2006-01-02

Dissecting the Falcons

Since most Falcons bloggers have already quit on their team, let's check out the train wreck that has been the Falcon's season. Last week's 44-11 loss to the Panthers cemented a dissappointing season for the 8-8 Falcons. Falcons fans had, understandably, high expectations after their team made it to the NFC Championship last season.

After yesterday's loss the local media in Atlanta is starting to question the franchise's direction under Mora. Writes Steve Wyche of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

The season-worst pummeling capped a dreadful slide in which Atlanta (8-8) lost six of its last eight games, got eliminated from playoff contention and failed in its pursuit of the consolation prize of posting the first consecutive winning seasons in the Falcons' 40-year history.

There were no indications that Blank had any plans for wholesale changes at any level, but things can't stay the same, with everyone hoping the maturation of the team's younger players will be enough.

I don't know who or what is to blame for the Falcon's collapse (although Vick probably shares more of the blame than most Falcons fans are willing to admit). Unlike the Eagles or Rams, the Falcons did not suffer any key injuries to derail their season. And unlike the Vikings or Packers, Atlanta did not lose any key personnel during the offseason.

There is little difference between the Falcons this season and last, both personnel wise and statistically. Taking a quick glance at a statistical comparison of the two Falcon's teams:

Rankings . . . . . 2004 . . . . 2005
(by yards)
Total offense . . . 18th . . . . 13th
Rushing . . . . . . 1st . . . . . 1st
Passing . . . . . . 30th . . . . 28th

Total defense . . 14th . . . . . 22nd
Rushing . . . . . . 9th . . . . . 26th
Passing . . . . . . 22nd . . . . 14th

Not a huge difference between the two seasons. The offense saw a slight improvement but that was probably linked to the defense's inability to stop the run. While the defenses inability to stop the run is nothing new (it was a problem for Atlanta last season) more teams this season focused on running the ball against Atlanta. As a result, Atlanta's offense was forced to put up more points to stay in the games.

The best thing Atlanta had going for them last season was a soft schedule in a soft conference. Last season the Falcons played only three games against team which finished the season with a winning record. This season, the Falcons played eight games against teams with winning records. That's the NFL's gift for winning your division (as the Bucs will discover), a much more difficult schedule the next.

But for now it's easy for Falcons fans to blame Mora or the defense for their losses. But unless you are a dominant team (such as Indy, New England or Pittsburgh this season) it is next to impossible to overcome a difficult schedule (as San Diego discovered). But I'm starting to ramble.

The Falcons have some problems to remedy heading into this offseason, because yesterday's loss is not the way anyone wants to end their season, as Wyche points out:

Thousands of empty seats... a dreadful performance by the home squad... fans booing the team off the field at halftime.

Now we're talking Falcons football.

1 comment:

Scott said...

> That's the NFL's gift for winning your division (as the Bucs will discover), a much more difficult schedule the next.

But that's not true. Only two games per year are based on how well the team finished the previous year. For the Falcons, those two were at the beginning of the season with Philly and Seattle. They went 1-1 with those, same as the Bucs.

The rest of the season they had the same opponents as the Bucs and had almost the same results team-for-team. The difference was the games against the Bucs. If Atlanta sweeps Tampa, they are in playoff contention. Very tight games won in the last seconds... the difference is marginal. The Bucs need to find a way to widen that gap.