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The Sputtering Falcon Offense Misses Kyle Shanahan

The Atlanta Falcons have lost three straight games and based on its performance Sunday night in Foxboro, things are not going to change anytime soon. The Falcons have scored just 41 points in their last three games and are a “fortunate” win over Chicago and a ten-second runoff away from being 1-5. This is no ordinary Super Bowl hangover. Atlanta has an immense amount of talent including the reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Julio Jones. The Falcons are just not getting it done.

The answer in my eyes is simple; the Dirty Birds miss last year’s Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. Vilified for his second-half play calling in the Falcons Super Bowl 51 meltdown versus the Patriots, the loss was laid squarely at Shanahan’s front door. The 37-year-old son of Mike Shanahan was destined for a top job of his own in any case but took the 49er job like he was shot out of a cannon when the offer was made.

People are quick to forget that the Falcon offense led the NFL in points last year at 33.8 points-per-game which is down a full 12 ppg. this year. Not only does Atlanta feature Ryan and Jones, the Falcons have a top three every down running back in Devonta Freeman. The fourth-year man out of Florida State is on pace to duplicate his numbers from last year but just seems to be lost in the current offense and not given many chances to make a play.

So what has caused the current collapse of the Falcon offense??? HC Dan Quinn is a defensive guy that who is responsible for establishing Seattle’s Legion of Boom the last five years. He’s actually done a nice job addressing the defensive deficiencies of a team that couldn’t stop anyone just three years ago. Is it Matt Ryan??? Last year,Ryan completed 70% of his passes for 309 ypg. and a 38/7 TD to INT ratio. This is year; Ryan has completed 66% of his passes but for just 265 ypg. and 7/6 TD/INT ratio. His QBR has dropped from 117.1 last year to a pedestrian 89.

The only other place to look is at new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The hire in itself was somewhat surprising as Sarkisian was not all that far removed from his firing at USC for off the field problems. He had rehabilitated his reputation somewhat as an offensive consultant for Nick Saban at Alabama and ultimately took over the Bama offense himself for the National Championship game when Lane Kiffin took the job at Florida Atlantic.

Sarkisian just does not seem to be a good fit for this roster or this roster is not a good fit for Sarkisian’s schemes. Ryan’s completion percentage is about at his career average but Matty Ice has only thrown for 300 yards once. His six picks in six games is going to be pretty unacceptable in any scheme. Julio Jones and Freeman have both complained about getting touches. Jones (83, 1409, 17.0 in 14 games last year vs. 34, 466, 13.7 in 6 games this year. Prior to his 13 targets in the New England game, Jones had averaged just five targets a game in the first five games. Freeman, the highest paid back in the NFL, had just nine carries in the come from ahead loss to the Dolphins two weeks ago.  He had nine carries against the Patriots despite averaging six yards per carry.

At 3-3 with all three losses coming to teams out of the AFC East, it hasn’t reached the time to panic yet in Atlanta. There is however, a reason to be concerned. The Falcons have the fourth toughest strength of schedule the rest of the way. They’ve already had their bye week so it’s ten straight weeks the rest of the way. Fortunately, they have yet to play a division game allowing themselves the opportunity to take care of their own business.

Six games into a season might not be enough time to put the blame on a single person or thing and there is nothing to say that the offense might start hitting on all cylinders as soon as this Sunday against the NY Jets. The offense needs to produce now. There is an old adage that goes, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. In its current state, the offense is definitely is definitely broke and OC Steve Sarkisian just might be the first place to look to fix it.

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