The Atlanta Falcons opened this season on fire offensively. They converted 73 percent of their red zone trips (14-of-19) over their first five games, averaging an impressive 32.4 points en route to a 5-0 record. However, the Falcons now sit three games out of first place in the NFC South and two games ahead in the wild-card race after dropping three of their last four outings. A visit from Matt Hasselback and the Indianapolis Colts is on the horizon this Sunday.
It’s been a rough go for first-year head coach Dan Quinn after such a promising start. The Falcons have lost to some very weak opponents in New Orleans, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. Their last two losses have come by four combined points while their lone win over this poor four-game stretch was a three-point win over Tennessee.
Offensively, Atlanta has totaled 64 points over the last four games, which is an inadequate output for a historically high-powered attack. Over the last three games, the Falcons are the fifth-worst scoring offense with 15.3 points per game. Only, Dallas, Miami, Cleveland and San Francisco have been weaker.
Star wide receiver Julio Jones is the leading wide receiver in receptions (80) on a whopping 120 targets. The next three receivers on the Falcons roster have a combined 48 catches: Leonard Hankerson (22), Roddy White *17) and Nick Williams (9).
Jones already has topped the 1,000-receiving mark with 1,029 yards along with six touchdown grabs, accounting for 38 percent of Matt Ryan’s passing yards. He has 37 catches, 484 yards, two touchdowns over the last four weeks. Jones is a stud receiver who takes over games and is almost impossible to cover when 100 percent healthy.
The Falcons offense has only turned the ball over five times over the first five games largely because Jones has been so dominant. Over the past four games, Atlanta has converted 42 percent of their red zone opportunities turning it over nine times.
Ryan and the Falcons offense has benefited greatly from the emergence of second-year running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman and Jones are standouts in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but again after that it’s a crapshoot in terms of targets. Hankerson, White and tight end Jacob Tamme serve as nothing more than middling options at this point.
It looks as though Atlanta may roll out a no-huddle offense at times moving forward.
“We have the ability to do it and it’s something that we’ve practiced,” Ryan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “I feel like if it comes up, it’s something that we’re going to be prepared for and we’re going to do really well.”
Using a no-huddle could be a nice way to give this offense a boost. Ryan has thrown four touchdowns compared to three interceptions the last three weeks and owns 12 touchdown passes and seven picks for the season.
He certainly hasn’t looked his confident self recently, but neither has the entire offense. Getting Jones and Freeman the ball as much as possible is always the gameplan, but if the Falcons want to be successful and keep their spot in the NFC Wildcard race, they have to get some other guys going—specifically Hankerson and White.