In the past couple seasons, it seems that other teams around the league have been able to get receivers wide open for scores. They’ve been able to hit on the deep ball or break a massive touchdown run. They’ve been able to get easy 1-play touchdown scores. It’s seemed like the Falcons have been resigned to long, sustained drives to score.
Not that I’m complaining about that. I do enjoy those drives very much. They are critical, and the Falcons have been doing an outstanding job of that the past couple seasons. But rare has been the occasion when they’ve gotten a wide open receiver down the field. It just hasn’t happened.
2012 seems to be a little different. The first three games didn’t really have a whole lot of that type of play, but against the Panthers, there was a whole lot of it. A 49-yard touchdown bomb to Roddy White. A 60-yard touchdown pass on a screen to Michael Turner. No way you can forget the 59-yard completion from Ryan to White that set up the game winning score. And were it not for Julio Jones stepping out of bounds in the 4th quarter, the Falcons would have had an easy TD catch as Jones blew past the coverage, but couldn’t keep both feet in-bounds.
Sure, the Falcons are hitting on those plays, which is outstanding. Everyone recognizes their importance and the usefulness of being able to hit a big play/score on one play. At the same time, the offense can’t possibly afford to sacrifice efficiency. And unfortunately, it looks like the Falcons offense is sacrificing a little efficiency.
The Falcons season red-zone touchdown percentage is 60% which is actually up from 2011, which was 51% after 16 games. 60% is really pretty good. But consider what the Falcons could be doing, and it’s obvious Atlanta has been leaving some plays on the field.
Against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons were only 25% (1 for 4) in the red-zone. In addition to the 14-yard Ryan-to-White touchdown pass, the Falcons didn’t get in the endzone the two times they kicked field goals, and got nothing on the red-zone interception in the first quarter.
The Falcons made some big plays from outside of the red-zone, and that really gave them the ability to win the game in the end. But the red-zone woes are slightly troubling. Truly elite teams score often in the red-zone. If the Falcons stay at least at 60% in the red-zone this season, they will be solid. But with all the weapons they have offensively, they can and should do better than simply 60%. Look for increased productivity from the Falcons in this area after they spend a bunch of time working on it during practice this week.