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Sarkisian’s fine with view upstairs, now it’s time to elevate Falcons’ offense


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FLOWERY BRANCH

Steve Sarkisian likes the view from on high just fine, and more important, the Falcons offensive coordinator said that when he sits upstairs and calls plays from the press box, it makes quarterback Matt Ryan happier, or at least quicker, on the field down below.

In his first interviews since moving from the sideline on game days, Sarkisian said Thursday that coach Dan Quinn’s suggestion that he move upstairs makes his job easier in ways. Sarkisian was on the Falcons’ sideline for the first four games before moving to the box for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.

“It was something we analyzed coming out of the bye, and this was an idea Dan had,” Sarkisian explained. “I thought the line of communication was really good, real efficient, which is probably the most important thing. It was efficient for us in (play calls going in) a few seconds here and there, but those few seconds matter a lot to the quarterback ...

“What it does for me is I get to lay everything out (on a desk). You have your call sheet, and you’re not flipping through things. My view is a lot better.”

Former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked upstairs last season.

The Falcons’ numbers on offense are off in some areas from those of the record-setting 2016 season, in part because the Falcons have turned the ball over seven times while registering but three takeaways.

After taking a 17-0 lead into halftime against the Dolphins, the Falcons lost 20-17, and only six of their 24 second-half plays were runs after Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman gashed Miami in the first half.

They finished with nine carries each. 

Circumstances were less than ideal after intermission against Miami.

“Without a doubt,” Sarkisian said. “I think we need to maximize our opportunities. The first drive, we come out and get sacked on the first play and end up in third and long and have to punt. The second drive, we drive into the fringe area, get a holding penalty, get sacked, end up having to punt and knock ourselves out of field goal range.

“The third drive, the second play we lose eight yards on a toss sweep to Tevin, and the fourth drive is a two-minute drill (that ended in field-goal range when Ryan’s pass went off tight end Austin Hooper before being intercepted).”

The quarterback sure isn’t sounding any alarms about play-calling.

“We’ve been put in some pretty good positions; we just haven’t executed as well as we would have liked,” Ryan said. “I have high expectations for ourselves, and I think everybody does. 

“We’re not clicking on all cylinders yet, but we’re close, and I think guys are still positive, upbeat, and working hard in practice.”

Fans and onlookers like to point to Sarkisian’s decision to call passes on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 in an Oct. 1 loss to the Bills in which the Falcons reached the 10-yard line with a chance to win on their last possession. They were incomplete.

Perhaps you thought the toss sweep to Coleman on third-and-1 from the Miami 32 on the first possession of the game last Sunday was unusual. He was stretched out for no gain, and the Falcons settled for Matt Bryant’s 50-yard field goal.

Coaches, however, said they have tremendous faith in the Falcons’ short-yardage power game, and some numbers back them up.

The Falcons passed on third-and-1 that one time in five games, and they’ve converted on six of eight third-and-1 runs this season. They also converted their only third-and-2 run and failed on their only third-and-2 pass.

“Obviously, we have great belief in our run game. ... ” Sarkisian said. “Our belief in the run game hasn’t wavered. It’s just a matter of finding that right balance.”

Despite the misfires in the Buffalo game, the Falcons are scoring touchdowns on 60 percent of their red-zone possessions, ranking No. 6 in the NFL. Last season, they ranked No. 8, at 64.56 percent.

Wide receiver Julio Jones hasn’t scored yet from anywhere, and he’s been targeted just one time in the red zone, where he tends to draw double coverage.

“Teams are going to continuously try and take me away,” Jones said Thursday. “As long as we’re scoring points and getting touchdowns that’s all that matters. Fans, and fantasy and things like that, at the end of the day we’re trying to win ballgames. It’s not about stats.”

Sarkisian is still radioing plays directly into Ryan’s helmet, although he has less direct communication on game day with other offensive players.

“Matt has a headset directly to me that we talk on just about in between every series,” Sarkisian said. “Similar to when I was on the sidelines, a lot of the time I might say, ‘Hey, (assistant) Raheem (Morris), can you talk to Julio or (receiver Mohamed Sanu) about this route, or (assistant) Chris Morgan, can you talk to (tackle) Jake (Matthews) about this protection?”

He may further address Jones’ targets in the red zone, too, but he’s not going to force anything.

“In the red area ... Tevin and Free have both been very effective. A lot of what we’re doing the coverage is dictating to us ...” Sarkisian said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep trying to get him the ball there, and be creative and find ways.”

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8 hours ago, UnrealfalcoN said:

Honestly as a top prospect, Jake mathews has been spectacularly average. At this point in his career, he is what he is. But once this unit gets more playing tine together, they'll gel a bit better. 

Truth here about Matthews

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