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Falcons Soft In Week 1 Loss To New Orleans

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The Falcons offensive line showed signs of weakness in the team's Week 1 loss to the Saints - an issue that must be addressed quickly if Atlanta wants to attempt another run at the Lombardi Trophy. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
The Falcons offensive line showed signs of weakness in the team's Week 1 loss to the Saints - an issue that must be addressed quickly if Atlanta wants to attempt another run at the Lombardi Trophy. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

Want to learn about NFL football? Chart a game. Want to learn more about your football team? Chart a game. What kind of team is the 2013 Atlanta Falcons? Chart the game.

So the Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints 23-17 in the Super Dome to open up their 2013 campaign. Despite having a goal line shot at a win in the closing seconds, the Falcons certainly have their share of concerns moving forward. Namely, this is a finesse ballclub. They are not capable of owning the offensive line of scrimmage. 

You could say this is just one game, an aberration if you would like. But consider that the Falcons were playing against a team in the Saints that allowed the most yards in NFL history last season. And they could not handle them up front. Let’s get to the numbers.

The Falcons lined up in their base offense 11 times on Sunday, which features two running backs, a tight end, and two wide receivers. Known as “21”, this was supposed to be the personnel group that would feature new addition Steven Jackson and improve the team's running game. Here were the results:

Seven carries, 64 yards. 

If you remove the 50-yard run by Jackson:

Six carries, 14 yards.

This is the definition of an inconsistent running game. As for the passing game, the formation allowed QB Matt Ryan to go 2-for-2 with 19 yards and a sack.

The Falcons also lined up with a two tight end personnel package with one running back in the backfield. This personnel package, known as “12” around the league, has been popular in recent years as it allows for a team to run while still using athletic tight ends to threaten the defense with the pass. The Falcons lined up in this personnel package 13 times from the first until the final drive in the fourth quarter. The results are as follows:

Two measily carries, one yard.

When it came to passing, Ryan was 4-for-9 with 67 yards and a touchdown but was also sacked while in “12” personnel.

Another point that was evident from charting this game is that the Falcons coaching staff has concerns about RT Lamar Holmes. One of the noteworthy points of the game was the play of Falcons backup offensive lineman Joe Hawley. Hawley was used as a tight end on five different plays throughout the game. But these were not simply goal line or short yardage plays, as Hawley was in to open three different drives. Each time, he was lined up next to Holmes to protect him from the outside speed rush. It was a clear sign that the Falcons were going to attempt to throw the ball.

Overall, this offense is entirely dependent on their “11” personnel, in which they feature one running back and one tight end along with their three receivers. While this grouping is the one that the Falcons go to when they need to move the football, there is no threat of the run from it. The Falcons ran out of “11” only three times. But from this personnel group, Ryan went 17-of-24 for 187 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons 17 points were their lowest point total since December 26, 2011 when they managed only 16 points. That game happened to be against the Saints as well. With three new offensive line starters this season, the Falcons are going to have adjust to be what they are built to be: a finesse team.