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OFFENSE ANALYSIS: Mularkey’s unit continued to shine

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OFFENSE ANALYSIS: Mularkey’s unit continued to shine

2:59 pm January 7, 2011, by D. Orlando Ledbetter


FLOWERY BRANCH — It’s no wonder that Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s phone has been ringing off the hook this week.

The offense improved in most major categories in 2010 and quarterback Matt Ryan continued to climb the ladder to elite status in the league.

Having Ryan and running back Michael Turner healthy for the entire season also was a plus.

Ryan improved on his touchdown passes and cut his interceptions while completing a team record 357 passes.

He had 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Last season, he had 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Turner returned to Burner status with 1,371 yards after missing action in 2009 with that high right ankle sprain.

It didn’t hurt that wide receiver Roddy White caught nearly ever pass thrown his way. He led the league with 115 receptions, while the offensive line only gave up 23 sacks, third lowest in the league.

Here’s a look at the statistically comparison:

2010 2009

Points allowed: 25 (5th) –- 22.7 (13th) – Up 8 spots

Yards allowed: 341.1 (16th) — 340.4 (16th) – same

Passing yards: 222.9 (15th) – 223.2 (14th) – down 1

Rushing yards: 118.2 (12th) — 117.3 (15th) – Up 3 spots

Sacks: 23 (3rd) – 27 (8th) – up 5 spots

3rd Down: 47% (112 of 240) 3rd – 42% (91 of 216) 10th. – up 7 spots

We checked in with Mularkey during the bye week to get his take on the offense heading into the divisional round of the playoffs.

Here’s what Mularkey, who’s set to interview with Cleveland on Saturday, had to say:

ON PREPARING FOR THE PLAYOFFS: “The fortunate thing is that we’ve played all three of these teams. Two of them most recently. That helps with a lot of familiarity with these guys. Obviously, the more film and more games that you can use in your preparation will help us in the long run. It’s a good thing that we played them already.”

WILL YOU SPICE UP THE OFFENSE FOR THE PLAYOFFS? “That can happen because we are in a position to have more time to prepare. You really don’t want to do that. There are things that we do every week. I think we do them well. Our players are confident in doing them. I don’t think we need to spice up anything. I think we are pretty well set at this stage.”

ARE THE PACKERS AND SAINTS’ DEFENSES OVERLOOKED? “They are sound defenses. All of the teams that are in the playoffs, especially the ones that we have the possibility of playing, are very stout. They do have high potent offenses, but they do have very complimentary defenses to go along with them.”

IS IT A CHESS MATCH THIS POINT? “There is a little bit of that now that you’ve played each other, you have a better feel for each other. It is a chess match. Every play is a move. Obviously the guy with the better moves at the end will be victorious. It’s crunch time and there is no room for error on any play. Any play can be the difference in the game and I think our guys will be focused to play that way.”

WAS THAT A SLIP SCREEN OR A TUNNEL SCREEN THAT HARRY DOUGLAS CAUGHT AGAINST CAROLINA? “We call it a speed screen. We get it out of the quarterback’s hands as quickly as we can and into our guy’s hands as quickly as we can. Matt did a good job and Harry just happened to be on the receiving side of it. He has an option on both sides. He made a play on it. Actually, he had an unblocked defender that Harry made miss and he made some big yards.”

HAVE TEAMS BEEN SLANTING THEIR LINES TO STOP THE RUNNING GAME?: “I think we’ve seen a lot of that this year. That is one way that people feel like they can disrupt us. We’ve had some success against it also. When you do that, there are some natural creases that can be happen. If you get to the second level you can have some big runs. I’m sure they’ll have a plan for us. We’ll have a counter or something for them that they’ll have to make some adjustments. That’s the greatest part about this business is that you can plan these things and see them all come to play live and hopefully be successful.”

WHAT’S ROMAN HARPER’S ROLE IN THE SAINTS DEFENSE? “The good thing about all of them and not just Roman, they all have a key role. They all know their part and it’s very complicated. They do a lot of things defensively. Their scheme was to take away some of players on specific downs and specific situations. We are going to try to counter that if that’s the team we face.”

ON THE TURNOVERS BY MICHAEL TURNER: “It was a good strip. But we have to do a better job. . .It’s an emphasis and it’s our guys responsibility to protect the football. A good strip must mean a bad hold by Michael. We have to do a better job especially where the turnovers are taking place, tight in the red zone. They are just catastrophic in our mind.”

ON FULLBACK OVIE MUGHELLI BEING SELECTED TO THE PRO BOWL: “I’ve always thought of Ovie as one of the best fullbacks in the league. I thought that for three years. It’s a great credit to him. He comes in every week and plays at a high level every week. We, our offense needs him with the way we run the football and protect. It’s great to see it happen for a guy who maybe should have had it earlier. It’s great to see it.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter

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