Georgia Dome. AP Photo
The Oakland Raiders travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Regular Season Week 6 action. After a bye week, the Silver and Black are ready to get back on the field and play for their second win of the season. They will be facing a team that several of the Raiders coaches are familiar with. Offensive quality control coach Justin Griffith spent four years as a fullback with Atlanta, while offensive coordinator Greg Knapp served in the same capacity with the Falcons from 2001-03. Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen spent four years on the Falcons coaching staff and strength and conditioning coach Al Miller was with the Falcons from 1997-2005.
The two teams first met in 1971 and have met 12 times with the Raiders leading the series 7-5. The Raiders last faced the Falcons in 2008 at home and fell to the team from the NFC South. The Silver and Black last beat Atlanta in Oakland in 2000.
The Raiders will head into their first game of the season played in a dome and on turf. They know they will be playing in a hostile environment. "We've got to use that to excite us and go out there and play harder," said CB Pat Lee. "It's hard in places like that; we've just got to tune that out and ball."
DT Richard Seymour is looking forward to playing in the hostile Georgia Dome. "I enjoy playing in hostile environments," said DT Richard Seymour. "The more hostile, the better for me. As a competitor and as a player you should embrace those type moments. That's my mindset, the louder it gets, the better I play."
Although the dome creates a charged atmosphere, Coach Allen believes it's the team playing there that makes playing at the Georgia Dome so difficult. "They are a good football team," said Coach Allen. "They play with energy, they play with passion, and they enjoy playing the game. They create an up-tempo situation both offensively and defensively and when they play that way it keeps the crowd into it and keeps the crowd excited. They have got a good home field advantage and they have had it that way for a while. It will be a tough place to play."
Playing one of the two remaining unbeaten teams this week will be a challenge for the Silver and Black. "They're an extremely good football team," said Coach Allen. "They are very well coached. They are explosive on offense. Their defense plays extremely fast. They're opportunistic, so there is a reason why they're 5 -0. It will be a huge challenge going down there to their place in that dome and in that environment where they have played a lot of good football. It will be a challenge for us."
The Raiders are ready to go down to Atlanta and prove themselves. "I think we just have to execute and play like ourselves," said FB Marcel Reece. "I think if we do that then we're going to be okay. I think we can play with anyone in this league."
The offense is preparing for a Top 10 passing defense. "They present a lot of challenges," said Reece on the Falcons defense. "They do a lot of things on defense. They have a very fast defense, they swarm the ball. They force a lot of turnovers. We're just going to have to try to focus on taking care of the ball and executing and being ourselves."
The coaches and players have recognized how quick Atlanta's defense after studying film. "First thing you see is they fly to the ball," said Coach Knapp. "They get 11 hats to the ball. They've got good team speed. I think [DE John] Abraham still has a lot in the tank left. He's the career sack leader and he's playing really well, especially on passing situations. I like their d-line play overall. [DT Jonathan] Babineaux's really made himself into a fine football player. He plays all four spots up front. So they've got some good generated pass rush with the front four and they just fly to the ball well with their secondary. Those two veteran corners are smart players."
Coach Allen echoed Coach Knapp's observations. "It's no doubt that they play extremely fast on defense," said Coach Allen. "That is part of how they are able to get so many takeaways because they play extremely fast and they are always flying around the ball. When you are flying around like that you make plays. They do an outstanding job of that."
The offense is ready to click and challenge the Atlanta defense. "It's going to be a really competitive week," said WR Denarius Moore. "This whole week we've got to focus in on getting on our blocks, setting our feet, and getting ready for a battle."
QB Carson Palmer and his offense want to get the offense going quickly and quiet the loud Georgia Dome crowd. "Anytime you get in an enclosed structure like that, being 5-0, being where they are with the expectations that team has, we know that crowd will be into it and it will be a hyped game," said Palmer. "The way to get it quiet is to go out and get big plays and stay on the field and run the ball and try to quiet them down that way."
As good as the Atlanta defense is, the Falcons offense may be the even bigger challenge. "It is tough to defend," said Coach Allen. "You have got to pick your poison at times. They are very explosive on the outside with their receivers. Obviously Tony [Gonzalez] still works the middle of the field extremely well. He knows how to get open and he catches everything and then if you play for the pass too much they have still got a good running game. So they are obviously a talented offensive football team and they present a huge challenge for us."
The Raiders defense needs to work together as an 11-man unit to be successful against QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, and TE Gonzalez. "It's a collective effort," said Seymour. "It isn't just one guy. They've got really good receivers, a good running back, and a good quarterback, and a solid offensive line. It's going to be a collective effort. We need to start fast, and come out in the second half fast as well."
"They're a great offense," added rookie LB Miles Burris. "They've got Turner and they've got a great O-line to block for him. He's obviously a big back and can come down hill and find the gaps and find space. Matt Ryan can sling it around with a crew of great receivers and Tony Gonzalez."
The Atlanta offense is sixth in the league in points scored and seventh in passing offense. "Matt [Ryan] does a good job using both tempo and their players," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "They do a good job of using their guys. They've got players at all positions, they know each other well, they make subtle adjustments on their formations to get guys in positions to be successful. They're going to run the same plays; they're just going to make it look a little different. They do a nice job with that. All their players do their jobs very well. They've done a nice job of growing together with the quarterback."
For the Raiders defense, it's about execution. "It's a very big challenge," said Lee. "Those guys are on a roll right now. We just have to buckle down and do what we do and execute. We've got to study what they do and be ready. Everybody has to do their job."
After a few days off and two weeks of practice, it's time for the Silver and Black to go back to work on Sunday. "It's a chance for us to go out and compete again," said Coach Allen. "It's one of 16 games and we're not going to put any more extra added emphasis other than we know the importance of us going out and playing well and developing some confidence and winning a football game."