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Falcons Redzone Issues Costing Games

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The Falcons have had a hard time punching the ball into the end zone so far this season - a trend that will have to change if Atlanta wants to remain relevant in a challenging NFC South. Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images.
The Falcons have had a hard time punching the ball into the end zone so far this season - a trend that will have to change if Atlanta wants to remain relevant in a challenging NFC South. Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images.

Through three games, the Atlanta Falcons are clearly a mediocre red zone offense at best.

For all of the offseason expectations of what this offense was going to be and what it could accomplish, this is not exactly the 2007 New England Patriots or the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Actually, these Falcons are scoring as many points a game as the 2012 Minnesota Vikings.

Last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons visited the red zone five times. They came away with just 20 points in total as the team mustered only two touchdowns.

A 1-2 record thus far with the Patriots coming to town is a good opportunity for reflection and inspection. A combination of injuries, poor offensive line play, a mediocre running game and awkward substitutions have made for a lack of red zone touchdowns. Let’s take a closer look at the three red zone possessions against the Dolphins that ended in field goal attempts:

Second Quarter – Falcons Up 10-7 And On The Dolphins 11 Yard Line

1st and 10: Falcons lined up with one back (Jason Snelling) and one tight end (Tony Gonzalez) on the field. WR Julio Jones was lined up wide on the left side of the formation and was being double teamed by the Dolphins. The Falcons attempted a run play, but it was stuffed for no gain.

2nd and 10: Jones was not on the field. The Falcons attempted a quick screen pass out of the shotgun formation to WR Harry Douglas, which gained nine yards to the Dolphins two yard line.

3rd and 2: Douglas was lined up to the left of the formation and was in single coverage against the Dolphins cornerback. WR Roddy White was on the right. The Falcons attempted to run the ball with Snelling and FB Tony DiMarco in the backfield. The play was stuffed for no gain and Atlanta settled for a field goal. Jones was not on the field for the play.

Fourth Quarter (12:00 left) – Score Tied 20-20 And Falcons On The Dolphins 15 Yard Line

1st and 10: Falcons attempt to work Gonzalez down the right seam of the defense. Dolphins were in quarters coverage and were in good position. The pass to Gonzalez lands out of the end zone with three defenders in the area. 

2nd and 10: After a Miami timeout, the Falcons felt they had the Dolphins set up. The Falcons had run several quick screen plays to their receivers on the outside throughout the game. Atlanta faked a quick screen to their right and slipped Douglas down the right sideline. Miami CB Brent Grimes squeezed Douglas against the sideline and left little room for a Matt Ryan completion. The ball was thrown harmlessly out of the field of play. 

3rd and 10: Falcons QB Matt Ryan was pressured immediately as he attempted to set up for a passing play. Ryan was flushed to his right and threw the ball away. The Falcons once again settled for the field goal.

Fourth Quarter – Falcons Lead 27-20 And On The Dolphins 19 Yard Line

2nd and 6: The Falcons lined up with three receivers on the field, none of which was Jones. Atlanta attempted a run play with Snelling over the right guard that got only two yards. 

3rd and 4: Ryan lined up in the shotgun formation, but was pressured on the play and was forced to throw the ball away. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant proceeded to miss the 35-yard field goal attempt wide right.

After analyzing these three drives, one thing is clear - the Falcons need points and must finish off drives. Due to injuries and talent levels, Atlanta's defense is playing a bend-don’t-break style as they opportunistically seek turnovers. In order for the Falcons to get back into the NFC South division race, the offense needs to buckle down and score touchdowns with their numerous redzone opportunities.