November 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passing during pregame warmups before their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
Earlier today I took the Atlanta Falcons to task for missing opportunities. They certainly did that. The Falcons only needed one play to go their way and they would have won. But the greater question is where did the majority of those missed opportunities take place? Sadly, they happened in the red-zone, an area the Falcons have struggled in nearly all season long, an area where the best teams in the NFL consistently find a way to score.
Yes, the Falcons score most of the time. They get at least a field goal on nearly 100% of all red-zone opportunities. But that’s not nearly good enough. When it comes to red-zone success, the only thing that matters is how often you are able to score a touchdown.
Here are the stats: In 2012, the Falcons are scoring touchdowns on just over 56% of their red-zone possessions. That’s really a pretty good percentage, and it’s 11th in the NFL. But that number absolutely has to improve. They don’t always get to the red-zone, but when they do they almost always find a way to score 6. In the last three games, the Falcons are 42% in the red-zone, and yesterday they were 50%. New Orleans is first in the NFL at 71% on the season, and was 66% yesterday.
One of the red-zone possessions for the Falcons came with only 3 minutes left in the game, and the Falcons absolutely had to get in the end-zone. It’s different since it was 4-down territory, and therefore even more inexcusable for not getting into the end-zone. But on three possessions in the red-zone, the Falcons just didn’t get it done. Kicking a field goal from the 3-yard line isn’t acceptable. With a little over a minute to go and with the ball on the 1-yard line and not being able to punch it in isn’t acceptable either. I’ll excuse the early field goal after the Drew Brees interception, but if Asante Samuel hadn’t been penalized for excessive celebration, who knows what would have happened?
The point is that the Falcons aren’t getting it done in the red-zone. They have to do a much better job in that territory, especially if they get a first down inside the 5-yard line. Improved red-zone percentage has to happen, or the Falcons will continue to come up short in pressure situations.