Falcons offense hasn’t improved in the red zone under Arthur Smith as many expected

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When the Falcons fired Dan Quinn after starting the 2020 season 0-5 and subsequently Thomas Dimitroff, all fans’ attention went to the names and résumés that could potentially replace them. Much like ownership, the Falcons faithful wanted an offensive-minded head coach. There was clamoring for Eric Bieniemy and Joe Brady, but Arthur Blank and Rich McKay landed on Arthur Smith. The long-time Titans assistant coach played offensive line, coached the offensive line, and ran an incredibly efficient offense in Tennessee as a coordinator. There was a lot to be optimistic about.

The Falcons’ recent lack of accountability under Quinn was a prominent issue on many fans’ minds, but the actual on-field results were obviously more pressing. Smith left the Titans offense after producing one of the most prolific rushing attacks in football and an incredibly efficient red zone offense, two areas the Falcons were so desperately trying to improve. Well, with only a small sample size, one of those things is absolutely not true.

All statistics are courteous of Team Rankings

The Falcons offense ranks 19th in the league in red zone touchdown scoring percentage, scoring touchdowns on 58.33% of trips. This is just a slight improvement from the Falcons 53.45% rate in 2020 under Dirk Koetter. That is not what the organization wanted, I’m sure; many of the offense’s issues lie within the final 20-yards of the field, not the other 80. Atlanta has lost seven games, but the red zone statistics from those losses are troubling. On 17 trips, the offense only reached the end zone eight times.

Against Tampa, the Falcons converted one touchdown on two red zone trips, and the field goal came from the Bucs’ 3-yard line. After the game, Arthur Smith was asked about his decisions in the red zone —  play-calling and running the ball. “We did. We had a fumbled snap,” Smith said. “If you want to chime in to our headset, I’ll show you the call sheet.” Smith would go on with obvious annoyance in his voice. “You have a question here. So the thought process is you’re trying to call plays to score touchdowns. I mean, that’s pretty obvious… Again, what are you asking? You’re asking the type of plays called? Yeah, I wouldn’t have called it if I didn’t.”

Whether it be scheme or execution, the Falcons have serious red zone issues. They’re not horrible in this area; after all, ranking 19th isn’t that bad. However, this coach was brought in with the credibility of putting together an efficient red zone offense, and we haven’t seen that. Again, that could be because of execution, but it is nevertheless concerning.

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