The Atlanta Falcons generated only two first downs on the ground in Sunday’s 17-16 loss in San Francisco. The Falcons are reeling after starting the season 5-0. They’ve lost two in a row to bad football teams in the Tampa Bay Bucs and San Francisco 49ers, dropping three of their last four games.
Sunday’s loss to the 49ers was another poor showing for first-year head coach Dan Quinn’s team against a San Francisco that went with a starting quarterback who had one five games in 27 starts in Blaine Gabbert and a journeyman running back in Shaun Draughn who had never made a start in his five-year career.
It was the Falcons running game that really held them back in Sunday’s one-point loss. The NFL’s leading rusher heading into Week 9, Devonta Freeman had only 12 yards on 12 carries. He did make up for it in the passing game with eight grabs for 67 yards and a touchdown, but overall it was a rough afternoon for an Atlanta rushing attack that had 17 yards on the day.
Freeman had topped 85 yards or more on the ground over the last four games and in five of the team’s last six matchups overall.
Down 17-6 late in the second quarter, the Falcons went away from the rushing attack and chose to air it out as quarterback Matt Ryan totaled 45 pass attempts on the day with 300 yards. Freeman reeled in a 17-yard score with under 15 seconds left in the first half and Atlanta found some life. However, only three points were scored in the second half and once again the Atlanta offense failed to do enough to win.
The Falcons are averaging a measly 16.8 points per game over the last four weeks after averaging an impressive 32.5 points per game in the first five games, all wins. Freeman has been on fire all season even in the losses prior to this week. However, San Francisco’s plan to slow him down work to perfection as it forced Atlanta’s hand to become a pass-first team.
Freeman is averaging 4.4 yards per carry for the season and since taking over as a starter in Week 3 against Dallas, he recorded a yards per carry mark of 4.2 or better. Ranking eighth entering Sunday’s game in rushing yards per game (126.8), the Falcons had yet to face a team that solely focused on shutting Freeman down first and foremost.
Luckily for Atlanta they have an off week before hosting a rising Indianapolis Colts team the following Sunday. For Quinn and his group, the time is now to recharge the batteries and focus on the task ahead.
The Falcons sit three games back of NFC South leader Carolina (8-0) and if they continue this dive they won’t be close to earning a playoff spot let alone a division title.
Plenty of game film will be watched over this bye week, but for right now this team is beatable and everyone else is starting to figure that out. If Atlanta doesn’t figure it out over these next few games it could put them in a rough spot moving forward. The offense is the identity of this team. It’s time to tinker the playbook and return to the top-five unit they were early on this season.