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Falcons Offense Finds It’s Wings

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Know who’s one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL right now? That’s right—Atlanta OC Steve Sarkisian, as you all expected during that Thursday night opener.

The Falcons are fifth in the NFL in total offense and just 3.6 yards per game off the torrid pace that the Kyle Shanahan-fueled Atlanta attack of 2016 set. And they’ve gotten there with a similar approach to the one that Sarkisian’s predecessor deployed, which is to attack from every angle and at all times.

Take the end of Sunday’s blowout win over the Redskins and their well-regarded defense.

It’s third-and-2, with 3:55 left, and Atlanta leads 31-14. Sarkisian’s foot wasn’t coming off the pedal.

image?“We’ve been preaching attack, attack, attack, and that’s [Dan Quinn’s] messaging too,” Sarkisian said last night. “And we’ve had a couple opportunities, granted, in some other, tighter games, and even last week though against the Giants, where we could have closed the game out on offense, essentially in four-minute offense, and we didn’t get it done. You can go to the Saints game, at the end we have a critical third down that we don’t pick and we go to overtime and lose.
“So we’ve been really stressing over the last couple weeks and practicing what we would call ‘winning-time moments.’ We wanted to make sure we stayed aggressive, because we’ve been preaching it. And as a coach if you don’t practice what you preach then the players view as, is that just talk or is that who we really are?”

So rather than running the ball in that situation, with the game comfortably in hand, Sarkisian called for a screen to Julio Jones. One kickout block from Jake Matthews later and the Falcons’ all-world receiver was on his way to the end zone from 35 yards out.

So capped Atlanta’s sixth 400-yard effort in its last seven games, which is even more impressive considering the pressure of having to make up for the injury problems on defense (Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Ricardo Allen), and some of the offense’s own injury issues (both starting guards, Devonta Freeman on IR).

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Sarkisian will tell you now it’s a result of the mutual comfort level between the offensive coaches and players, and his own ability to run the offense that Shanahan left behind. And yes, he’s heard the criticism, which is getting harder to levy against him by the day.

“I’ve being doing this a long time, and you learn that it comes with the territory,” he said. “You can’t ride the emotional roller-coaster of one good game and you think you’re the greatest and then one bad game and you’re the worst. You need to find that even keel, and the steadiness, the consistency in your preparation and your work.

“For me in Year 2 it’s just an overall comfort level, with our players, our style of play, to put our players in the best position to be successful.”

We’ll see how far it takes the banged up Falcons from here. Thus far, they’ve managed to ride the offense from 1-4 to 4-4, and back into the NFL playoff hunt.

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Man, if addiction can get a guy with the outlook and character of Sark, it can get anybody. Unrelated I know, but just hard to see this guy have those demons. Personally I'm happy to have a guy like him in the building. Great attitude. 

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