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Comparing the 2018 Atlanta Falcons offense to 2017

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The Falcons improved, but not enough to save Steve Sarkisian’s job.

Atlanta Falcons v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In 2018, the Atlanta Falcons offense improved in almost every way you can think of from 2017. They scored more points, gained more yards, absorbed (one) fewer penalty, and made more of their drives. Had that been accompanied by a dynamite defensive campaign, the Atlanta Falcons may well have been a playoff team.

They were not, however, and this year got offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian fired. To understand why that might have happened, you have to look beyond the raw numbers. However, you should still look at the raw numbers to see what a second year in the scheme, some improvement in execution, and the addition of Calvin Ridley wrought despite injuries along the offensive line and to stud running back Devonta Freeman.

Falcons Offense, 2018 vs. 2017

Year Points For Yards Passing Yards Rushing Yards Turnovers Penalties Penalty Yards Average Drive Yards Average Drive Points
Year Points For Yards Passing Yards Rushing Yards Turnovers Penalties Penalty Yards Average Drive Yards Average Drive Points
2018 414 6226 4653 1753 18 101 899 37 2.4
2017 353 5837 3990 1847 18 102 918 35.3 2.06

So why fire Sarkisian? I’ve argued that the fateful five game stretch when the Falcons lost five straight games and didn’t score more than 20 points in any of them truly put the nail in the coffin for Sark, and I still think that’s right. Aaron Freeman at FalcFans had another spin on it, noting that Sark’s offense was consistently shaky against good football teams. There are mitigating factors even there, including the overall execution of the players, but that alone will get you fired if you’re coaching a team that fancies itself a Super Bowl contender each year.

The Falcons ranked 10th in points scored and 6th in yardage for 2018, compared to 15th and 8th in 2017. That’s one of the better offenses in the entire NFL, but it’s evident that it’s not enough for Atlanta, not with the wilting against quality teams and the inability to carry a weak defense. The Falcons are going to pour considerable resources into improving that defense so it’ll be less of an issue, but the next offensive coordinator still will probably be feeling heat if he can’t improve on what Sark and company did for Atlanta this year.