Before the Raiders game, I had planned to do a full statistical round up of the Falcons during the Bye week. Unfortunately, after watching the Raiders game it became pretty clear to me that the Falcons (especially the offense) were going to play down to their opposition and I didn’t feel like putting in the time to dig through the data when I wasn’t sure which version of the team would show up week to week. Well as luck would have it, I happened to be free today and the nerd that I am, I went digging into the stat mines at pro-football reference. And I’ve come up with some tasty nuggets. So, I will post a few articles whenever I can find time over the next few days. I probably will also post an analysis of the Eagles around midweek but Im going to cut down on the number of these types of statistical analyses of opponents I post.
For those of you who don’t like reading about stats or looking at a bunch of number, the cliff notes version is this. This team will go as far the offense carries it and the offense will go as far as the offensive line can keep Matty Snowballs upright. On the defense, we have two big issues: lack of talent on the Dline (shocking, right) and horrible, horrible tackling. Fix those and we are good.
Falcons Run/Pass Ratio
As a first installment, we will look at how the Falcons offense has changed this year and if that is a good thing. We have gone from an offense that ran to setup the pass (55% of the plays on 1st down were runs in ’10 and ‘11) to an offense which passes to setup the run (run plays down to 41% on 1st down). This is one of the reasons a reduction in the efficiency of the running game should not be a great cause for concern. As long as the passing game is humming along, the offense will be fine. We just need to make sure not to tilt the pass-run ratio too far even when the run game is not being very productive. A 60-40 ratio on first down is an excellent ratio to keep the defense on their toes while maximizing offensive production.
Another aspect of the Falcons offense helping the slumping (slumped?) run game is that they want to pass the ball in the first half to build a lead and run the ball in the second half to keep the lead. Falcons are running 53.4% of the time in the second half when they have a lead and an astonishing 77.1% of the time in the 4th quarter when they have a lead. The beauty of this strategy, as you all probably realize, is that Turner is devastating against tired defenses, late in the game. While he has averaged a paltry 3.8 yards per carry in general, in the second half when the Falcons are playing with a lead, he is averaging 5.85 yards per attempt. In the 4th quarter that number goes up even further to 8.53 yards per attempt. I should add a cautionary note that these number are based on small sample sizes and against somewhat mediocre run defenses that we have faced so far. Don’t expect Turner to average more than 8 yards per carry against better run defenses we will see. However, I do believe that he can outperform his overall average and pound the ball successfully in the second half.