The Falcons may have one of the dumbest offenses I've ever seen
Photo courtesy of Keith Nordstrom
As a Patriots fan, I've been fortunate to have seen some really good football over the past 17 years. It's really easy to take them for granted since we've come to expect greatness every Sunday. Can you blame us?
They're almost always prepared and don't make a lot of dumb mistakes (except for the first couple weeks of this season, but thankfully that looks like those things are on their way out) on either side of the ball.
With that in mind, Sunday night was a big reminder of how lucky I am to watch them every week, because their opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, might be one of the dumbest teams I've ever watched, especially on offense.
Their play-calling was an atrocity. I don't claim to know everything about the X's and O's of football, but I'm almost positive any armchair coach playing Madden could have come up with better plays.
Here are a few that stood out to me:
1st quarter: 3rd & 4 at the Patriots' 45 yard-line with 4:38 remaining in the quarter
The Falcons called for a toss sweep to the right for Devont'a Freeman, who was dragged back for a three-yard loss by Kyle Van Noy. Leading up to this play, the Falcons had called three running plays for two, four, and five yards respectively. If you're going to run the ball, don't put Freeman at a disadvantage by having him get the ball a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, especially when the Patriots defended the run perfectly. Julio Jones is the tallest receiver on the field and has some of the best hands in the league. I'd have trusted him on that play more than Freeman given the way the Patriots were stopping the run.
The very next play: 4th & 7 at the Patriots' 48 yard-line
Matt Ryan scrambled for the first down on this play so I can't say too much about it, but the one thing this play told me was that the Patriots were in Atlanta's heads, which was when I knew New England wasn't going to lose. Had they not converted, the Patriots would have basically had half a field to work with. It was a huge gamble that worked, but resulted in no points.
2nd quarter: 4th & 6 at the Patriots' 46 yard-line with 1:55 left
I think I kind of understood the logic on this one - keep the drive alive and try and score before the half so it's at worst a 10-3 ballgame to start the third quarter. The problem is it didn't work and it gave the Patriots a short field with a ton of time to score. Going deep to Mohammed Sanu didn't make a ton of sense to me though. It also reinforced my belief that the Falcons were seeing ghosts and felt like they needed to be overly aggressive to win. That ain't gonna cut it against Bill Belichick.
Attempting to score with 15 seconds left in the half
This might be the worst thing they did all night. The Patriots had just scored a touchdown to make it 17-0 and Atlanta got the ball at its 19 yard-line with 15 seconds left. Conventional wisdom would tell you to just take a knee and avoid the risk of turning the ball over, right?
Instead, the Falcons settled on short pass plays to end the half. They didn't even try a Hail Mary, which is the only thing that would have made even a little bit of sense in that situation. Why bother doing anything in that spot if all you're going to do is throw for short gains?
3rd quarter: 2nd & 7 at the Patriots' 17 yard-line with 10:49 to go
Ryan missed Julio Jones on a deep ball. Prior to that, the Falcons had called five straight running plays, which were working. Two plays before this one, Freeman had a big gain of 21 yards. Why not at least run and grab three or four more yards if you could to set up a shorter third down? Instead, they failed to convert on 3rd & 7 and Matt Bryant missed a 36-yard field goal that would have made it 20-3.
4th quarter: 4th & goal from the Patriots' 1 yard-line with 14:32 to go
They ran a jet sweep to the right with Taylor Gabriel, who was stuffed for a five-yard loss by Van Noy. Why not run Freeman up the middle, or run a quarterback sneak at least? This is not-running-Marshawn Lynch-at-the-goal-line dumb. Freeman is certainly athletic enough to leap over a pile of defenders. All they needed was a yard and they tried a trick play. Hell, throw the ball if you have to, but don't try a trick play when all you need is a yard. That's the one play where I thought I could have come up with something better.
The Falcons are broken. It's over. The Patriots ruined them. You won't be hearing much from them in the playoffs if they even get there.