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Their Own Worst Enemy?

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I’m pretty sure I heard NFL Network "analyst" and total Saints homer Heath Evans proclaim that the Falcons are "their own worst enemy" the other day on Total Access. I say "pretty sure" due to the fact that every time Heath Evans is talking, I am really busy complaining to my husband that nobody should pay Heath Evans to pretend to be an analyst on television because he is not even remotely objective. I’m inclined to just disregard everything he says about the Falcons for this reason.

Regardless, Monday’s loss was painful, as were all of our losses this season. The penalties, the turnovers, the mistakes, the lack of effective offensive line protection, the inexplicably bizarre play calling, and so on--all of these things lend credibility to Heath Evans’ statement, no matter how much that irritates me. With the utterly imploded Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the schedule tomorrow, and the playoffs looming, hit the jump to take a look at some statistical trends from our wins and losses to try to discern what the deal really is with the Falcons this season.

Let’s look first at Matt Ryan’s stat lines in losses vs. wins. In losses, Ryan is 158 of 277 for 1,807 yards, 6 TDs and 7 INTs. In wins, Ryan is 184 of 280 for 2,264 yards, 21TDs and 5 INTs. That is a 57% completion rate for losses, and a 66% completion rate for wins. On average, in losses, Ryan is averaging 26 of 46 and 301 yards per game; in wins, he is averaging 20 of 31 for 253 yards per game. The disparity in his TD/INT ratios in wins vs. losses is nothing short of staggering.

In losses, Michael Turner has 355 rushing yards and 1 TD on 84 attempts. In wins, he has 813 yards and 8 TDs on 200 attempts. Turner has averaged 59 rushing yards in 14 attempts per game in losses. Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers and some other guys have teamed up to average 5 carries for about 20.5 yards on average in losses this season. In wins, Turner has averaged 22 carries for 90 yards per game, and our other rushers have accounted for an average of 11 carries for 28 yards per game.

In losses, the Falcons’ turnover ratio is -5. In wins, our turnover ratio is +11. That’s kind of a huge issue, and not a particularly surprising one. In losses, the Falcons are averaging 7.5 penalties for a loss of over 57 yards per game, compared to wins, in which the Falcons are averaging 5 penalties per game for a loss of 45 yards per game.

In losses, the Falcons' red zone efficiency is 25%, compared to 63% in wins. And in wins and losses, Matt Ryan has been sacked a total of 26 times this season.

Also of interest is the average offensive and defensive ranking of the teams we’ve played. The average defensive ranking of the teams that have beaten us this season is 22, but their average offensive ranking is 10. This is not particularly surprising either, considering that we have lost to the Saints (ranked 1st in the league in total offense) twice, and the Packers (5th in the league) once. We have also held each of the teams we have lost to this season to fewer than their average points per game with the exception of last Monday’s fiasco in the Super Dome.

Are the Falcons their own worst enemy? When they abandon the run for no good reason, make unnecessary mistakes, turn the ball over, commit excessive penalties, and don’t execute in the red zone, the Falcons are definitely their own worst enemy. This would be true of any team. It is not unique to the Falcons.

But when the Falcons prioritize the running game, it opens things up for Ryan and our receivers to be successful through the air. When the Falcons limit mistakes and execute in the red zone, issues that are fully within their ability to control, it puts the Falcons in a position to win games, and that is certainly the position we need to be in for next weekend and beyond.