Sometimes when you sit on the couch watching your team play on television, you can catch little things that are contributing to the demise of the team. On Thursday, that was the truth for the Atlanta Falcons.
Surely, I wasn’t the only one who caught the consistent mistake the team kept making when running the ball. It makes you wonder whether Arthur Smith knew the mistake and was stubborn or if he was just naive to the clear mistake.
Atlanta Falcons had success running right but constantly ran to the left
Sometimes the most minor fixes can get an offense back on track and while I am not saying that switching the running directions will completely fix the Atlanta Falcons offense moving forward — after all, Marcus Mariota will likely still be at QB — it will be much easier for them to move the ball.
The Falcons kept running the ball behind Jake Matthews and Colby Gossett rather than Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
Now, you might be wondering how that is a huge deal, but when you look at each player’s skillset, it becomes a huge problem. Jake Matthews is a pass-blocking left tackle and has never been more than an average run blocker during his career, and then there is Colby Gossett who is a third-string left guard for a reason.
Meanwhile, Chris Lindstrom is one of the best-run blockers in the league and Kaleb McGary has been a really good run blocker, it is just his pass blocking that can be a problem.
Simple fix, run the ball to the right side where you have your players who are better equipped to make holes, and you would have also been running away from Brian Burns. Arthur Smith had different ideas and it was simply maddening.
Per Pro Football Focus, here are the rushing stats from the Falcons’ primetime matchup with the Panthers:
- Run Left: 17 rushes, 51 yards, 3 yards per carry, 2 first downs, 1 run for 10+ yards
- Run Right: 8 rushes, 47 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 2 first downs, 2 runs for 10+ yards
They essentially had twice the success running right compared to running left, but somehow they still ran left in 17 out of their 25 rushes. This all doesn’t include any rushes or scrambles by Marcus Mariota.
The one explanation for the stubbornness is that Marcus Mariota is a right-handed quarterback, which means he is best suited rolling to his right. The Falcons were, and are always, trying to set up the play-action passing game, they want to be able to fake the run left and have Mariota roll right.
If the team had similar stats in either direction, then that would be the smart plan, but they don’t, and this is a run-first team who should prioritize success on the ground rather than setting up Mariota’s arm to throw.
Hopefully, this was a one-off incident, as they have run to the right more than the left over the course of the season, but if it isn’t, then do not expect this offense to get any better.