The Falcons offense is absolutely drowning in talent and playmakers. There is the league’s best wide receiver in Julio Jones. Impressive sophomore Calvin Ridley who is hoping to outdo his 10 touchdown rookie campaign. Former Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman finally back and healthy. Austin Hooper is a mismatch nightmare. Mohamed Sanu can overpower nearly any defensive back for a contested catch. Qadree Ollison is presumed to be the team’s goal line back.
So it was surprising to see the Falcons on the goal line target 31 year-old blocking tight end Luke Stocker. Fans are long used to wondering what the coaching staff is thinking, but after the pass was easily picked off by Anthony Harris, we have to wonder, what is the coaching staff even thinking? The pass was so far from Stocker that it is still a little unclear if Matt Ryan tried throwing it away or if Stocker ran the absolutely wrong route.
Luckily Zack Klein of WSB asked offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter about the inexplicable play. After watching the video, we still are not sure.
Falcons has 2nd and Goal from Vikings 3-yard line..— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) September 9, 2019
No Julio Jones
No Calvin Ridley
No Mo Sanu
No Devonta Freeman
Today, I asked OC Dirk Koetter about the formation pic.twitter.com/AaTGvwsmVK
Second guessing is easy, and if I could do it over I probably would switch and go to three wides there. You can look at that two ways if it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work it is easy to say you should have done something else. Trust me, I say that more than anybody to myself. We had our goal line guys in, they had their goal line guys in. They had all their big people in. They didn’t have all their DBs in, either. We tried to get them on a bootleg and they covered it well. Matt’s got to cut our losses on that and throw it out of bounds.
We definitely did not get an answer on why. Koetter may be suggesting that they ran their heavy package because Minnesota had their goal line package in. If so, some of Koetter’s less desirable traits have peaked up already. It is odd to play the defense given considering the talent of the offense. The Falcons should be forcing defenses to adjust and hold on for dear life.
The choice of Stocker in that situation also does not make any sense. Koetter and Mike Tice discussed how dangerous Hooper can be on that exact situation.
Koetter gushed about Austin Hooper, saying he’s “too athletic for a linebacker. He’s too big for a safety.” He talked up Hooper’s size, speed, and the work he’s done with Matt Ryan in the offseason. Hooper spent a lot of offseason time with Ryan in 2018 and it paid off. Koetter loves Hooper’s fit in tight end heavy sets as a receiving option on likely running downs. Tice says teams can get “very explosive” on those packages, suggesting Hooper might get a focus there.
Perhaps the Falcons liked the surprise aspect of Stocker as the red zone target. It definitely would be surprising considering Hooper had more receiving yards last season than Stocker has in his nine NFL seasons.
This feels like another time where the coaching staff got too cute with the plays when it was not even necessary. If the plan is the bootleg, try it with your young, athletic pass catching tight end that has loads of chemistry with the quarterback. Even try putting in some of the supremely talented wide receivers. Ridley, Jones, and Sanu do not need misdirection to beat coverage and make a catch. Freeman made the Pro Bowl in part because of his pass catching ability.
Koetter’s confusing non sequitur likely means we will see a number of confusing plays the rest of the season. It was not just a bad idea it did not work. Instead, it did not work because it was a bad idea. He was always a good coordinator in Atlanta but the red zone play-calling always left something to be desired. After all, fans still remember the end zone fade to Jacquizz Rodgers years later.