3. Falcons can succeed in red zone
It’s not just a curse. Despite what you might think, Steve Sarkisian hasn’t put a permanent clamp on Atlanta’s red zone capabilities. When the offense executes, they produce touchdowns. Sunday showed just that, as Atlanta went 4-4 in the red zone after going an atrocious 1-5 last in the opener against the Eagles.
Sarkisian has taken a lot of heat for plays such as the jet sweep in New England last year, but some of the blame must fall on the players. The offense simply didn’t execute in week one in the red zone, but they certainly did against Carolina.
The first touchdown came on a third and eight, where it looked as if Atlanta might come away with their second field goal of the game. Ryan found Ridley on a simple slant route, and the rookie scored his first touchdown of his career.
The second touchdown came right before halftime and gave Atlanta some much needed breathing room before heading into the locker room. Ryan threw a dime to Austin Hooper in the back corner of the end zone, who ran a corner route. Hooper was one on one with a linebacker, and Ryan took advantage of the matchup.
The final two touchdowns both came on Matt Ryan runs. One was a quarterback sneak from a yard out, while the other was one of the most impressive runs that I’ve seen Ryan make. Ryan couldn’t find anyone open on third down and decided to scramble for the first. He not only picked up the first, but leaped into three defenders at the goal line, bounced off of them, and took another hit as he fell into the end zone for the score. The play showed Ryan’s grittiness and determination, and fired up his teammates and the crowd.
The divisional win calmed the Falcon faithful for the time being after the shaky week one showing had many worried. The success in the red zone was a very promising sign, as the execution was great inside the twenty yard line. Atlanta also had just two penalties Sunday compared to a whopping 15 in the opener, which is another promising sign.
Fans have a lot to be excited about, but don’t get too comfortable yet. Two of the next four games come against playoff teams from a year ago, while the other two games are against teams currently 2-0. Quinn’s squad is back on the right track, but plenty of tough tests still remain on the horizon.