When you look at the Falcons' offensive statistics from 2013, it's a little difficult to believe that they finished the season with just four wins. Matt Ryan managed 4,515 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. Harry Douglas had his first season with over 1,000 receiving yards--1,067, to be exact--and the Falcons' passing offense finished the regular season ranked 8th in the league despite barely any rushing game, a horrible offensive line, and a multitude of injuries. The offensive performance wasn't enough, however.
So is defense more important than the Falcons anticipated? The Seahawks just won a Super Bowl in which Russell Wilson had 206 passing yards, and their leading rusher had 45 yards on the ground. That game would seem to illustrate that Seattle's undeniably stout defense (and special teams unit, to be fair) had more to do with the victory than the offense.
When you look at the teams who made the playoffs, you see some pretty clear trends in terms of overall regular season offensive and defensive performances. Seven of 12 playoff teams boasted top ten offenses during the regular season, and 11 of the 12 featured scoring offenses ranked in the top half of the league during the 2013 season.
On defense, just five of the teams fielded a unit that ranked in the top half of the league during the regular season for total yards per game, however, those five made up the top five defenses in the league. In terms of scoring defense, nine of 12 playoff teams ranked in the top third of the league for points allowed per game in the regular season.
And as for the teams that made it to the Super Bowl, it's a little bit of a mixed bag. Seattle's offense finished the regular season ranked 17th in the league, while Seattle's defense was ranked first in overall defense and scoring defense. Denver, as you've surely heard, had the top-ranked offense in terms of yards and scoring, and their defense was below average, ranked 19th in the regular season for yards allowed, and 22nd in scoring defense.
It's clear that Atlanta needs to bolster their defense this offseason--a unit that finished the season ranked 27th in both total yards allowed and scoring defense is pretty inadequate--and their defensive rankings were lower than any playoff team in 2013.
They also need to focus on balancing out their offense. With little rushing game to speak of, Atlanta ranked 14th in the league for total offensive yards in 2013, but ranked 20th in scoring offense. Establishing a ground game, improving red zone performance--these are issues that have plagued the Falcons for longer than just this past season, and they must be addressed. Atlanta's total offensive yards per game are better than five playoff teams in 2013, but their points per game were lower than any of those teams' averages last season.
Is offense or defense more important, particularly for postseason success? The overall question is too simplistic. The answer is that balance is more important for success in the NFL, and the Falcons have some work to do to establish some balance between the offense and the defense.
Do you think offense is more important, or defense, or are they both of equal importance?