After coaching change, Falcons’ offense to ‘shake this thing up’

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Marquis Haynes (98) in the second quarter on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Over the past two weeks, the Falcons have been unable to put up more than 16 points by the end of the fourth quarter. On offense, the Falcons haven’t produced 20 points in the past three games since cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson ran back an interception for a touchdown in Week 3′s 30-26 loss to the Chicago Bears.

One major issue for the Falcons has been their tendency to stall and settle for field goals. Quarterback Matt Ryan said that has to change if the Falcons are going to change this early-season slide that resulted in a 0-5 start and former coach Dan Quinn’s dismissal.

“We haven’t scored the way we need to score the last two weeks,” Ryan said. "That’s what we’ve got to fix. I think we had eight possessions last week. We scored on four of them, but you have to turn those into touchdowns. You have to quit coming away with three points when we’re down there low and quit turning the football down in the red zone.

“If we clean those things up, we’re going to be just fine, but we really just need to make a play or two when we get our chances whether it be first down, second down or third down in those red areas. When we get our chances to attack, we’ve got to nail it.”

Thus far, the Falcons rank 26th in the NFL at converting red-zone trips into touchdowns. They have been able to accomplish this feat only 52.9 percent of the time. But it’s not like the Falcons' playmakers haven’t produced. Despite going without a catch in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers, receiver Calvin Ridley still ranks fifth in the NFL with 485 receiving yards, having gone over 100 in each of the four other games.

Running back Todd Gurley gave the Falcons their first 100-yard rushing performance since 2018 when he ran for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers last week. Gurley has scored at least one touchdown in four of the Falcons' five games.

One player who the Falcons hope will become more involved is tight end Hayden Hurst, who does have two touchdowns and seven first-down receptions this season. However, he has caught only 15 of his 28 targets for 170 yards, which could indicate he and Ryan are still working on furthering on-field chemistry with one another.

At the center of the offense’s woes has been offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who said he and his unit share part of the blame for the events that have occurred in the first five games.

“Everybody here is hurting for (Quinn) because we all had a part in that,” Koetter said. “We all had a sense of responsibility. It’s been a difficult week but none of our opponents care about that. That’s the business side of the NFL. You still have to be prepared and be ready on Sunday to play our best.”

After Raheem Morris moved from defensive coordinator to interim coach, he said he spoke with Koetter the direction of the offense. The Falcons rank 11th in total offense (391.4 yards per game), eighth in passing (276.8) and 17th in rushing (114.6). If the run game’s numbers continue, this will mark significant improvement from last season’s 30th-place showing at 85.1 rushing yards per game.

Most important, the Falcons sit 21st in the league in scoring at 24.4 points per game. Morris said he spoke with Koetter about ways to tweak the offense so it can perform to its potential during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

“We want to do some different things that are going to change it up, shake this thing up,” Morris said. “Let’s get our players on the field and get them to do what they do best. My conversations with Dirk are in-line. I have a lot of confidence in Dirk. I know exactly who he is. I’ve worked with him for eight games. I played against him for a bunch more than that going way back to Jacksonville. So, my respect for Dirk and who he can be and what he’s going to be in these upcoming weeks is really high.”

Given that Morris fired special-teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, he was asked why he decided to keep Koetter on for the rest of the season. Despite the offense’s inconsistency at times, Morris said he still has great confidence in his offensive coordinator.

“You’re talking about one of the top, premier coaches in the National Football League over the last however many years that he’s been doing it,” Morris said. “He’s been a coordinator for a long time at a high level. A guy that I respect a lot, learned a lot from over the past year and a half, and I look forward to working with him these 11 games and trying to be our very best self.”

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