Atlanta, GA- The now 1-3 Atlanta Falcons have quite a hole to dig out of after losing 30-23 to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
After attempting to mount a fourth quarter comeback, the Falcons once again fell short while in a position to at least send the game into overtime. The final failed drive came in an all too familiar place, the red zone. These 20 yards of turf and grass has become a death trap for the Falcons this year.
The missing piece
According to the Team Rankings website, the Falcons are rated 29th in the NFL in terms of red zone offense efficiency, scoring touchdowns only 38.89% of the time they have been inside the 20-yard-line. This might have been fine with the fans only if there were more big plays that resulted in touchdowns and not just chunks of yardage. While exciting, it does nothing to the scoreboard.
So while the offense is stalling the question is, to score or not to score? While the answer seems obvious: more points equals wins, the other factor not being considered is the defense. Every game the Falcons have played thus far has been close. The offense has not made any boneheaded turnovers that make fans slap their own face and most of their own offensive drives give the defense some time to rest.
Defending the lead has been one of the problems; in fact it’s been the main problem. With the offense running out of fuel in three of the four games so far, I expect the defense to produce more turnovers until the Falcons can find four quarters of rhythm.
Unfortunately, this task may be asking a bit much. In my opinion, if the defense can prevent any NFL team from scoring more than 28 points, then the offense should be able to win every game. Three out of four times the offense that did in fact win the game, was the opponent’s offense.
The luck of the draw
Atlanta fans must ask themselves how many times have the Falcons achieved a game-winning drive or completed a fourth quarter comeback last year.
The answer? Seven, with six of those wins being determined by less than six points. This stat alone speaks volumes about the team. Not much has changed in Atlanta except now the team is experiencing what happens when the coin lands on the other side. Scott Kacsmar has done extensive research on this topic and he has determined that Matt Ryan has accrued 16 fourth quarter comebacks and 23 game winning drives. If you ask me, that’s a lot riding on chance.
Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons are still a playoff caliber team. All the talent is there, but no matter how much talent the Falcons have, they cannot let teams hang around within a touchdown of actually beating them. The prime example of this is the Jacoby Jones catch that sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl, and the better team in the Denver Broncos home to their families.
It’s time for something drastic to happen now. The coaching staff has seemingly made all the right moves but it’s still not enough. With injuries pilling up and the guilt I feel every time I see Tony Gonzalez being interviewed, Atlanta needs to possibly make another free agency splash. If not that then a possible trade, even though I hate to see players leave Atlanta, this year was Super Bowl or bust. At this point the organization owes it to the fans and to Gonzalez to make this happen.