Koetter not pleased with red zone production

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is not pleased with the team’s red zone production.

“That’s one of the things that we are just not doing a good enough job," Koetter said on Monday. "We are doing a lot of things well, but that is not one of them. We’re working on it.”

The Falcons' red zone offense is ranked 27th in the league after scoring touchdowns on just 2 of 6 possessions in the 25-17 win over the Panthers last Thursday. The Falcons have scored touchdowns on 16 of their 30 drives (53.33%) inside the opposition’s 20-yard line this season.

The Falcons are averaging 3.8 red zone trips per game, which is 12th in the league. The two red zone touchdowns per game is tied for 20th with Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

“If you can run it in, that’s definitely the way to go,” Koetter said. “I think Todd (Gurley) is tied for the lead or leading in touchdowns scored, but we have to score touchdowns at least 60% of the time and 2 out of 6 isn’t going to work.”

Gurley is tied for second with Tennessee’s Derrick Henry with eight rushing touchdowns. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook leads the league with 10 rushing touchdowns.

Against the Panthers, a combination of run-game failures and pass protection doomed the efforts. The Falcons had four red zone runs that were stuffed at 1-yard line.

The first trip stalled after Gurley was held to a yard on first-and-10 from the 12-yard line and third-and-2 from the 4-yard line. The Falcons thought about going for the fourth-and-1, but elected to kick the 20-yard field goal.

The second trip was a passing game failure. After reaching the 13-yard line, the Falcons had two incompletions and were sacked on third down. They settled for a 37-yard field goal to make it 7-6.

On the third trip, Carolina’s Brian Burns beat right tackle Kaleb McGary with a spin move to the inside. Ryan was flushed to his right and scored from 13 yards out. Cornerback Troy Pride slipped while trying to get over to Ryan.

The Falcons' longest gain in the red zone against the Panthers came on a busted play.

On the fourth trip, on third-and-16 from the 22, Ryan scrambled to the 18 to set up a 36-yard field goal.

On the fifth trip, Pride was called for defensive holding on third-and-6 from the 23 to push the Falcons into the red zone at the 18-yard line. An incomplete pass intended for tight end Hayden Hurst was followed by another 1-yard run by Gurley. On third-and-9 from the 17, Ryan completed a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Russell Gage. The Falcons made a 29-yard field goal to make it 19-14.

On the sixth red zone trip, after getting a first-and-10 at Carolina’s 17, the offensive line finally got some movement along the line of scrimmage. The Falcons ripped off runs of 6, 8 and 3 yards for what would become the game-winning touchdown. Center Alex Mack, left guard James Carpenter and fullback Keith Smith had key blocks on the 3-yard touchdown run by Gurley.

“I thought Keith in general, in that last drive, when we finished it off with however many straight runs and got the touchdown, I thought Keith Smith had maybe his best game of the season as a lead blocker,” Koetter said. “So, when your fullback is blocking like that, that certainly helps your lead-blocking plays.”

Against the Panthers, the Falcons had eight rushes for 38 yards inside the red zone. If you take out Ryan’s two scrambles, they had just 21 yards on six carries and they picked up 17 of those yards on the final three red zone carries.

The passing attack was also a red zone failure. Ryan completed 2 of 6 passes in the red zone for 13 yards and was sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards.

“We’ve got to score touchdowns, there’s no doubt,” Koetter said. “We’re getting down there plenty, if we’re turning those into touchdowns, those games don’t have to be that close.”

Falcons' Next four games

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Bye Week

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Las Vegas Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

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