We all knew the Falcons were struggling in the second half of football games, but did you know they’re a bottom five team in points and time of possession in second halves, and a bottom six team in points allowed in the second half? Because I must report with considerable regret that it is true.
What’s most troubling about these numbers is what they suggest about a team that is clearly talented and has spent an offseason wrapping itself in mantras designed to insulated from outside pressure and the possibility of a post-Super Bowl collapse. The Falcons simply aren’t getting the job done, even as matters get more urgent, after the half.
Defensively, it appears to be coming down to execution. The Falcons have again and again extended drives for lousy offenses by committing costly penalties, dropping interceptions, and missing tackles. It’s not hard to think that things would be very different if they weren’t doing that, especially with most teams struggling to manage more than 20 points against them at the moment. The sloppiness is not just limiting the team’s ability to stop opposing teams from scoring, it’s also allowing those teams to build long, exhausting drives, like the Dolphins’ nearly nine minute effort last Sunday to start the third quarter.
For all that, those issues should be fixable, because they’re not being caused by injury or a lack of talent. But we’re now five games in and they haven’t been fixed, which is enough to give you pause.
The offense is a different can of worms. This is a team that should be able to score three touchdowns per game in its sleep, and to absolutely punish lackluster defenses. We saw what Kyle Shanahan and company were able to do with this group, which is almost exactly the same as a year ago minus Patrick DiMarco and Chris Chester, and what Steve Sarkisian and company are doing isn’t coming close. We can gesture at the unlucky interceptions, injuries at receiver, and the necessary learning curve for a first time NFL play caller, but while those help to illuminate the problem, they are not as big of a problem as the way these players are being used.
In case you’re wondering, here is a short list of the players the Falcons have on offense:
- Reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan at quarterback
- Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman at running back
- Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel at wide receiver
- Young, promising tight end Austin Hooper
- Former first round left tackle Jake Matthews
- Former first round pick and arguably best center in the NFL Alex Mack
- Current top five right tackle Ryan Schraeder
There just isn’t any excuse for this kind of production with that talent. The Falcons need to figure out how to execute at a higher level, and Steve Sarkisian needs to make better use of this talent, so these second half numbers don’t remain where they are. If they do, it’s not a stretch to say this team is doomed.