The Falcons were not exactly an efficient scoring machine in 2019, despite grading out on paper as one of the league’s better offenses. The chief issues that slowed them down were a mediocre rushing attack, an offensive line that took time to gel, and a passing attack that featured a few uncharacteristically bad Matt Ryan passes coupled with Dirk Koetter’s unimaginative planning. The net results was a good offense, but not a great one.
It also was an offense that seemed to get off to a slow start. Multiple times in 2019, the Falcons found themselves down big, leaving them to either rally in spectacular fashion or lose by a lot. After hearing Matt Ryan talk about starting fast the other day, I wondered if that was just another offseason slogan or if the Falcons really did have an urgent need to start games off more effectively on offense in 2020. So I decided to jog my memory, and I almost wish I hadn’t.
Here’s a striking look at how the Falcons did the majority of their 2019 damage in the 4th quarter of games, to the point where they scored just four fewer times in the 4th quarter last year than they did in the other three quarters combined.
The only thing the Falcons really did at a superlative level on offense in 2020 was score in the fourth quarter. They were scoring in that quarter on a level with some of the best offenses of 2019, including the Ravens, who scored 22 touchdowns in the 2nd quarter, but less than 19 in every other quarter. In every other quarter, they scored touchdowns at the clip of a mid-level offense. They didn’t just start slow, in others words, they played slow 3/4ths of the average game.
There are many ways to overcome this particular ailment, and many of those roads lead back to Koetter. The Falcons can’t be content to waste so many early downs in 2020 on unproductive 1st down runs; they can’t be one of the league’s least creative and least effective red zone offenses (they were 25th in red zone scoring in 2019 after ranking 10th in 2018); and they most certainly cannot come into games without an effective script for the first drive. With as much talent as the Falcons possess, they should not be the kind of team infrequently scoring touchdowns on its initial drives, given how much time they have to plan it.
It’ll take more than just Koetter, though, from better line play to a much more productive rushing attack. What’s very evident is that the Falcons can’t start slow in 2020 on offense or in the win column, or we’re likely to re-live 2019...plus a global pandemic or two.