Atlanta Falcons may have found their superhero in Arthur Smith.
There is a lot of blame to go around for the 2020 Atlanta Falcons, but the running game deserves most of it. To say it was not fun to watch the Atlanta Falcons run the ball on first down for negative yards, and then throw it the next two plays, is an understatement.
It became so obvious what the Atlanta Falcons were doing, that any fan who knows a lick about football, knew when it would be a run or a pass. Now imagine you are a defender who studies football for a living, it becomes apparent how they were able to stop the Falcons.
The non-existent running game is why franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan, was sacked 41 times over the course of the 2020 season.
The best way to keep a quarterback on his feet? Don’t let the defense know what is coming, run the ball with efficiency and throw in play-action passes off of it.
The running game is where Arthur Smith shines
While coaching the Tennessee Titans, Arthur Smith was willing to give the ball to all-pro running back, Derrick Henry on every play. Henry is a true workhorse running back and an exceptionally talented player, but Arthur Smith had a lot to do with his historical 2,000 yard rushing season.
The Atlanta Falcons do not need a workhorse, like the Titans have, to be exceptional in the run game. It is more about variation, and that was apparent when watching Koetter call the same plays, in the same situations, over and over.
Dirk Koetter and Arthur Smith are two totally different play-callers.
Dirk could never seem to consistently get this extremely talented offense on a roll. A large part of that is because he never truly committed to run, and also he never had any variation other than runs straight up the middle, or a toss outside.
Koetter truly limited the offense and has never, probably will never, lead one of the best running teams in the league.
Smith is willing to add variation to the running game, much like Shanahan back in the glory days, Shanahan’s offense with the Atlanta Falcons always had the defense scared for what might come next, the same thing will be true for the upcoming Falcons offense.
Arthur Smith will have a better quarterback in Atlanta
Stats can be misleading but adding context to them always paints the perfect picture. No sane person will argue that Ryan Tannehill is better than Matt Ryan, however, under Arthur Smith, Tannehill had a better year despite being less talented.
Looking at the comparison of Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill during the 2020 NFL season, according to Stathead.com, it becomes apparent the differences in play-calling between the Falcons and Titans.
Matt Ryan completed the year with 407 completions, 626 attempts, 65 percent completion percentage, 4,581 yards, 26 touchdowns, and a 93.3 QBR
Ryan Tannehill finished the year with 315 completions, 481 attempts, 65 percent completion percentage, 3,819 yards, 33 touchdowns, and a 106.5 QBR
To sum that up, Tannehill had 12.1 yards per completion compared to Ryan’s 11.2 yards. Couple that with the fact that Tannehill had seven more touchdowns, and it becomes apparent who’s offense was more efficient.
The running game can only improve with Arthur Smith calling plays
Arthur Smith will call a game as a whole with a plan, while Koetter seemed to call it play by play, with no big picture in mind.
All in all, Arthur Smith came to Atlanta to provide Matt Ryan with the type of help that he had with Kyle Shanahan. Arthur Smith is willing to run the ball for multiple plays in a row, just so that he can call a play-action pass with Julio or Ridley streaking down the field for a huge gain.
The offense won’t be without a plan with the new play-caller in town, it will be much more exciting to watch the Atlanta Falcons like it was during the historic 2016 season!