The Falcons signed Todd Gurley in the offseason and acquired a bunch of depth pieces, but by and large they left their offense alone. The thought process there was a simple one: The talent on that side of the ball included a former league MVP, the best receiver in the NFL, one of the best second receivers in the NFL, a former elite running back, a promising tight end, and an offensive line studded with former first round picks. Surely that talent and Dirk Koetter in his second season could figure this thing out and achieve new heights, right?
As we noted before the season, that was no guarantee, given that Koetter’s offenses do not typically improve over time. That combined with Ryan and Julio aging a bit was reason to be concerned, but the Falcons did score 25 or more points in each of their first three weeks as the defense collapsed, giving us some hope that they’d be able to least put up points. Instead, the offense has more or less continually gone backward from there, with big outbursts against the Vikings and Broncos obscuring how deep the problem goes.
It’s now impossible to ignore, however. The offense has been directly responsible for just three touchdowns over the past three weeks, with the defense scoring twice and Younghoe Koo scoring...well, an awful lot. The following graphic is out of date given that it was in the third quarter—the numbers are 38 points for Koo, 30 points for the rest of the team—but it does underscore the issue pretty nicely. The Falcons have had stretches like this before where a red-hot Matt Bryant essentially was the offense—in 2008 there was a three game stretch where he scored 32 of the team’s 58 points over that span, for example—but much of the time he would only have to carry the team’s scoring for a game or two, or would be pouring in field goals alongside an offense that was functioning at a high level. That’s not quite what’s happening here.
Shoutout to @NFLonFOX for this graphic: Younghoe Koo has scored 37 points, while the rest of the #Falcons have scored 24 in the last three weeks. pic.twitter.com/8uKNxSmrGl— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) December 6, 2020
Even against a pretty mediocre Raiders offense, the Falcons managed just three touchdowns, with Koo and the defense piling up the remaining 25 points. Against the Saints, Koo has accounted for 19 points over two games and the offense has scored just one touchdown. This is partly a testament to Koo—he hasn’t missed in weeks and has been perfect on his last four attempts from 50 yards or beyond—and partly an indictment of the way this offense stalls out badly in field goal range week after week. It is not a bad thing to have a great kicker and settle for points from him as part of a balanced gameplan, but against the Saints in particular the Falcons managed a single touchdown and forced Koo to do the rest, which is simply not a winning formula against quality football teams.
There’s simply no easy remedy here, not when the playcalling off and the blocking comes and goes and the quarterback misses throws and his receivers drop them, to say nothing of a ground game that appears to have gone from occasionally useful to moribund. The Chiefs and Chargers don’t have great defenses and the Buccaneers are a bit up-and-down, but under Dirk Koetter the Falcons simply have not shown the kind of offensive aptitude they need to in order to keep up with those quality offenses. Unless the defense is elite or things click into place far too late in the 2020 season, Atlanta’s going to lose most of their remaining games and continue to waste one of the great kicking seasons in franchise history from Koo.