A Very Falcoholic Discussion: Is Our Offense Too Predictable?

Consider this a sort of Falcoholic Fireside Chat. Dave and I have been wanting to do a collaborative post since he signed me onto the roster. Finally, it's here. I didn't exactly know what to call it, so I stuck with Dave's standby discussion post title. Chime in below with comments on how wrong we are if you wish. If you like this type of feature, I'm sure I can wrangle Dave for some more football talk in the future. Oh, and if anyone knows what to call this, suggest away!

tlozwarlock (tloz): I'm thinking we're way too predictable on offense. Despite the sad flea flicker attempt during the Dallas game, we just ran the ball, twice, with Turner, and then threw on third and long. Oh, and Matt will be throwing to Gonzo or White. Outside of that, there's no variety, no pinnache, no "haha, fooled you" with our plays. We know that they know that we are going to run the ball with Turner. Why not give it to Snelling? We saw how well that worked. We know that they know that we will put Jenkins in the slot. Why NOT make it Weems instead? Variety is the spice of life, and honestly, the key to winning after our opponents already have weeks of tape on our stoic, flaccid offense.

Dave the Falconer (DTF): Way too predictable? I'd argue we're trying too hard to not to let defenses lock in on us, frankly. 

Think about it this way. The no-huddle offense has been by far our most successful gambit in this young season, as the Falcons have chewed up yardage and been mostly unstoppable while using it. Despite that, the coaching staff seems to forget about it for long stretches of each game. What we get instead is two runs up the middle with Turner, an errant throw from Matt Ryan and a booming punt from Michael Koenen.

Can you chalk some of that up to our play-calling being too predictable, too vanilla? Sure can. But it's also an unwillingness to stick with what works, a need to outsmart the opponent, that keeps putting us in this mess.

tloz: Precisely. Every defense in the NFL knows we're just going to run the ball twice and then get third and long. I mean, really, after we get a great, UNIQUE tempo-changing drive, we just quit, go back to old game plan from Detroit and Kansas City from last year. It's taking lacidasical to a new high. We just seem to give up after we score. We have to consistently adjust and consistently throw in that no huddle, that ominous line shift on a passing play, that scary "holy crap, Gonzo's lined up as a FullBack!?!?!?!" formation stuff in order to fool our opponents into submission.

We just are not calling aggressive, winning plays right now. It's sickening.

DTF: Now we're getting somewhere. Aggressive calls are exactly what this offense ordered, whether the defense expects them or not. Why not dump it to Snelling in the flats and let him run on first down? Why not take a big strike to Roddy White? Hell, why not throw the ball to Jonathan Babineaux? I don't care what it takes, really, as long as the team is pushing the envelope constantly.

And let's get back to the no-huddle. Gives teams little to no time to prepare for what we're up to next.

tloz: The offensive gameplan should be this:

Throw the ball on first down, preferably a dink-dunk that nets maybe five yards. If they've got 8 in the box expecting the run (and why shouldn't they?) and Snelling/White/Norwood (in best cast scenario) have the ball? Big gain. We saw it last year with a dump to Norwood that went for forty yards and a score.

Run on second down. If we have 2nd and 5, we can afford to sniff how Turner penetrates. That'll still leave us with enough space to get the first down with

An over-the-middle to Gonzo/Jenks/Peele/Finn.

And then, as the defense slacks off, ram it down their throats. Turner is obviously slower this year off the ball, be it by injury or tougher defense. Regardless, if we don't push the defense back with solid short passes, we have no ability to get Turner through the gaps. Once Turner gets going, he's a tank: hard to take down. But it's hard to run over someone if you're just getting your engine revved.

And another thing: the whole flea flicker thing? Run it when they have eight in the box, not when they're giving a soft zone...

Regardless, the offensive gameplan has, thus far, been

"1. Do what worked last year. and 2. Give it to Turner."

That's going to have to change, especially with emerging bright spots in Snelling and Weems. Remember how Harry Douglas got his big break? That's right, returning kicks. Now it's Weems' turn. If we keep both HD and Weems next year, opposing defenses will need to watch every single corner of the field.

DTF: That's a gameplan I can get behind. A different take on Turner's struggles would be that our offensive planning isn't putting him in a position to succeed, and forcing the opposing team to account for the pass earlier would open that up. I guess that plays headlong into the predictability argument, but gosh darn it, I think it might just work!

Execution is still the most critical piece. We can call all the right plays, but if the line isn't blocking well or whatever else, we're not going to make anything happen.

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