The Falcons had inarguably their best offensive game of the season against Tampa Bay, piling up more than 500 yards of total offense and averaging over eight yards per play. Incredibly, it’s just the seventh time in franchise history they’ve managed that particular feat.
The Falcons did most of their damage through the air against a truly putrid Tampa Bay pass defense, with Matt Ryan and Mohamed Sanu combining to throw for over 350 yards and three touchdowns. It was a crisp, efficient performance keyed by a number of big plays, including that memorable touchdown pass from Sanu to Julio. Paired with a quality game on the ground from Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward, both of whom averaged well over four yards per carry, it’s little surprise the Falcons lit up the Bucs. Frankly, it could have looked a lot worse for Mike Smith’s defense on the scoreboard if not for Ward’s fumble and a couple of missed connections.
The performance came against a very weak pass defense, but it continues to suggest that this offense is figuring things out. The Falcons have scored under 20 points just once in their last five games, a weird effort against the Panthers that featured some mistakes of execution (like Julio Jones’ wide open touchdown drop) that look like outliers at the moment. Otherwise, the Falcons have ranged from merely good to 2016-esque on offense, which gives you a lot of hope for the immediate future.
I’ve had some fun in recent days with those who insisted that Steve Sarkisian should be fired earlier this season, but the truth is that I shared much of the frustration that gripped the fanbase after the Falcons fell apart against the AFC East. This was a team that was too predictable, too inefficient, and too unsure of how to use its best weapons to be a genuine contender. At the same time, the team was never going to fire him rashly after they passed over more seasoned contenders, and it was always likely he was going to start to figure out some things as the season rolled on, especially given the talent available to him.
Hopefully this is just the start of a beautiful offensive renaissance that will lead to a permanent end to the #FireSark jeers, and of course lead to a playoff berth for the Falcons.