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The 2017 Falcons offense regressed mightily from its historic 2016

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A statistical look at how the Falcons finished up.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

At the end of the day, as many are fond of saying, what matters are your results. The Atlanta Falcons offense finished as the #8 unit in football by yardage, and they were clearly good enough to help push the team to 10-6 and a playoff berth. They were not even close to as good as they were a year ago, however.

The table below illustrates that in stark terms. The Falcons had worse starting field position, but they were literally worse in every metric you can possibly think of than they were in 2016. They were less productive per drive, less productive overall, and scored far less often. It all added up to nearly 200 fewer points scored, and yet thanks to the defense, they only lost one more game than they did in 2016. That’s pretty incredible.

Of course, the Falcons of 2017 were as unlucky as they were unproductive at times, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which they hit 400 points for the season and enjoy a good year even by their standards. The regression monster bit Atlanta hard, though, as the Falcons made the switch from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian. Time will tell if Sark and company can do more in the playoffs, and also in 2018, which will be a pivotal second year for the offensive coordinator.

Oh, and a note on Shanahan: Sark had more talent at his disposal than Shanny did in 2015, so it won’t surprise you to learn that the Falcons scored more points this season than they did two years ago. They did have fewer yards, however.

Here’s the side-by-side comparison we talked about above.

Falcons Offense 2017 vs. 2016

Category 2017 2016
Category 2017 2016
Total Yardage 5837 6653
Points 353 540
Passing Yardage 3990 4725
Rushing Yardage 1847 1928
First Downs 200 239
Penalty Yards 918 848
Starting Position 25.9 29.3
Drive Time 2:45 2:49
Plays Per Drive 6.22 5.89
Points Per Drive 2.06 2.9
Drive Scoring % 41.2 52.6
Turnover % 10.3 6.3

I think the most important takeaway here isn’t “wow these guys sucked,” but more how much growth is clearly in front of this football team. They have a top ten NFL quarterback in his late prime, two of the most talented backs in football, a top three wide receiver, a very good offensive line, and useful players dotting the rest of the unit. If they can stop dropping passes and Sark can sustain some creative, strong play calling throughout multiple drives, this offense can still be a force to be reckoned with.

For the 2017 season, though, the final verdict is that they were good enough, if deeply disappointing compared to a year ago. They still have yet to write their playoff story, though, and that could change a lot about how we perceive this year.