The heat on Steve Sarkisian has been pretty intense over the last couple of weeks, and understandably so, given how little the Falcons have scored. The stat that has stuck in everyone’s craw has to do with Julio Jones’ target count, specifically in the red zone, but generally speaking the offense just isn’t the hyper-dynamic unit it was last year. Most of us expected some modest regression, but while the team’s per play metrics suggest they’ll fare better soon, their offense has now arguably cost them games in consecutive weeks.
Jeff Schultz at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a good read about where these Falcons are scuffling thus far, and what needs to change. It’s refreshing and a little reassuring to know that Sark and company don’t really buy into the idea that a few more plays per games and a few more Julio targets are going to solve this thing, and that nobody in that building appears to think everything is fine and going to iron itself out. That’s just being realistic, and when you’re realistic about a problem, you can work to find a real solution. Hopefully.
“When you go back and you try to analyze each game, we’ve had some missed opportunities,” he said. “Really, the last two weeks we’ve had the ball with a chance to go win the game and we didn’t get it done. That’s the reality of the situation. Our yards per play are good. Our third-down conversions are good. We’re scoring in the red zone. But when we have a chance to win the game, regardless of how many opportunities we’re going to get, we need to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, meanwhile, are more likely to talk about execution. The truth is that it’s a combination of sometimes timid, tepid, and predictable Sark play calling paired with some bad throws, dropped and bobbled passes, and receivers who are having trouble getting open. The offense badly needs to work out those issues and get back on track, but the team at least seems sober and clear-eyed about the problems, and they also have an ideal matchup to get on track
And those Julio targets? Sark’s talking about those, too.
Basically, Sarkisian says that the coverage from other teams is dictating where the ball is going to go, and the Falcons have been so effective running in the “red area” that the team has been leaning in that direction. It is worth noting that Julio’s run just 11 total red zone routes total, which means the opportunities just haven’t been there. As Sark notes, the Falcons have missed some chances with Julio just outside the red zone, too, thanks to off-target passes.
All we can do is hope that this talk translates into better production. Without it, these Falcons simply aren’t going to approach the heights they achieved a year ago.