Would it shock you to know that the Falcons were one of the most effective teams in term of spinning up yardage on a per-drive basis? Would it shock you even more to know that’s been true for the last, oh, ten-plus years?
The answer to both those questions is probably no, but it’s worth a look at how the Falcons have not only been consistently dominant in terms of moving downfield in the Matt Ryan era, but how that dominance has shifted to become even more dominant as time has gone on.
As you’ll see in the tweet below, the Falcons were top ten every year from 2008-2014 under Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter, but in the Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian years that kicked up to top five, culminating in a #1 and #2 finish in 2016 and 2017. No doubt the coordinators helped that along, but the number of weapons Ryan had at his disposal and Ryan’s own improvement as a quarterback both factor in quite heavily there.
Atlanta's rank in offensive yards per drive in Matt Ryan era (2008-2018)— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) August 19, 2019
This isn’t all on Ryan, but Ryan (and to a lesser extent, Julio Jones) is the commonality here despite four different offensive coordinators in that span. It’s a testament to this team’s ability to build a consistently good offense—and for Ryan to improve—that they have been able to maintain this pace despite an evolving NFL and the loss of valuable players along the way.
The twin challenges faced by this team have been scoring and, of course, defense. Despite their consistent excellence in grinding out long drives, the team has been hamstrung in recent years by poor starting field position, an inability to close out drives (2018 in particular saw some sorry performances, even though they ranked highly overall), and the defense wasting a lot of those great drives.
What this does give us hope for is a stellar 2019, as Ryan is the linchpin that makes this possible and the defense is doing exciting things for a change. If the Falcons can again be top three here, can close out a few more drives, and hold the leads they’re assembling, this might be a very exciting year.