By Matthew Asher
With a quarter of their games now completed, it’s time to go back and see what the Falcons have done well so far and what is needed for improvement in the final 12 regular season games.
Piling up offensive yards, specifically through the air
The addition of running back Steven Jackson was supposed to give the Falcons depth in their running attack, something that was sorely lacking last season. Thanks to injuries, it hasn’t panned out the way Atlanta hoped. Still, when it comes to getting yards in a game, Atlanta is one of the best. Regarding all offensive yards, Atlanta averages slightly less than 400 yards a game, the seventh most in the league.
Averaging 316.5 passing yards a game, only the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers (who have played just three games) average more yards in the air than the Falcons. As far as total passing yards are concerned, Atlanta’s 1,266 yards are third in the league behind two undefeated teams: the Broncos and the Saints.
Matt Ryan is actually on course to set a new career high in passing yards and tie his record for touchdowns if he continues throwing the ball at this pace. Both records were set last year with more than 4,700 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. At this clip, Matty Ice will throw for more than 5,300 yards, which would be the third most in NFL history.
Through four games Ryan has completed 66.5 percent of his throws for 1,330 yards (he eclipsed the 20,000 passing yard mark against New England) and has eight touchdowns against three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 97.7.
Red Zone scoring has been atrocious
While nowhere near the ridiculous 179 points the Denver Broncos have put up in four games, Atlanta is no slouch. Their 94 points scored is the 14th most and still better than more than half the league. The problem is the lack of touchdowns.
Too many times already this season Atlanta has had to settle for a field goal attempt rather than a touchdown when they get near the goal line. Seven times Atlanta has attempted a field goal of less than 40 yards and four of those attempts were less than 30 yards.
People may not think of Atlanta’s defense as an elite one, but they’re definitely underrated. They’ve given up just 104 points, the tenth least in the league. When you consider that the three Falcons losses have been by a combined 17 points, you see how crucial four additional points in a game can be. Six of Atlanta’s 13 victories last year were won by seven points or less. Give Atlanta four more points in their three losses this season and it’s very possible this team could be 3-1 instead of 1-3.
So for all the people who are claiming the Falcons are a horrible team, you can see that there isn’t much of a difference between this year’s squad and the 13-3 team from last year. Hopefully against the Jets Atlanta will figure out how to turn those close field goals into touchdowns. If they can, an 11-5 record isn’t out of the question. #RiseUp
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.