take on division rivals, the Carolina Panthers. Check out these photos of the Falcons at work in Week 16.
Andrew Hirsh: Coach Quinn mentioned that you guys put some added work into the red zone offense leading up to the game in Jacksonville. What did you spend that extra time on?
Kyle Shanahan: We worked on some pass plays that were a little outside 20 to 10 (yards). The more reps you get, the better results you get. The thing that helped the most is we did a good job run blocking down there. When we've been at our best in the red zone is when we've been able to run the ball. I think we did that very well early in the year and we've struggled with it of late. To really get the run game going, to score on a run play, to faking the run play—it opens up a lot of stuff and makes it a lot easier than doing dropback.
We got a good run coverage to stop our run fronts. When teams are playing run and you get guys in one-on-one looks. When you can get Julio in a one-on-one situations, he does pretty well there. So every time we get that, we try to take advantage of it, because you don't get it very much.
AH: Julio Jones would probably be a Pro Bowler on any team, but Devonta Freeman is someone who really benefits from your offensive system. Do you take any pride knowing that?
KS: Not totally. I was happy for Free; he deserved it. He's a hell of a player, and he's a self-made man. He works as hard as anyone I've been around. He's as genuine of a person as anyone I've been around. I know we've tailed off this last month or so, so I was worried that he wouldn't get that due, but he did, and I was really happy for him because I know he deserved it.
AH: Is Patrick DiMarco a Pro Bowl full back in your mind?
KS: Yeah, of course. I think Pat had a hell of a year, and he's continued to get better throughout the year. I have the utmost respect for Pat, and hopefully he'll get that spot locked down next year.
AH: I was going over some sack/pressure numbers and saw that Ryan Schraeder's pass blocking has been more effective than some tackles who were named to the Pro Bowl. Obviously stats like those can't fully encapsulate the value of a lineman, but do you think he's someone who can become a Pro Bowl-caliber player some time soon?
KS: Yeah, I think so. Especially with the O-line, it's not always about who's the biggest freak out there—it's who doesn't get noticed throughout the game. You get noticed when you give up a sack, so the more consistent you become, you don't always need that highlight reel or to be pancaking people and stuff. You need to make sure your man doesn't make the play. It's about being productive in this league and when you can be productive and not give up sacks, those are the type of guys you're looking for.
AH: The Josh Norman/Julio Jones matchup is once again receiving a lot of attention. Why do you think Norman has been able to enjoy some success against Jones in the last few years?
KS: Well, he's talented. He he's got a lot of length; he moves well, he's competitive, he's aggressive and he's got 10 real good guys around him. That helps everybody—not to take anything away from him, because I think he would be a great player on any team—but you've got a great player with a very good pass rush and very fast linebackers. It helps a lot.