Once during my “stellar” college academic career I took a class called Theories of Coaching Football, Basketball, & Track. In that class, The AFCA Football Coaches Bible was the required text book and in that book was a chapter from Virginia Tech Football Coach Frank Beamer.
I mention this book and Beamer because of a very interesting philosophy that has stuck with me for the rest of my life watching/covering football. The Cardinal Rule for the success of Head Football Coaches at any level, “If you win, your assistant coaches/players deserve the credit. If you lose, you take the blame.” This is exactly how Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith is handling the situation of his team being 1-2 on the season and riddled with problems in the red zone/second half.
“The responsibility goes to me,” Smith said. “It doesn’t go to the quarterback, the offensive line, or the offensive coordinator. Its my responsibility as the head coach to make sure that we are more efficient in the red zone and I can assure you that is something that will be addressed.”
The Falcons were two of five in the red zone on Sunday against the Dolphins and have converted just 50 percent of the time in that area of the field.
The Falcons have also struggled this season in the second half, in trying to close out these games. Mike Smith points out that it comes down to his team’s inability to finish plays.
“We need to focus on not just finishing the game, we need finishing the play,” Smith said. “It starts with the play and that play could be the play that makes the difference.”
Part of what Smith is talking about could be the Harry Douglas fumble on a punt return in the fourth quarter that led to the game tying touchdown pass from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver Brian Hartline. Smith says they have rules on situations like that where the ball hits the ground before the return man tries to pick it up and they weren’t followed on that play. Douglas says it’s a first bounce rule, where if it bounces more than once you’re not to pick up the football.
In the second half this season, the Falcons have been outscored 48 to 24 in the final 30 minutes. Wide receiver Roddy White says the problems have really started for them in the third quarter.
“Seems like every fourth quarter our backs are against the wall,” White said. “We go down there and score a touchdown, instead of just putting drives together in the third quarter and finishing the game off.”
Now, the Falcons get a 3-0 Patriots team inside the Georgia Dome on Sunday Night. This is a team that has been outscored 14-12 in the second half and is also struggling in the red zone going 4 of 13 through three games. However, the Patriots could be getting some help in that area of the field, if tight end Rob Gronkowski can return this week from off-season forearm surgery.