The Falcons have the seventh-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 372.5 yards per game. They have elite talent at quarterback and wide receiver. Their offensive ability scares opposing defenses.
But things aren’t as super as they were last season. The Falcons enter Sunday’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium having lost three in a row, all against the AFC East. First-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is being criticized for a lackluster offense after the Falcons averaged only 13.7 points during a three-game skid against the Bills, Dolphins and Patriots in which they scored 17, 17 and seven points. Atlanta was held to fewer than 20 points only once all of last season.
During a 3-0 start to this season, the Falcons scored an average of 29 points, but in last week’s Super Bowl rematch, Atlanta mustered only seven points. No wonder Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a former Jets assistant coach, is a bit down.
“Well, I’m bummed for sure because of a couple of things, and I’ll tell you what I like and where we’re at,” Quinn said. “It’s always difficult when you don’t play as well as you can.”
The Falcons’ issues can’t be solely attributed to a Super Bowl hangover. But you do remember what happened, right?
Atlanta led New England 28-3 in Super Bowl LI before losing in overtime, 34-28, as the Patriots pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Falcons carried that epic meltdown with them the entire offseason, but the 3-0 start temporarily put an end to any discussion of a hangover.
“The turnover margin was a real factor for us so far,” Quinn said of his team being tied for 26th in that category. “We’ve really prided ourselves in that spot, and I use the term margin — it’s not just one-sided, offensively or defensively — we haven’t gotten as many takeaways defensively as I would have hoped for or even expected.”
Of course, the Falcons had to defend Sarkisian, who hasn’t produced the same type of offense that predecessor Kyle Shanahan did last season. Shanahan had the Falcons rolling on offense, leading the NFL in points and second in yards per game. It was a fantastic year for quarterback Matt Ryan, who won the MVP award after throwing 38 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. He also averaged a career-high 309 passing yards per game. With Sarkisian calling the plays, Ryan has thrown seven touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Ryan has an 81.0 quarterback rating and completed 64.5 percent of his passes during the losing streak. Elite receiver Julio Jones, who picked up his first touchdown of the season in the rematch against the Patriots, has produced only one 100-yard game through six weeks. He had three 100-yard games at this stage last season, including a 300-yard receiving game.
“When things are going bad, it’s easy to point the fingers at this person, that person,” Jones told reporters this past week. “It’s on all of us to take it upon ourselves to fix it. I feel Sark is doing a great job of calling plays. We just have to go out there and execute.”
The Jets are not buying into the narrative that the Falcons are a team in trouble. Not with their offensive potential.
“They’re seventh in the league in offense,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “They put a lot of things together. They may have a hiccup here or there, but they can run the ball and they can throw the ball. That’s without question, so they’re scary coming in. I don’t worry about them not coming together. I just hope they don’t score a bunch of points.”
Least vs. AFC East
After a 3-0 start, Matt Ryan and the Falcons have struggled during an 0-3 stretch against the Bills, Dolphins and Patriots.
3-0 start: 29 points per game, 289 passing yards per game
0-3 skid: 13.7 points per game, 241 passing yards per game