Grrrillapmpn Inc.® Posted October 17, 2014 Share Posted October 17, 2014 WHEN FALCONS TOUGHNESS DIEDOctober 17, 2014One day we will look back at the end of this era of Atlanta Falcons football and wonder how it all went so wrong. I've been covering this team since 2004, and I can easily recall the days of joking in the hallways at work, "they won last year, so they won't win this year." There was a time when this franchise had never had back-to-back winning seasons. Thanks to Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, that silly stat is dead.But one day we will attempt to pinpoint where things changed for the worse. The playoff shutout in New York, the Julio Jones trade, the fumbled snap verse San Francisco, the Harry Douglas fall, the Steven Jackson signing, going "multiple" on defense, losing various coordinators....all will be moments people will point to. But for me, the playoff loss to Green Bay and the change of direction for this team will always be the point where Falcons toughness died. The run of success didn't die immediately, but it certainly led to 4-12 in 2013 and whatever mess 2014 becomes.WHEN THE FALCONS WERE TOUGHNo story is ever complete in my mind without taking a look at the data. From 2008-2011, the Atlanta Falcons were a team that looked to grind you down with a commitment to a power run game and an opportunistic defense. Take a look at the percentage of plays that the Falcons ran the football during that time period:2008: 56% (4.4 avg yards per carry)2009: 44% (4.2 avg yards per carry)2010: 46% (3.8 avg yards per carry)2011: 43% (4.0 avg yards per carry)What is also worth noting is that the Falcons defense never had outrageous sack totals during this time period. While they were able to create turnovers during some of these seasons, the bigger issue for me was the time of possession for the Falcons. The Falcons offense, with a commitment to a tough, power run game was able to hold onto the football. The strategy allowed the Falcons defense to play harder for a shorter amount of plays. Here is the percentage of time of possession they had during these years:2008: 51% (12th in NFL)2009: 50% (16th in NFL)2010: 55% (2nd in NFL)2011: 54% (4th in NFL)THE CATASTROPHIC MOMENTSo what changed? It all happened January 15th of 2011. The Green Bay Packers came into the Georgia Dome on their way to a Super Bowl victory and showed the Falcons what explosive football looked like. They were four and five wide, they were fast, and they scored in bunches. The biggest issue from the game was the inability for the Falcons to pressure and sack Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was sacked twice, but still completed 31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rather than re-tool with pass rushers to get after passers like Rogers, the Falcons decided they had to "become more explosive". For the 2010 season, the Falcons were 19th in the NFL in completed passes of 20 yards or more. The decision was made and it became the organizational mantra...get more explosive. By April of 2011, the Julio Jones trade was made to reach this goal.A CHANGE OF DIRECTIONAt the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Falcons had been shutout on the road against the eventual champion New York Giants. The Falcons were not explosive enough. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey left to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, opening up an opportunity for a new direction. The decision was made to hire long-time offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Koetter had shown a commitment to running the football during his time in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars certainly never had the Falcons offensive personnel. Take a look at the rushing totals from 2012-current:2012: 38% (3.7 avg yards per carry)2013: 32% (3.9 avg yards per carry)2014: 36% (4.6 avg yards per carry)With a shaky Falcons defense, the organization left it to the offense to win ball games. Their cap space is overwhelming weighted towards the offensive side of the football. But the Falcons have been unable, or unwilling to run the football and win the line of scrimmage. That's where toughness comes from. Not from deciding to be tough. Take a look at the time of possession numbers since 2012:2012: 51% (12th in NFL)2013: 50% (16th in NFL)2014: 47% (24th in NFL)10 more games to go. More change is coming.-loshttp://www.frontofficefootball.net/blog/2014/10/17/when-falcons-toughness-died Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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