The Atlanta Falcons were 3-0 and looking like Super Bowl contenders. They beat the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions. The defense gave up an average of 22 points a game over that stretch, while the offense scored on an average of 29 points a game. This type of start had Falcons’ fans talking 13-3 or 14-2 for the season. I originally thought it would be a 9-7 season maybe 10-6 at best. Even I was wondering if I had misjudged this team.
Then the next three games were played, and they went 0-3. They lost to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. Possibly, they just don’t like playing AFC teams, in particularly the ones for the AFC East. What’s crazy is that two of those games were at home. Granted, all of those AFC East teams are 4-2, the real issue is the lack of offensive output in those games. The defense stayed true to form, only allowing an average of 22 points. The offense was averaging less than 14 points a game. You don’t have to be great at math to realize those numbers don’t equal wins. One of the inexcusable losses was to the Dolphins at home. They had a 17-0 lead and blew it. Yep, a 17-0 lead at home and loss 20-17. This game was coming off a bye too. That means you had an extra week to prepare for this team and incorporate new plays to help bolster the offense. It would have given new NFL Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, time to work on a few new wrinkles. Just the opposite happened; he continued to regress in play calling.
This became even more apparent in the Super Bowl matchup with the Patriots. It was supposed to be a great measuring stick for the Falcons. It was supposed to be a good barometer to see if they had turned the corner and begin a Super Bowl run. Those hopes came crashing down when Sarkisian dialed up a wide receiver sweep on fourth and goal. Who decides to go backwards three yards to go one yard forward?! The Patriots were giving up 300 plus yards on offense to everyone. They were ranked dead last in yards allowed and passing yards allowed. A High School Coach could have drawn up plays in the dirt and had more production. You have the reigning NFL MVP in Matt Ryan and a high-powered offense that scored at will last year. It is no reason that you can’t score more than seven points, in the final minutes of the game, against the Patriots. Actually, that lone touchdown was an interception, but Julio Jones just manhandled the ball away for the score. It was his only touchdown of the season. How does one of the best wide receivers in football only have one touchdown in six games?
You can’t blame the defense for the season so far. They were giving up over 25 points a game last year. As noted earlier, that is down three points. They are on the field a lot more because of the lethargic offense, despite still keeping the team in the game. This season the offense ranks seventh in total yards per game, but can’t convert that into points on the board or wins. The same offense that averaged over 33 points a game. Wide receiver Jones said, “We’re just not on the same page yet. It’s not just about…its everybody. We just have to keep working. Every game is different. Last week, probably we could have took shots down [the field]. And this week, it was third down and the red zone. Every game is totally different, so you never know. Just situational ball. That’s it. We’ve just got to do better.”
Despite Jones and the offense being frustrated, they are not getting rid of Sarkisian. You can tell because the players are taking the blame. Ryan said, “I’ve played in this league long enough to know that, one, it’s hard to win games and, two, it’s a tall task to be productive week in and week out. It takes a lot of hard work. We haven’t been productive as I think we’re capable of being. From a players’ standpoint, I feel like it comes down to missed opportunities…I sound like a little bit of a broke record for the first couple weeks of the season, but we got our chances, we have to make plays. And we haven’t done a good job of that.” Running back Devonta Freeman said, “I think it’s all of us. Nobody can point fingers at nobody. We just need to figure out ways to win. It’s all three phases. It ain’t no fingers at nobody because whenever we win the Super Bowl, there isn’t going to be any pointing fingers at how good we were.”
The last two Super Bowls have had a team from the NFC South. The Falcons are in serious danger of stopping that three-peat. Sad to say but they only have a 47 percent chance of even making the playoffs. The next three games are verse the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and Dallas Cowboys. They must go 2-1 over that stretch. If they don’t they can go back to the old acronym for the team – Fans Always Left Counting On Next Season.