One of the stories of the season has been just how whiplash-inducing this team’s turnaround has been. At 1-7 in the first half of the season, they were an absolute joke. At 4-2 in the second half, they look like the football team they were supposed to be, or at least much closer to it.
It’s been frustrating to watch that transformation after the team was well and truly dead, and that more than anything is probably going to lead Arthur Blank to move on from Dan Quinn on Black Monday. The biggest argument for keeping Quinn is how thoroughly the Falcons have appeared to turn around.
David Bassity with the Falcons took the time to run down three key metrics—scoring offense, scoring defense, and turnover margin—and found that the Falcons went from literally one of the worst teams in football for eight games to playoff-caliber in the last six.
Turnaround Thursday @AtlantaFalcons numbers from before and after bye week.— David Bassity (@D_D_Bass) December 19, 2019
Before bye: 20.6 – No. 21 in NFL.
After bye: 27.3 – No. 8 in NFL.
Before the Bye: 31.3 – No. 31
After: 19.2 – No. 8
Before the Bye: -11 – No. 31
After: +5 – No. 8
It’s striking that this team has improved to #8 in all three categories. They’re scoring 6.7 more points per game, allowing 12.1 fewer points per game, and actually taking away the ball more than they’re turning it over. It’s not just that the Falcons beat two quality teams—though of course it is that—so much as it that they’ve genuinely improved more or less across the board. The offense should still be better, but beggars can’t be choosers.
The caveats? A lot of that improvement on offense is fueled by the beatdowns the team put on the Panthers, and the turnovers have certainly come largely at the expense of Jameis Winston and Kyle Allen, respectively. That doesn’t diminish the improvement, really, but the uptick in scoring defense stands out more than anything else because they’ve also effectively limited the likes of the 49ers and Saints.
Is any of this enough? If the question is whether it’s enough to give us some hope for this team next season, then it’s done the trick for me, given that some of the key players behind that improvement will be back. If the question is whether it’s enough to keep the current regime in place, the jury is decidedly out.