There are many reasons the Falcons were successful in 2016 on offense, and continue to be successful. Those include Kyle Shanhan’s genius as a play caller, Matt Ryan’s excellence as a passer, the strong ground game, the terrific receiving corps, and your choice to wear the same lucky jersey every week. Cheers to you, pal.
For all that, though, there’s one portion of this offense that has been underappreciated, and that’s the offensive line. We’ve all had nice things to say about Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder, but Jake Matthews was more than solid, Andy Levtire had a huge bounceback year, and the ageless Chris Chester has been above average. More importantly, all of those guys played 16 games.
How rare was that in the NFL, you ask?
Per the great NFL research, the Falcons are the only team to use the same starting five up front all season.— Conor Orr (@ConorOrr) January 18, 2017
I can’t stress how important this was. The Falcons got hit with injuries in 2014 and 2015 that sapped the effectiveness of their lines and forced some subpar players into the lineup, and the team’s chemistry and level of play suffered as a result. As much as I really like Wes Schweitzer’s future with this football team, there’s no point in denying that the offense probably wouldn’t have functioned this well if he had been pressed into action thanks to a Levitre or Chester injury. The good health here made such a huge difference, and paired with all the other excellent performances and smart planning, it ensured the Falcons offense was a juggernaut.
The Falcons probably will pull back a bit on offense next year—Kyle Shanahan is likely leaving, after all, and you don’t often make history two years in a row—but they should be able to maintain a brisk pace so long as they can keep their line effective and healthy. The key question will be whether this line can still healthy, if the team can replace Chris Chester effectively, and what happens if it doesn’t.